backup appliances multiplying like rabbits
To the Core

Keep Your Backup Appliances From Multiplying Like Rabbits

In some of my previous blogs, I’ve talked about backing up to object storage and how it can be faster (and cheaper) than backing up to tape. Most of these blogs have focused on comparing object storage to tape because tape has traditionally been thought of as the lowest cost technology for long term retention. I believe that replacing tape with private cloud object storage is a revolution whose time has come and like many in the industry, I look forward to the demise of tape sooner rather than later.

Short Term Retention Backups See New Challenges

There is another similar revolution brewing for the short term retention backups that are used for the daily backup and recovery operations. Those daily incremental and weekly full backups that are only stored for a few weeks have long been the domain of purpose built backup appliances. For many years, backup appliances have been the fastest and most efficient way to store short term backup data. However, a lot has changed in the last decade. Massive data sets, often petabyte size, that are common today were unheard of 10 years ago. And who would have expected such sustained rapid data growth?

More and more I am seeing customers with a common issue in their backup infrastructure, and that is backup appliance sprawl. IT organizations that have long had only one or two backup appliances now find themselves struggling with 4 or 5 or more backup appliances, often different models, to manage and coordinate. A quote from a Backup Administrator I know sums it up best, “My backup appliances were multiplying like rabbits”.

“My backup appliances were multiplying like rabbits”

It is not surprising that backup appliances multiply rapidly. Their simple ‘plug and play’ implementation makes adding more and more appliances as easy as writing the check to buy another one. This simple approach is good for mid-market and smaller users that don’t have lots of expertise and is a time saver for larger organizations that do, but have plenty of other projects to keep them busy.

But most backup appliances have a major disadvantage, lack of scalability, since most appliance designs don’t support adding capacity beyond a certain fixed amount. Since backup storage grows right along with the primary data it’s protecting, users of these fixed capacity systems are forced to buy additional appliances. This leads to a condition known as “backup appliance sprawl”, which can have more serious implications than simply taking up data center space.

Backup Appliance Sprawl

When more appliances are added, backup jobs must be load-balanced in order to maximize capacity on each appliance and to manage the throughput drop as each appliance fills up. This leads to the need for complex capacity planning across the infrastructure, a largely manual process, which can get time consuming as the number of appliances increases.

As with any hardware implementation, more appliances create more management instances. This means more appliances to patch and maintain and more appliances to expand and upgrade. A growing collection of backup appliances can also mean more work to monitor and confirm that backups were completed.

What once was a good solution for improving backup operations can quickly turn into a management nightmare. As one IT Operations Director I know eloquently put it “I loved my first backup appliance. I hated my fifth!”.

“I loved my first backup appliance. I hated my fifth!”

Western Digital has partnered with StorReduce to combat backup appliance sprawl. StorReduce has developed amazingly powerful scale-out deduplication software that enables primary backups to be stored directly on object storage based private or hybrid cloud, eliminating backup appliances and tape.

StorReduce uses the Amazon Simple Storage Service™ (Amazon S3™) API interface to enable backup applications to write directly to object storage and/or public cloud and leverages deduplication to speed up transfer of the data and, based on StorReduce’s analysis, reduce the amount and cost of storage by as much as 97 percent.

Reduce the amount and cost of storage by as much as 97 percent

Primary Backups to Private or Hybrid Cloud, at Lower Costs

StorReduce’s new scale-out deduplication technology enables enterprises to do primary backups straight to private or hybrid cloud and recover at LAN speed. This enables organizations to remove on-premises purpose built backup appliances and/or tape and reap the following benefits:

  • Savings of up to 70% or more for backup environment TCO
  • Escaping the hardware refresh cycle (typically every 3 years) for backup appliances
  • Future scalability as you need it without migrations or rip-n-replace hardware changes
  • Extreme data durability to facilitate a “Data Forever” environment

Many organizations have a mix of backup applications and a variety of backup targets including purpose built backup appliances, JBOD, NAS, cloud and tape. StorReduce enables organizations to consolidate all those backup targets into one scalable StorReduce cluster, even from multiple applications. This pools all your data into a single scalable pool on private/hybrid cloud that is able to be used in future with generic cloud services such as search and data mining to extract competitive intelligence from your data.

Future Proof Your Backup Environment And Save Money

Instead of growing your collection of appliances when more backup capacity or performance is required, StorReduce expansion involves simply adding more disk shelves or more nodes to the cluster. There is no rip-n-replace, no need to reconfigure the hardware, no need to spread backup jobs between appliances to keep one from filling up prematurely and no concern over a single backup job growing too large for one appliance.

The scale-out architecture, with the ability to add capacity and processing power independently, has flexibility that the appliance format can’t match, eliminating the performance bottleneck that’s prevalent in most backup appliances and lowering the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

How is That Possible?

It is not only possible but easily accomplished by combining StorReduce’s powerful deduplication technology with Western Digital’s extremely cost effective ActiveScale™ object storage. Western Digital is able to offer such incredible value because we are in the unique position of being the only vendor that manufactures almost all of the components throughout the entire storage technology stack.

We are pioneering advancements in HDDs, SSDs, platforms and fully featured object and unified flash storage systems and can leverage our own IP at every level of the stack. From the components that make our hard drives reliable, to the expansion of capacity through our leading helium-sealed technology and all the way up the system stack, Western Digital innovates to deliver some of the densest storage systems on the planet.

Learn How to Simplify and Lower Backup Costs Today

Backup appliance sprawl is a problem that can creep into an IT environment, diminishing efficiency as each new box is added to the infrastructure. One answer is a scale-out solution, like StorReduce software with ActiveScale object storage, that provides processing power and capacity that can keep pace with rapid data growth while lowering TCO by up to 70% compared to backup appliances.

Learn about our private cloud solutions for backup and see how you can move your data off of backup appliances and tape today:

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Victor Nemechek
Also known as “The Data Storage Dude”, Victor is a storage industry veteran with expertise in enterprise backup applications, deduplication, traditional and cloud storage infrastructures and hyper-converged solutions.As a former IT professional himself, he understands how organizations approach IT and brings a unique perspective to helping customers design and deploy cost effective solutions. Victor holds a master’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California. When he is not in the office, you can find him surfing, scuba diving and/or coaching youth sports.