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Reimagining Data Protection Requires Due Diligence and Defense in Depth

Illustration by Michael Austin /

Building a Better Data Protection Strategy

The challenge is finding a sustainable way to build and maintain a data protection strategy that includes multiple services targeted at multiple data sets. One approach is to centralize service delivery using storage virtualization, which abstracts value-add services like mirroring, replication, snapshots, etc., away from storage arrays and centralizes them in the storage virtualization software “uber-controller.”

This is similar to performing data protection service assignment at the OS level, as was once done in the mainframe world using System Managed Storage and Hierarchical Storage Management. However, no universal storage virtualization product works with the full range of enterprise host and storage systems. Ideally, policies for data protection would simply be mapped to virtual volumes that would, in turn, be the destination for data coming from various workloads tagged with various levels of criticality. That would enable data protection to be delivered as part of storage allocation.

In the absence of such a centralized strategy, another location is needed where data tends to aggregate, providing the opportunity to apply data protection services. One idea is to use the Virtual Tape Library (VTL), which has come into widespread use over the past decade.

As shown in Figure 2, VTL technology evolved from a location where backup jobs were stacked until sufficient data existed to fully fill a tape cartridge to an appliance offering virtual tape devices to expedite backup. Today, it’s advanced to a location where 30, 60, 90 days or more of data is stored for fast restore in the event of an individual file corruption event, one of the more common types of data disasters.

VTLs have been enhanced with additional storage services, including VTL-to-VTL replication across WANs, deduplication or compression services, and even as the place to apply encryption to data.

The Bottom Line

The VTL is already a location where much of the corporate data “hangs out” and where various protective services can be readily applied. It makes sense to make this platform a storage services director (i.e., a location where data protection services—and possibly data management and archiving services—could be applied to data assets per pre-established policies).

As illustrated in Figure 3, this federated approach, where a storage director serves as the cornerstone of data protection services delivery, is getting attention among vendors and gaining mindshare with users. Such a class of storage directors must be capable of being clustered to facilitate the handling of large quantities of data via clustered nodes, thus ensuring adequate connectivity for data sources and data storage infrastructure and streamlining the management of the directors and the policies they implement.

The storage director itself may be software that can be implemented on any hardware server platform or a hardware appliance preconfigured with software for ease of deployment. Most importantly, it must be capable of being dropped into any complex of servers and storage devices, supporting all connectivity protocols to minimize disruptions. With those capabilities, organizations will move closer to the ideal of protecting data assets with a business-savvy, sustainable, defense-in-depth strategy.

Ed Ahl is director of business development for Tributary Systems Inc. His storage expertise spans multiple technologies and providers.



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