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My blog posts and tweets are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my current employer (ESG), my previous employers or any other party.

I do not do paid endorsements, so if I am appear to be a fan of something, it is based on my personal experience with it.

If I am not talking about your stuff, it is either because I haven't worked with it enough or because my mom taught me "if you can't say something nice ... "

What’s New in Data Protection from IBM Interconnect 2015

Every time that I take a close look at IBM’s data protection portfolio, veiled under its Storage solutions umbrella, I am happy surprised by the technology – and my guess is that you would be too.

Among the announcements and reveals of the week were a few important data protection nuggets:

  • A convergence of IBM’s storage hardware and software teams, which should result in better solution development not only from an actual engineering perspective but from customer marketing and partner enablement perspectives as well.
  • A holistic rebranding of IBM’s storage portfolio as its “Spectrum.” Those who follow me know that I deem data protection to be a spectrum, so this is welcome news to me. One of my favorite quotes from IBM’s Michelle Steen was “IBM is a leader in backup, but we don’t call it backup – we call it data protection.” She gets it. IBM gets it. “Data Protection” is not synonymous with “backup,” and is instead a much broader strategy of data and service agility and resilience, of which “backup “ is but one approach, with others such as snapshots, replication, etc. also being part of the strategy.
  • Building on the DP Spectrum, IBM announced updates to enable better integration of snapshotting (via IBM Flash Copy Manager) with its backup solution (IBM TSM) to meet customer demands for better agility.
  • IBM also announced new functionality coming later in 2015 around cloud-extensibility and WAN optimized replication courtesy of its Aspera acquisition.
  • It also discussed new file-level recovery capabilities from VM backups through a portal that enables vAdmins to invoke their own restores, without TSM knowledge or interaction. This builds on IBM’s recent investments in leading-edge virtualization protection, as recently evaluated by ESG’s Lab team.
  • IBM even discussed the coming virtual appliance that encapsulates TSM server, TSM Operations Center, and its VM features for a turnkey solution for midsized organizations and branch offices.

The feature announcements and Spectrum messaging also reveal something else when it comes to data protection – this isn’t your daddy’s, or grand-daddy’s, IBM. Because that IBM would rarely talk about vision or pre-release functionality, whereas this IBM is both aspirational in its unified approach to data protection and management, yet grounded in technologies that are already shipping. And that is the most important reveal – IBM is evolving not only its products to meet customer demand, including enterprises and midsized orgs, but also its own teams and channels.

The bottom line is that IBM actually (perhaps surprisingly to some) appears to have all of the technologies necessary for a modern data protection strategy for organizations of all sizes. What IBM doesn’t yet have is a reputation of modern technical innovation in a hybrid 2015-world or solution alignment outside of large enterprises. But if IBM’s marketing and Business Partner enablement engines catch up with IBM’s storage engineering and business units, many folks may be surprised by IBM’s Spectrum of data protection in 2015 and beyond.

As always, thanks for reading.

[Originally blogged via ESG’s Technical]

The Challenges and Benefits of Virtualization-Protection

Last week, my article in Windows IT Pro on “Virtualize Everything” stimulated a rather wide range of banter:

· A few folks pointed out that some servers should not be virtualized, such as some DNS, Active Directory domain controllers and perhaps the management system that controls your hypervisor infrastructure. Those folks are correct – there absolutely are logical exceptions and “everything” is an intentional exaggeration. But hopefully, we as an IT industry are getting continually closer to server virtualization being the defacto method for server provisioning and management, except where an exception is reasonable.

· One reader accused my article of being poorly-veiled marketing, such that by following my advice to virtualize more, folks would have to buy my backup product. But considering that I didn’t mention any backup products nor do I directly represent any product but actually the industry overall, he’s half right. Aside from being woefully boneheaded in misjudging my motivation, modernizing your server infrastructure around as much server virtualization as possible will likely force you to reconsider your data protection mechanism(s).

Virtualization alone is not a silver bullet for IT overall, nor for data protection. In fact, in ESG’s “Trends in Protecting Highly Virtualized Environments” report, five of the top six challenges related to protecting virtualized infrastructure were “visibility” related – meaning that without the proper tools (within the hypervisor, management framework and/or VM-savvy backup solution), the abstraction of which physical hosts, storage and networks that your newly provisioned VMs run on can make data protection significantly more challenging to assess the success of backups, the performance of protection or ensure the success of restores.

     Challenges with Virtualization Protection

So yes … if you are using legacy management tools and a legacy approach to backups that treat VMs as physical servers, then protecting a modern private cloud or software defined data center (SDDC) can be daunting. Said another way, when you are 20-30% virtualized, you can likely use any mediocre approach to backups that you can tolerate. But when you are 50% … 65% … or 80% virtualized, you need to embrace data protection tools that are designed with host-based protection in mind for backups, snapshots and replication. The tools may be VM-specific (e.g. Veeam, vRanger, PHD, VPDA) or built for a unified approach to data protection (e.g. Networker 8, Backup Exec 2014, NetBackup 7.6, Simpana 10) that still leverages modern hypervisors’ APIs for reliable backups.

Sidenote: while I don’t often reference products & versions in my blogs, I did today for two reasons:

  1. To prove to the cyber-basher that I’m not a shill for any particular product  😛
  2. To point out that the latest releases (hence the version numbers) of some of the enterprise-unified solutions utilize the same vStorage and VSS APIs that the VM-specific solutions use (to various degrees per product). Older versions of some of those products didn’t, which is one reason why the VM-solutions have been successful.

Here is what I hope you take away from this:

  • Virtualized production servers are easier to protect and offer a wider range of recovery options than physical servers – so virtualize as much as you can, so that you can gain increased agility for your production resources.
  • Be sure to modernize your protection capabilities as you modernize your production infrastructure, so that your legacy approach to protection doesn’t hinder your new infrastructure investments.

As always, thanks for reading.

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]

JBuff’s Data Protection Predictions for 2015

Last month, I sat down with my colleague, John McKnight, to give my predictions on how Data Protection will or should change in 2015 … in five minutes or less:

My top areas of interest for this year include:

  • Protecting SaaS applications, such as Office365, GoogleApps and SalesForce
  • Protecting corporate data on endpoint devices
  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)
  • How the data protection vendor landscape will change over this year

Hope you enjoy the video – thanks for watching.

[Originally blogged at ESG’s Technical]

Welcome Back, Veritas! The Truth is still the Truth

Today, Symantec announced that the Information Management (Data Protection) side of Symantec will be called Veritas Technologies Corporation – (press release). Frankly, if they had chosen anything else, I would have been disappointed.

The Truth is Still the Truth

“Veritas” actually means “Truth,” hence the original name as a way to imply the reliability and the authenticity assurances that Veritas’ technologies offer for your data, not only in traditional backup, but also storage management and availability technologies. And in a world of grey, some things (like data protection) really need to be black & white. Either your data is recoverable or not. Either your users are able to access their IT resources or they aren’t. Just as the world needs more definitive and unambiguous “truth,” many IT environments need better data protection, data preservation, high availability and integrated storage management. Maybe they need more Veritas?

Aside from the philosophy, the brand still has equity today.

The reality is that many of those folks that are using or have used/considered the information management portfolio from Symantec continued to see/say “Veritas” as the subtitle in their dealings anyway. Heck, many of the products’ best practice guides or social communities still leveraged Veritas in the product names somewhere – e.g. “Symantec Cluster Services powered by Veritas,” which the world always has and will again (presumably) call VCS.

So, what does Veritas have to do to be successful moving forward?

Leverage the broader IM portfolio to tell a single story, period.

Yes, they have to continue to separate their back-office operations, shore up their field/marketing and gain some IM-specific affinity with partners, but I believe the highest imperative is to truly embrace the Veritas portfolio (arguably for the first time).

While last year’s Symantec had a wide range of products, their marketing/field/engineering motion was really like two behemoth products (InfoSec and Backup), with the rest of the portfolio barely hitting most IT buyers’ radar, which is really too bad because some of those smaller products are not only really cool technology, but were the differentiators between just “backup” and comprehensive “data protection, preservation and availability.”

As much as InfoSec and InfoMgmt might have sounded like IT siblings or fraternal twins, they had very different buying cycles, influencers and innovation patterns; making them distant cousins at best. Now, InfoMgmt (Veritas) is an “only-child,” so it has no excuses but to tell a single story that will hopefully resonate with its channel, partners and customers. That said, their single story isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a “backup” story, but a true “information management” story that delivers data protection, preservation and availability in a single portfolio. Essentially, Veritas has the opportunity to deliver what I call the Data Protection Spectrum from a single company, through a broad channel system to customers of all sizes – if they choose to. If they don’t choose to leverage their Veritas-wide IM portfolio of differentiable capabilities, then they won’t really be “Veritas” as the whole truth, but merely the half-truth of being the “NetBackup/BackupExec Company.” 2015 will tell, but I’m optimistic for them.

Congrats to my Mountain View friends on another milestone towards what could be an amazing adventure — and welcome back, Veritas.

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]

You can prepare for tomorrow’s disaster today

This week, many of my colleagues are preparing for Winter Storm Juno. One of my compatriots actually warned his friends on Facebook that he was going to run around supermarket aisles telling folks “We’re all going to die!!

But seriously, it wasn’t that many years ago that IT folks would shrug their shoulders with the acknowledgement that “If you haven’t prepared for this months ago, there is no hope for you now.” And in every crowd, there would be some IT folks that quietly acknowledged that they never got around to preparing for a regional crisis or any other significant IT disruption. Those folks promised themselves that as soon as this weather pattern (or other pending calamity) was over, they would do better. And then the crisis passed and those IT folks spent the first few days afterwards catching up on what slowed down during the storm, and then naively continued on without ever really changing their DR preparedness.

We’ve all done it: we’ve all at some point cried out, “God, if I get through this, I am going to change” (either in IT or life) – and most of us have likely survived whatever the crisis was and then continued on without that change.

You Can Prepare For Tomorrow’s Disaster!

While it would be wholly irresponsible of me to suggest that you can do BC/DR planning in a day, you can do the most essential step – GET YOUR DATA OUT OF THE BUILDING.

If your servers are virtualized, they are (trans)portable.

If you have a credit card, you can get a secondary data center in the cloud.

The combination of those two wonderful realities is Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

And while there is much more to BC/DR planning than “Create Account, Install Replication Software, Click [Start]” … those actions alone can provide you with a copy of your VMs in a survivable location.

But that isn’t real BC/DR!!

TRUE! If you actually need to use them, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and do a little work to get them bootable within the cloud or replicate them back down someplace else – but at least it gives you an option. To do nothing except shrug your shoulders is to accept that your personal BC/DR plan is an updated job resume.

But the storm is already here – I won’t get everything copied over!!

Maybe not – but if you don’t do something, you won’t have copies of anything. Good luck in your next job and please pass on your regrets to your former colleagues that are also out of work.

Other than making copies, I don’t know anything about real BC/DR

Fair enough – but the good news is that DRaaS providers often provide that kind of consulting expertise, as well as their data center and technology. BC/DR is about planning, as much as technology, but the good news is that it isn’t as hard as you might think, with the right partner.

Not all of my servers are virtualized!

Why not?! Unless you have a mammoth multi-server database running on an archaic OS and a support agreement that is tied to the entire stack running on original hardware, then virtualize it! Some replication technologies will even protect physical production servers and convert them into virtual BC/DR servers. You probably shouldn’t do that without testing (not this week), but at least get your data out of the building … and once you’ve replicated and converted the physical servers to VMs, do some tests and you’ll likely discover that they run just fine that way. Virtualize everything.

Are you out of excuses yet?

Then get your data out of the building and keep your people safe — and when you’ve survived this potential calamity, look into real BC/DR by first looking at DRaaS.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure for BCDR using EVO RAIL

Shortly after VMware announced its EVO Rail initiative, whereby hardware partners could start delivering a very dense compute, storage, and networking solution within a wholly-contained appliance – I started exploring the data protection aspects of an EVO Rail solution.  The nice folks in ESG’s video studio have produced a whole series on this … in two-minute increments.

In the earlier video capsules, we looked at the protection of EVO Rail systems in production.  For part 6 in the series, let’s look at EVO RAIL as perhaps the ideal BC/DR infrastructure.

After all, it has everything you need for a second site … so why not drop one in an alternate location (or co-lo site) and start replicating to it?  And for DRaaS providers, perhaps a self-contained EVO might be an interesting option over a shared infrastructure for some clients?  Check out the video for more details:


Please feel free to check out the earlier installments in the series:

DP considerations for EVO Rail – part 1 – an overview of EVO RAIL and its data protection ramifications

DP considerations for EVO Rail – part 2 – VMware’s own data protection options

DP considerations for EVO Rail – part 3 – EMC’s EVO RAIL and its data protection possibilities

DP considerations for EVO Rail – part 4 – Dell’s EVO RAIL and its data protection possibilities

DP considerations for EVO Rail – part 5 – HP’s EVO RAIL and its data protection possibilities

In the next few weeks, I will be releasing the last of the seven segments  … on channel partner considerations for EVO RAIL systems.  As always, thanks for watching.

— jason

[Originally blogged on ESG’s Technical]

Better Catalogs Make for Better Data Restores (video)

It really is just that simple: backup products without robust catalogs are just that, backup products – not restore products.

There are lots of reasons that just maintaining a browse-able file list is not enough today, including not only a lack of search-ability but also because the catalog is the key to really leveraging primary storage snapshots and replication capabilities with traditional backup for a modern recovery capability.

As always, thanks for watching.

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]

How to Protect an EVO RAIL (video series)

VMware’s EVO RAIL is an architecture for a hyper-converged, software-defined data center in a single appliance form-factor … to be delivered by various hardware partners.  But how do you protect that all-in-one solution?

For the next several weeks, ESG will be releasing a seven-part series of ESG Capsules, 2 minute video segments, where I’ll talk more about some of the protection possibilities and caveats in an EVO world:

part 1 – Introductory ideas for protecting EVO RAIL

part 2 – Solution Spotlight : VMware

part 3 – Solution Spotlight : EMC

part 4 – Solution Spotlight : Dell

part 5 – Solution Spotlight : HP

part 6 – BC/DR possibilities

part 7 – Channel considerations

Here’s part 1 on ideas for protecting an EVO RAIL.  Check back here for updated hyperlinks … or follow @JBuff on twitter to see more of this series.

Thanks for watching

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]

Data Protection Appliances are better than PBBAs

Too many folks categorize every blinky-light box that can be part of a data protection solution as a "Purpose Built Backup Appliance" or PBBA.

But the market isn’t just a bunch of apples with an orange or two mixed in, data protection appliances (DPAs) can be apples, oranges, bananas and cherries — but if you lump them all together, all you have is a fruit salad.

So, let’s reset the term to understand the market:

  • "Backup" alone isn’t enough — so call the all-encompassing category what it should be delivering = "Data Protection"
  • And there isn’t just one kind of appliance, there are at least four:
    • (real) Backup Appliances
    • Storage / Deduplication Appliances
    • Cloud-Gateway Appliances
    • Failover Appliances

Check out this video to see how I look at Data Protection Appliances:

As always, thanks for watching

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]

Could VeeamON be the next MMS?

This week is the first VeeamON, Availability for the Modern Data Center, conference in Las Vegas. As I listened to the side conversations and such, I was reminded of the special-ness of Microsoft Management Summit (MMS). Not MMS 2010+, when Microsoft started shoe-horning everything in the Server & Tools line-up, before eventually killing it and Tech-Ed behind it … but MMS 1995-2005, which was as much about "community" as it was "technology".

Veeam has very smartly done something that other data protection vendors several times larger have failed to do — create a community of avid influencers and advocates that are made up of Microsoft MVPs, VMware vExperts and an army of well-intentioned backup folks that are passionate about telling people how Veeam saved their jobs by reliably and quickly recovering a a VM. Many larger companies have tried to programitize that community initiative, and most haven’t seen success on any scale. But Veeam has … so a conference is the next logical step.

The question will be whether Veeam can convert the cyber-community that advocates their products year-round and parties with Veeam at TechEd/VMworld. Can Veeam maintain or build on that community vibe in an in-person event? If they can, and then build anticipation for VeeamON 2015, then lightning will have struck and VeeamON could be for many what was revered about MMS.

There is a notable difference with VeeamON over MMS, though. Veeam is adamantly 100% channel to the degree that they don’t even maintain a direct sales team. So, VeeamON is as much for partners (vendor, channel and cloud), as it is the customers — which is different than the much more enterprise-vibe of MMS in its latter years. Another difference is the accessibility of Veeam exec’s walking throughout the venue and striking up personal conversations throughout the day — something that again shows the strength of the "community" of the Green Army. With Veeam aspiring to be the next $1B player in IT, there are more parallels that one could make with MS System Center, which also became a $1B during MMS’s hay-day. Veeam is doing it without a juggernaut behind them, though their partnerships with MS, VMware, NetApp, Cisco, HP, Exagrid and others doesn’t hurt.

The event itself is as much style (at the Vegas Cosmopolitan) as it is substance (deep technical breakouts) — so the rest is left to be seen. Congrats to Veeam on what is looking to be a great start to what could be a powerful event in IT availability, through data protection.

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical]