Backing up without Tape

Unification of physical and virtual environments is the final hurdle for organisations looking to reduce backup and recovery times. Here's how to make it happen.

The drive to become more efficient in a post-GFC-world, has meant developers of technology have made pointed efforts to ensure products they bring to market have tangible return on investments when it comes to operational excellence. Virtualisation would have to be the most obvious example. Consolidation of resources and scale out architectures enabled by virtualisation literally mean the sky is the limit, however, with the roof removed and an increasingly data hungry population of seven billion people across the globe who already account for 45GB each, it is clear information sprawl has changed our world forever.

For those who are employed to manage this new ecosystem, the challenges are equally as vast, but according to the recent report from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), the number one data protection challenge is the need to reduce backup and recovery times.

False faith in Tape

In the face of the big data explosion, 55 per cent of organisations are today focused on optimising their hybrid physical/virtual computing environments; the issue being the management of legacy systems, like tape, in concert with newer technologies, like deduplicating appliances. The stress point of course comes from the fact today’s backup teams are simply under-resourced and without the headcount, technology needs to plug the gap. And it is no small gap. This conundrum is wide spread. In spite of faster, more secure disk, many organisations still use tape believing it to be cheaper. 

Alarmingly, on average, four backup solutions are used in each organisation for physical systems, while another three are used for virtual. ESG’s 2011 study highlighted the resulting dilemma, reporting 62 per cent of respondents were using separate applications for each operation, each requiring unique policies, management tools and techniques. It is little wonder then that even as virtualisation projects come with so many benefits they are also posing some tough questions to CIOs and administrators when contemplating their best practice integration. In fact more than 80 per cent of respondents to the ESG research study said virtual backup was a top IT challenge.

Virtualised data is still real data

Organisations are quickly realising that agility is the most important characteristic when it comes to IT doing the best by the business, so it’s good to know whether it’s virtual or not, there are some simple steps organisations can take to centralise backup and recovery of both physical and virtual server environments that give them this dexterity.

  • Unify Physical and Virtual: A common software platform enables organisations to centrally schedule backup jobs, manage recoveries, monitor the success and failure of backup jobs and provide a common console that backup administrators can use to administer all backup jobs.
  • Leverage the Backup Team to Protect VMs: Help keep the virtualisation project humming by engaging the existing storage and backup teams to support your goals. In doing so, the goal of 50 per cent or more virtualisation can be achieved faster.
  • Implement automated and centralised monitoring and reporting: The creation of a virtual machine can now occur in as quickly as a few minutes by an individual and their creation can be automated through the use of scripting.
  • Choose a platform with deep API integration: Integration with leading virtual server platform features such as the vStorage API in VMware vSphere should be viewed as a prerequisite in order for them to successfully protect and recover these platforms.
  • Dedupe Everywhere: Organisations should implement deduplication on all backup data at all levels across the enterprise’s physical and virtual environments. 
  • Get Granular on Granular Recovery: Granular recovery is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to integration with VMware and Hyper-V. Those that have done it well can recover the single file they want, when they want, without the VM or backup administrator being forced to traverse the directories and files.

By implementing a data protection strategy that provides improved virtualisation visibility, and setting up the right processes, organisations can not only realise the initial benefits that server virtualisation delivers but successfully avoid some of the challenges that can accompany it. 

Paul Lancaster is the Director of systems engineering for Symantec's Pacific region.