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RichardSwain 060000VQ8G Tags:  tsm tivoli snapshots rto data wine sonas nas hsm rpo backup ltfs recovery ibm protection 10,322 Views
How does one judge a glass of wine? There are a few tests, how it looks, smells and taste are the basic three. But as the wine is poured you may or may not know that your wine is made up of different varieties of grapes. A producer sits down and experiments with different percentages of grapes and this allows some creativity in making a better glass of wine for the consumer. Of course there are many more factors that play into this process but its by in large the same no matter what wine you enjoy. You enjoy the wine as a whole, a combination of things put together for you with out you having to know or even understand all that went into making that glass of wine.
When we talk to clients about their data backup strategy, we find a very similar process to that of wine making. The end user rarely knows all that goes in to creating a backup of their data and protecting it for them. They just enjoy the knowledge that their data is safe and will be there if they need to access it. But what we see in the making of the backup is a blend of technologies and a creative element that allows administrators some work around constraints like budget and man power.
As data evolves, we are seeing multiple layers of protection and depending on the severity of the data will determine the recovery point and recovery time as well as retention period. Backup technologies usually mean more than doing a bunch of incrementals and then a full off to disk pools and then tape. There are many different levels of protection that we can use.
Snapshots seem to be more common today than 5 years ago. They allow for a clean and consistent recovery point of a database or file system. But snapshots are used for more than just a quick backup, with writable copies we can quickly setup copies for test and dev environments and also rapidly deploy virtual images for desktops or servers. Snapshots are usually set to the same disk set that data is sitting on, and can be moved around via a vault technology or a mirror to another site. This can be used for long term storage if needed but typically snapshots are used for quick recoveries of less than 7 days. Snapshots are also vulnerable to data corruption. If a software bug comes in and corrupts data on the storage system, that can effect the snapshots and mirrors.
Backups are more traditional where the file system is scanned for changes and then those changes are sent off to a device where the data is stored until needed. In the past it has taken more time to backup file systems and as storage has gotten larger, those backup times grow longer. The technology has tried to keep up with adding larger backup servers and more tape drives allowing for more streams coming in. Now with the idea of using spinning disk for tape pools, we can backup a little quicker as the disk can write data faster than tape. There are many things that have evolved out of this technology, for example Long Term File System or Hierarchical Storage Management.
When clients are looking for strategies on protecting their data, they will use a combination of these techniques, and a mixture of both disks and tape to fully protect their environment. Depending o the data type, you may want to just use snapshots as the data changes rapidly and you do not need to restore from a week or a year ago. Snapshots are really useful in the case, and so is mirroring or even metro mirroring if the RTO is small enough. There are other factors such as Sarbanes-Oxley that will require longer term recovery methods like backups.
Just like a great wine, there is fewer rules today and room for creativity in designing data protection. And just like wine, there are many consultants that will help you find a good balance of technology to match levels of protection with data. Spend the time looking at your protection schemes and see if there are any better ways of balancing this equation. Maybe, with the right planning, you will be able to enjoy a glass of wine instead of spending time recovering from a disaster.
This weekend I was working on moving some of my winter clothes and spring/summer clothes in and out of my closet and into containers. Last Fall I purchased a few plastic containers that sealed so I could put my short sleeve golf shirts away and some of my shorts. Here in North Carolina, we can get a mild day and it is nice to have a short sleeve shirt to wear. On these days I would go back to the containers and dig through the nicely folded items until I found the shirt I wanted. Sometimes I had to go through multiple containers because I had forgotten which one I had put it in a few months ago. This weekend when I pulled out the containers they were in a mess, nothing was folded and it took me more time trying to figure out what was what as they all were mixed up. I then wondered what if I bought a bigger container and instead of using multiple ones, I could use one large container to store all of my winter clothes? What would the issues be, would I have enough space to store the container? Would there be someway of indexing the clothing inside to quickly find what I was looking for? Was there a way to put some clothes that I would need in case of cool day in a separate container just in case I needed them?
There seemed to be more issues with just using one larger container than I thought. It would be easy to dump all the clothes into the larger bin and claim victory but that did not help me down the road. I needed a system, something to help me consolidate efficiently while still giving me access to those things I used on occasion. I also had to keep in mind the space I was going to use in my storage area. I didn't want to buy one large container and not be able to get it in the space I already had allocated. I needed a flexible system, maybe a few boxes that had labels and I could get to quickly if I needed something inside.
Take a look at some of the noise some of the storage vendors are making about data storage consolidation. Most of them are telling you we can come in and take your smaller boxes and dump the data into one big box. While that helps on saving you space and might keep you from administrating multiple storage devices, you need to look at the downside of just having one big pool of disks. A large storage system that is replacing multiple smaller systems will need more cache and processor power to handle the same load as before. If you want to move data around to different tiers of disks or tape, can you achieve that with the new system?
I started down the road of buying the biggest container I could find but decided against it as it would be too much trouble to find things. Your data storage systems need to be flexible enough to have multiple storage pools so that data that is able to move off faster disk and make room for data that is accessed more frequently. This not only allows your clients to have better response times on files they frequently use, but it tells you how much 'real' data people are using in your data center. The other issue I had was I needed some type of labeling systeming or an index to tell me where the shirts were and were was my ski jacket, etc. Your data is much the same, you need to keep up with where data lives in the storage system. As our storage systems get larger, we need save the meta file data easily and keep it in a table so we can run queries against it.
There is also last part of moving my clothes around that I hated the most, the purge. I went through and found the shirts that had been worn too many times or may not fit the same as when I bought them originally. I packed these in a cheap cardboard box and took them to a donation place. This is the same as getting rid of old data in your system. Old data that is not being accessed is costing you money. You not only have to pay the environmental cost of keeping those bits spinning, but its taking up room where new data could reside therefore costing you money to expand. True archive and purging of data will be needed for any system large or small. Make sure you find a system that is easy to work with and automates this process based on policy.
In the end, if you are looking at consolidation of your data storage, there are multiple things you will need to find out about a system. Just because a bigger container can replace multiple smaller containers may not give you the flexibility needed to meet your changing needs. For more information on a better way to consolidate your storage platform and moving your data, check out the information on SONAS and TSM.