Fight Backup Sprawl with Cloud-Ready Appliances

    When you hear the word “sprawl” in an enterprise setting, it usually refers to server sprawl, virtual sprawl, or even cloud sprawl. But the tendency for hardware and software systems to fall victim to ill-conceived provisioning and deployment can impact individual functions as well.

    A perfect example is backups. As Sepaton Inc.’s Eric Silva points out, backup infrastructure is highly subject to sprawling architecture because it is usually much easier to add new backup targets when capacity is close to being maxed out rather than undergo the complicated and often disruptive task of consolidating backup infrastructures into a scalable, manageable platform. The problem, though, is that an uncoordinated system requires much more hands-on maintenance and monitoring. Such systems burden highly paid IT staffers with mundane tasks such as volume reallocation, load balancing and recovery optimization. And as each target backup is added to the system, the management burden increases.

    Of course, the cloud has emerged as a highly scalable backup solution, with many providers offering generous service terms and advanced migration capabilities. But the thought of suddenly relying strictly on a third party for primary data access during an emergency leaves many CIOs cold. A number of organizations are instead turning to on-site, cloud-ready backup appliances that offer broad scalability and high-speed recovery in a tightly integrated form factor.

    Seagate’s EVault subsidiary, for example, recently expanded its line of backup appliances with the EVault 7 system, offering both local and cloud-based recovery using a bandwidth-optimized transfer system. The line ranges from the SMB-targeted ERA50t (Express Recovery Appliance) and the PnP100t (Plug-n-Protect) with 500GB and 1TB capacities, respectively, up to the 38TB PnP3800, which is a 3 RU unit that sports an unlimited number of agents and application plug-ins. With these offerings, EVault hopes to cater to both small office and small business configurations as well as medium and large enterprises with both local cache and remote cloud solutions.

    At the same time, Western Digital is offering the new Arkeia DA1300 and DA2300 all-in-one desktop appliances that provide up to 16TB of RAID 1 storage on a small form factor measuring about 8” x 6” x 8”  in size. The devices provide unlimited agents and support for more than 200 data platforms, including Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris and Novell, and can also be configured with hot backup agents that link directly to critical applications and databases. The devices also include built-in dedupe and bandwidth optimization techniques to reduce utilization of both LAN and WAN resources.

    Virtual appliances are also easing the deployment and integration woes of transitioning to a consolidated backup regime. Quantum Corp. recently unveiled the DXi V4000, which scales up to 24TB per instance and can perform inline deduplication at up to 4.9TB per hour. The system can be deployed under VMware’s Virtual Machine Disk Format (VMDK), which utilizes thin provisioning techniques to reduce consumption of native resources. As such, it can be deployed as an enterprise solution or a hosted Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform using linear pricing and capacity-on-demand features. Quantum also offers a free 15TB downloadable version with a 1TB version of the vmPRO backup software.

    Traditionally, backup platforms have suffered from the drawbacks of being difficult to implement and rarely utilized, causing many organizations to push them far down on the list of priorities. But as the cost of service interruptions mounts, the consequences of poorly drawn B&R programs can quickly become critical.

    Appliance-based backup provides a ready-made solution for large organizations to streamline sprawling legacy architectures, that also provides a low-cost means for small companies to effectively protect their data before backup infrastructure gets out of hand.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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