This content is part of the Essential Guide: EMC World 2014 conference coverage

EMC's Rob Emsley on modern data protection

Like most industry trade events, EMC World 2014 offers the unique opportunity for expert analysts to mingle with company officials to discuss modern data protection.

SearchDataBackup was on hand to capture one such conversation between StorageIO's Greg Schulz and Rob Emsley, senior director of product marketing with EMC's Backup Recovery Systems Division.

"Last year, we changed the name of our Backup Recovery Systems Division and expanded it to be all things data protection," Emsley said. "We brought EMC VPLEX and EMC RecoverPoint into the same group with NetWorker, Avamar and Data Domain. We've really built a portfolio with a data protection continuum from archive all the way to continuous availability. However you're consuming IT -- on premises, in the cloud or a hybrid version -- the one thing that's constant is your data. You don't want to lose it and that's what we're focused on."

StorageIO's Schulz noted that most conversations about data protection and backup modernization "involve repackaging or swapping out the media like a flat tire on a car. What I like about the approach EMC and others are taking is [that] until you change or expand the scope from just backup to data protection, you're stuck in the past. You're going to use new tools in old ways."

Emsley noted that data protection has to move "from a task you perform to a service you consume. For years, there's been a lot of transformation of backup, a lot of changes [in] media from tape to disk, but fundamentally, many customers still use the same processes and technologies to back up data from point A to point B.

"As we go forward, the concept of backing up data becomes almost nonsensical," he continued. "You have to have an infrastructure that protects itself, and the infrastructure needs to have data protection as a built-in component, whether it's a software-defined storage environment or cloud. And from a cloud perspective, a lot of the concern is 'What is my service level when it comes to data protection and data retention?'"

Schulz said a lot of the problems stem from the manner in which users back up data. "People take tape out, put disk in, take the disk out and put cloud in, but [they] are still doing a full copy and dumping it, as opposed to going back. To me, the solution is upstream. Go to the source of the problem and fix it upstream. Otherwise, you're sending more and more data downstream."

The concept of data source integration is important, EMC's Emsley said. "The source of the data has to become much more aware of the data in the infrastructure, and anything that protects that data needs a bit of a helping hand because for years, the job of the backup process was to find out what was new and protect it. When you have so much data, finding out what is new can be the longest time of protecting the data."

He added: "Think about VMware vSphere, think about Oracle -- they know what is changing on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute, second-by-second basis. When it comes to protecting that data, they now hand off that information to the software that delivers the protection, which makes it so much easier to get the job done."

Schulz reiterated the idea of data reduction at the source. "It's harder to do as you go upstream, but the benefits are bigger. Tying into VMware and the operating systems, putting those hooks in there, has a magnifying effect as you go downstream."

But the days of full weekly or monthly backups are rapidly coming to an end, said EMC's Emsley. "You just don't have enough hours in the day. The concept of a backup window is really irrelevant nowadays."

Schulz concurred: "It goes back to using technology in new ways. It also goes to thinking about the process and the problem. Get outside the problem. If I have to back up a 1 petabyte data warehouse, but only a gigabyte changes a day, rather than brute force it, why not rethink the problem?"

Emsley spoke of the benefits of EMC VPLEX. "If you think about VPLEX and continuous availability, those are for environments where you don't have the ability to take time to recover. So, you make the decision and the investment you make in availability is worth it because you remove planned and unplanned downtime, which is another form of protecting your environment by not having to require a planned process to do a recovery."

StorageIO's Schulz said customers often ask him how they can justify the added expense. Emsley responded that "a lot of our customers have found that [by] implementing new technologies for protection, they can actually get a time to payback measured in less than 12 months."

The evolution of modern data protection is a discussion that has to take place, Schulz said. "It's like taking the conversation away from disaster recovery to business resiliency."

Emsley said EMC's focus on data protection has changed. "We've expanded the focus of data protection so it's not just about backup, it's about backup and archive. How can you utilize the infrastructure for more than just an insurance policy you only take advantage of when you need it? You need to look at the data that's in your protection infrastructure as being a consumable asset."

Schulz said source dedupe is the solution to modern data protection challenges. "We can do all the dedupe and compressing downstream, but if I go back to the source, rethink source levels, rethink retentions and do some archiving at the source, to me, archiving is the aspirin for data management woes."

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