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Hyper-converged vendors focus on data protection

Hyper-convergence has impacted primary storage, but Arun Taneja says hyper-converged vendors are bringing the concept to data protection.

As hyper-converged products mature, I am watching splits occurring among hyper-converged vendors along several lines, with data protection at the core. Data protection in general is undergoing a sea change, but hyper-convergence adds yet another dimension.

Technologies such as data deduplication, compression, continuous data protection, synthetic backup, copy data management, very rapid snapshots, and WAN optimization applied to replication are changing traditional data protection. Also, we are starting to see flat backup presented by a variety of primary storage vendors. This approach allows users to send backup data directly to secondary storage without the need for backup software.

On the surface, products from Gridstore, Maxta, Nimboxx, Nutanix, Scale Computing, SimpliVity and VMware EVO:RAIL partners may seem quite similar, but under the covers, some fundamental differences are showing up. The very basic difference is whether the only convergence is between compute and storage, with all the other layers left alone. This is rudimentary hyper-convergence, at best, and vendors such as SimpliVity argue these products don't even belong in the hyper-converged category. It is important to understand what a given vendor has converged and what else is necessary to complete your overall IT infrastructure. The area in which this varies most is data protection.

Hyper-converged vendors offer varied strategies

For example, SimpliVity makes a categorical statement that (other than networking) one does not need any other products to build a complete IT infrastructure. That means no specialty data deduplication arrays, WAN optimization appliances, DR products, media servers, backup software, replication software or performance, configuration and SRM managers. Over time, I expect this list will include archiving, governance, compliance and perhaps even Hadoop-based big data analytics. And whatever else the world has to throw at it. SimpliVity offers the most holistic vision for hyper-convergence I have seen in the industry. Of course, we all know in reality you may need additional technology at any given point in time, as things evolve. But the vision is crystal-clear: one straightforward way to build an IT infrastructure.

It is important to understand what a given vendor has converged and what else is necessary to complete your overall IT infrastructure.

In comparison, look at Nutanix. It stays true to "primary storage" hyper-convergence. That means they want to leave secondary storage to others. This is a vastly different strategy. I expected market maturity would bring out some differences in strategy, but these differences are stark and will lead these companies in very different directions (including who they partner with and compete against).

Encouraged by Nutanix's primary storage approach and seeing the value of convergence in general, two new companies are trying to change the world of secondary storage: Cohesity and Rubrik. While there are differences in their approaches, both are applying the principles of hyper-convergence to secondary storage. In essence, this means backup, archiving, DR, test/dev, analytics, compliance, governance and so on, on one massive scale-out storage array.

Another way to look at this is to view this as creating a two-storage-array world: one for primary data (storage interacting with the main application) and one for secondary data (storage for everything else). Storage requirements for these two worlds are, of course, vastly different. Performance (IOPS, transactional throughput and low latency), data resiliency and availability are the primary drivers for primary storage, while density, immutability and simplified technology upgrades are the primary drivers for secondary storage.

Hyper-converged marketplace a 'mishmash'

Today, the world of secondary storage is a mishmash of products from hundreds of different hyper-converged vendors, each supplying a piece of the puzzle. These new companies want to change that completely. This is a heady charter but the data protection space couldn't be more ready for change.

Many organizations today struggle to store, protect and manage mountains of data, let alone extract value from it. This is a new world and we are at the earliest stages of development. Just as hyper-convergence is transforming primary storage, the same principles are being applied to the all aspects of secondary storage -- in a scale-out fashion that will hopefully avoid the issues we've been dealing with on primary side with scale-up products. The impact on data protection stalwarts, such as Commvault, EMC, IBM and Symantec, could be significant.

Data protection as a discipline has been sleeping for decades, but data management convergence may be the wakeup call it needs. Get ready for an exciting ride.

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