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IFDS goes hands-on with Zerto's Kubernetes backup

Technology and services provider IFDS was one of the first to try the alpha build of Zerto's Kubernetes backup. The company relies on containers for greater resource efficiency.

As International Financial Data Services (IFDS) started containerizing more and more environments, it needed better Kubernetes backup.

IFDS first dipped its toes into containers in 2017. The company writes its own software for the financial industry, and the first container deployment was for its application development environment. With the success of the large containerized quality assurance testing environment, the company started using containers in production as well.

Headquartered in Toronto, IFDS provides outsourcing and technology for financial companies, such as investment funds' record keeping and back-office support. It has around 2,400 employees, a clientele of about 240 financial organizations and $3.6 trillion CAD ($2.65 trillion US) in assets under administration.

Kent Pollard, senior infrastructure architect at IFDS, has been with the company for 25 of its 33-year history and said containerizing production opened up a need for backup. One of the use cases of containers is to quickly bring up applications or services with little resource overhead and without the need to store anything. However, Pollard said IFDS' container environment was no longer about simply spinning up and spinning down.

"We're not a typical container deployment. We have a lot of persistent storage," Pollard said.

Zerto recently unveiled its Zerto for Kubernetes backup product at ZertoCon 2020, but Pollard has been working with an alpha build of it for the past month. He said it is still in early stages, and he's been giving feedback to Zerto, but he has a positive impression so far. Pollard said not having to turn to another vendor such as IBM, Asigra or Trilio for Kubernetes backup will be a huge benefit.

Kent PollardKent Pollard

Pollard's current container backup method uses Zerto to restore containers in a roundabout way. His container environment is built in Red Hat OpenShift and running in a virtualized environment. Zerto is built for replicating VMs, so Pollard can use it to restore the entire VM housing OpenShift. The drawback is this reverts the entire VM to an earlier state, when all he wanted was to restore a single container.

Pollard said, at the least, Zerto for Kubernetes instead allows him to restore at the container level. He understood the early nature of what he's been testing and said he is looking forward to when other Zerto capabilities get added, such as ordered recovery and automated workflows for failover and testing. From his limited experience, Pollard said he believes Zerto for Kubernetes has the potential to fill his container backup needs.

Pollard said Zerto for Kubernetes will give him incentive to containerize more of IFDS' environment. The number of containers IFDS currently has in production is still relatively small, and part of the reason Pollard won't put more critical workloads in containers is because he can't protect them yet.

He said there were many reasons IFDS moved to containers three years ago. With containers, IFDS is able to more efficiently use its underlying hardware resources, enabling faster responses to application load changes. Pollard also said it improved IFDS' security and supports the company's future move to the cloud and built out a hybrid infrastructure. Zerto provided Pollard with an AWS environment to test Zerto for Kubernetes, but IFDS currently has no cloud footprint whatsoever.

IFDS first deployed Zerto in late 2014. It started as a small production environment deployment on a couple of VMs but became the company's standard tool for disaster recovery. IFDS now uses Zerto to protect 190 VMs and 200 TB of storage. Pollard said he was sold after the first annual DR test when Zerto completed in 30 minutes.

"We never had anything that fast. It was always hours and hours for a DR test," he said.

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