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Choosing the Right Appliance for Cloud Backup; Interview with STORServer’s Jarrett Potts, Part II

By Jerome M. Wendt on April 24, 2013 5:00 AM | Permalink

Just because a backup appliance can back up and recover data to the cloud does not mean they all do so equally well. Further complicating the decision process, some companies back up to their own private cloud while others opt to back up and recover from public clouds. In this second part of my interview series with STORServer’s Jarrett Potts, we examine how backup to public and private clouds differ and what features a backup appliance needs to offer to meet these different requirements.

Jerome: What features separate backup appliances intended for use in private and public clouds?

Jarrett: The thing about STORServer specifically, and Tivoli Storage Manager in general, is that they both possess the same abilities to separate data so you can separate data within the same machine.With a public cloud, for example, I could have multiple different vendors’ worth of data in the same backup appliance. The only data that they can see and access is their own because of the security and user IDs and group IDs of all the nodes that come in. That has been around forever as the concept was born in the mainframe world and then passed on down to Unix and then to Windows.In the last few years user security basically drives what you can see and what you cannot. STORServer, of course, adopts that same model and, as users come in, they could only see their own data. That is the public cloud.The private cloud is the same way in this respect: Users can only see their own data. The administrator, of course, is able to see everything. However, in the private cloud we can guarantee that data will not be able to get outside the private cloud which makes it different than the public cloud as there is no sharing of resources.

You have a dedicated resource, a dedicated appliance, a dedicated disk drive, and you are not sharing with anyone else. In the public cloud you may be sharing a backup appliance with someone else.

In both cases data would be safe as it would be encrypted and unavailable to anyone else to log into and see. However, the resources would be shared amongst the other two or four different customers.

Jerome: STORServer recently announced a data recovery guarantee. Can you elaborate on that?

Jarrett: The data recovery guarantee applies to any systems that are on a customer site. If the customer has a local system that backs up, STORServer guarantees that we can recover that data. Please note: data that is pushed into cloud and goes over public wire, STORServer cannot guarantee that we can get it back because of it being a public wire. STORServer cannot guarantee that the public wire is going to be available. Can we recover the data if the infrastructure is there? Absolutely!

But that data recovery guarantee, that specific legal requirement that STORServer has, is basically for systems that are onsite. Certain requirements must be in place. Private and public clouds both depend on resources that STORServer cannot control so there are instances where this may not apply, but it mostly does for private clouds.

Jerome: Are there different product roadmaps and testing that you take and/or conduct internally to accommodate the different scenarios that emerge for private and public clouds?

 Every customer always wants the cloud offering these days, so STORServer always tests both the appliance and the connection across the wire to that appliance. STORServer wants to make sure that the data the customer wants to push out to the cloud can be pushed from their location to whomever their cloud provider is, whether it’s STORServer as their cloud supplier or if they have a business partner they would rather work with. STORServer has to test to make sure that the bandwidth is available.

STORServer also tests the connectivity from the business partner back to the client to make sure that recovery can happen as fast as the customer needs it. Most customers have some requirements as to how fast they need their data back so we test against that.

STORServer, which provides the physical machines that do the backup and recovery or the data protection, tests its appliances while they are still at STORServer. We then test them again at the business partner to guarantee the robustness and reliability of the actual appliance itself.  It is that test that provides our customers the information they are most interested in: the bandwidth regulation across their connection to their cloud provider.

Jerome: Do you have any advice for people considering public versus private cloud?

Jarrett:  This may sound goofy but I recommend the same thing I do with my kids. I recommend they write down everything they need, everything they want, and everything they would like to have. This gives them three lists before they even think about selecting a provider for backup and recovery as a service or to the cloud.

If a customer needs near instant recovery, public cloud is not a fit. If the customer is okay with 12 or 14 hours to recover a file system, then maybe it is. One of the aspects about cloud backup that I always make sure they understand is that time is money.

Backup to the cloud is great and well but recovery is extremely important. If you can’t recover your data, then who cares whether you back it up or not?

Recovery needs to fit into what they want. So while they can shrink the amount of time it takes to recover by beefing up your infrastructure, it takes money to beef up their infrastructure. So, the shorter their backup and recovery requirements are, the more expensive their infrastructure will be. I always make sure our customers understand these tradeoffs when they go to the cloud. It may be speed, it may be flexibility. With STORServer, it is definitely not flexibility, but because the data is going across a public wire, they may be giving up some speed.

In Part I of this interview series we took a look at how backup to the cloud is coming into its own.

In the third and final part of this interview series, we take a look at best practices for configuring an appliance for backup to the cloud.

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