A Mix-Tape of Data Protection Musings

By Brian Reagan, VP Product Strategy & Business Development  – Okay, I’m going to really date myself here, but remember the days when you  manually fast forwarded from song to song on a cassette tape (stopping and listening to find the break between songs)?  It was pure tedium.  Then, a radical invention came along: a feature that ‘automatically’ skipped to the next track.  The tape still needed to spin, but at least you saved the time and energy of stopping, then starting, then stopping….   Now, you could quickly go from “Love of My Life” right data protection - beyond the mix tapeto “Bohemian Rhapsody” without having to hear one note of “Good Company”*.   And, of course, tape players really advanced when they played both sides of a cassette without having to manually eject and turn it around.

Then CDs came along and the world changed.  It was instantaneous!  Skip from track 1 to track 10 in seconds.  And, better yet, all the songs of an album were on one side.   No ejecting and flipping disks.  Amazing.  Depending on your music collection, replacing every album added up, but the sound! The convenience!  CDs took up less space.  CDs were practically indestructible.

Fast forward another decade and MP3s were born.  Now, it wasn’t just about speed of access, and eliminating manual tasks.  It was about scope.  ALL of your music on a single device that was practically the size of one of those old cassette tapes.

Now, imagine trying to adapt cassette tape technology to today’s world of MP3s,  iTunes, and Spotify?  Impossible, right?  The resulting solution would likely be unusable – cumbersome and counter-intuitive.  No matter how brilliant the Sony WalkmanTM engineers are/were, they’d be attempting to adapt an antiquated model to a modern-era phenomenon.

A similar phenomenon is playing out in the backup market.   The traditional methods of grandfather-father, father-son backup from the likes of Symantec are the equivalent of the first generation cassette tape players: slow, cumbersome operations, and very little end-user satisfaction.  Next generation backup players like CommVault represent a marginal improvement – like a Sony Walkman with the skip and auto-reverse functions.  But, these vendors are merely streamlining a last-generation process.  They’re still a 1980’s Walkman.

Multi-terabyte scale databases, rampant virtual machines, and cloud storage were the realm of science fiction when most of these technologies were built.    Now, they’re commonplace in IT, regardless of company size.   The technologies built in previous decades were designed for their time.   And, now that the world of IT has moved on, these technologies are struggling to keep pace.  Each new release adds complexity, layering functionality on top of the decades-old foundation.  It’s the equivalent of adding millions of lines of code to attempt iTunes(TM) support for a cassette tape.

Albert Einstein once said “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.  Today’s backup demands a radical rethink of the foundational tenets of data protection.  The design must start in the context of today’s reality – big data, virtual and physical machines, always-on, application-orientation, hyper-scale.  The approach to usability must be rooted in the fulfillment of a business need – a service-level objective – not in infrastructure.  The implementation should be a simple task conducted by a layperson, not a multi-week endeavor involving high-priced consultants.   Even the term “backup software” is out-dated.  Backup speaks to making copies, mindlessly adding to the pile of data.  Backup is only as valuable as its ability to recover.  A better term would speak to the business goal of instant data capture and access so it can be managed, leveraged for a given need – whether that need is recovery, file restoration, or even development and test automation.

It’s 2013: time to put away the cassette tapes and players.  It’s time to find a better solution.

 

* Apologies to those who aren’t fans of the rock group Queen

Image credit – summer photo hobby

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