EMC backup SVP: Backups need to go native, not as batch processes

New EMC backup SVP discusses trends he sees for data protection over the next few years, including why BYOD isn't an IT priority and tape isn't dead.

After spending 15 years as an executive at Veritas and Symantec, Deepak Mohan joined rival EMC in July as senior vice president of its Backup and Recovery Systems division. Following more than a decade of competing with EMC, Mohan is now in charge of product management and engineering for all of EMC's data protection products.

We recently spoke with Mohan about the trends he sees in backup today and expects to see over the next few years, such as tailoring data protection for primary storage systems, cloud and BYOD backup, as well as integrated appliances.

I guess your perception of EMC storage has changed since your last job.

Deepak Mohan: I've been competing with EMC throughout my career, and EMC always outsmarted me, whether it was the VMware or Avamar acquisitions, or Mozy or Data Domain. I had a great partnership with Data Domain with [Symantec] NetBackup, and I was going to sign an OEM deal with [ServiceNow president and chief executive officer] Frank Slootman, who was DataDomain CEO at the time, to sell Data Domain with Symantec, and then EMC buys them and there go my plans.

I observed EMC taking all the right steps, and now it has the largest [data protection] market share, and that was one of the reasons I decided to come here.

What needs to be done to keep EMC's data protection portfolio as the market share leader?

Mohan: I've been in in this industry 25 years or so. Every five years, there's a major inflection point. In the early 1990s, it was all about tape, then came VTLs [virtual tape libraries], then backup to disk, then came dedupe appliances, and then cloud backup, source deduplication, and of course data volumes are continuing to grow really hard.

We are at the next inflection point where I feel that backup as a batch process is going away. One of the things we have been talking about at EMC is the open protection storage platform. What this means is [that] the choke point of a data mover or the backup engine must go away, and we must start storing information on its native format on a platform like a Data Domain storage platform. When things are stored on a native format, it's easier to get information there instead of putting it through a funnel where it becomes more of a distributed architecture. Instead of many-to-one, it becomes many-to-many. Data is much easier to recover when stored in its native format.

One of the things I'm passionate about is the job of data protection, to protect primary storage. EMC is the world's leader with primary storage, so we can provide a lot of value protecting primary storage directly to secondary storage. We're not just leveraging technologies we have in the backup and recovery division, but also across EMC.

You've recently seen the ViPR announcement, which is a lot of storage management pieces. I see us providing the data protection for these primary storage platforms without going through a lot of funneled data movement. My goal is to leverage EMC's storage platforms even more, because that's an area in which we can provide differentiated offerings that the competition cannot because they do not own those primary storage platforms.

Will all of these primary storage systems have their own specific backup processes?

Mohan: I don't think the primary storage processes can have full data protection in them, but they provide capabilities like snapshotting, for example. But for providing true data protection, we have to provide the smarts to put the user application back together. As an example, in a large complex ERP [enterprise resource planning] system, there may be multiple primary storage platforms; there may be a separate database platform; there may be something coming from the cloud, and the net result is when the user does a process and you're hitting multiples of these systems. Each primary storage platform by itself is not aware of the application intelligence needed. The role of our data protection solution is to put those things together so at the time of a disaster or a singular object recovery, you need a lot of that knowledge. So the primary storage provides a lot of the capability hooks, and on top of that, we build the application awareness or recovery awareness and dissect the snapshot for granular recovery of an Exchange mailbox. It has to play in tandem.

Are snapshots and replication becoming the new backup?

Mohan: I think snapshots and replication are methods to move information into the open protection storage platform. It's a way to get the data where it needs to be protected. But on the recovery side, a lot of additional intelligence gets built in. Once data is sitting on an open storage platform, there are different ways to bring it back for recovery reasons. For different use cases or workloads, it will use special techniques.

Symantec is having success with integrated backup appliances. EMC has avoided that approach and still has several different backup products. Do you think the EMC backup portfolio will eventually include an integrated appliance with backup software?

Mohan: I started the appliance program at Symantec because I saw Data Domain kicking our ass pretty hard. I think the differentiation we have at EMC is that the Data Domain platform is more open because it can support different types of workloads that come in. The Symantec solution is tightly locked to the application, so all it can support is its own data formats. The Data Domain architecture is far more scalable. It's more extensible for this protection storage architecture, and there are applications built for it. One of them is DDBoost, which takes the workload directly into the Data Domain platform. I feel the EMC approach is more modular, more extensible and can take on more workloads. We're also providing connectivity with the NetWorker and Avamar products.

Where do you see the cloud playing with backup?

Mohan: Our CTO [chief technology officer] Steven Manley visualizes this in terms of waves. I'd say the cloud wave is relevant in SMB [small and medium-sized business] today, but I do believe it is moving more into the enterprise. The Mozy product line used to be consumer-based, but now a good percentage is being sold to enterprise customers. With large corporations, we're seeing more cloud adoption of business apps, and I think the same thing will happen with backup. We have a good start with Mozy, but I have a definite interest in expanding our cloud capabilities. EMC does have sync and share with Syncplicity, and that's an important part of our cloud platform. Another interesting area I see is DR [disaster recovery] in the cloud. How can we provide DR capabilities without having to stand up another remote data center?

There's definite movement toward the cloud, and we will continue to expand cloud offerings.

How does EMC handle bring your own device (BYOD) data protection?

Mohan: My view is the cloud is the way to go to protect these devices. Through my career, I've had a lot of endpoint products that we've been selling to enterprise, but it seems like corporate IT folks see endpoint protection and BYOD protection as No. 79 on their list of priorities and they never get to it. But if there's an easy way to get the workforce to protect directly to the cloud, adoption is much faster. We're seeing a lot of traction with Mozy for enterprises to protect endpoints on the cloud. That's the direction I see for mobile devices.

Most of the EMC backup technology came through acquisitions. Do you have all the pieces you need or are you looking for more acquisitions?

Mohan: I'm always looking at what technologies will be relevant for customers in three to five years. I think we have a lot of those pieces at EMC. We can also build a bunch of those pieces, and we are open to acquiring other components that night be needed. If acquiring a technology gets us there a lot faster, we will go with an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] strategy. I would like to play in all the areas.

Is tape dead yet?

Mohan: Tape is still an integral part of the NetWorker product line, and we will continue to keep that because there is still lot of tape. It's an important part of many enterprise data protection strategies. I treat it as a differentiation against some of the smaller competitors. We are overtly invested in disk and primary storage integration but we are not giving up on tape. There is not a lot of new innovation on tape, but our customers need it and we are there for them.

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