It has finally happened. Using cloud providers as part of an overall corporate data protection strategy can now be found in all data protection appliances that integrate backup software into the appliance regardless of the size of the organization the appliance is intended to serve.
Cloud support was once primarily included as a feature in hybrid cloud backup appliances intended for use by small and midsized organizations or in the remote and branch offices of large organizations that wanted to leverage the cloud. These smaller organizations and offices often only had nominal amounts of data to protect and few or no IT staff to support their backup processes. Further, they wanted the flexibility to protect and store data locally as well as move it offsite for disaster recovery purposes. Cloud data protection appliances fit these requirements very well.
The cloud data protection appliances found in this Buyer's Guide take support for the cloud to new levels. While these appliances still give organizations the option to use the cloud as a storage target, the ways in which they can leverage the cloud have multiplied.Consider:
- Support for multiple clouds from multiple providers. The first generation of cloud data protection appliances primarily used the clouds associated with either the appliance vendor or the reseller. While many of today's cloud data protection appliances still support those two cloud options, most now support connectivity to public cloud storage providers such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure as well as OpenStack compliant clouds such as those provided by IBM SoftLayer and Rackspace.
- Concurrent support for multiple clouds. In addition to connecting to multiple clouds, cloud data protection appliances can store data in them concurrently. This gives organizations the flexibility to store data with the cloud providers that offer them the most advantageous pricing as well as capitalize on specific features that certain clouds may offer.
- Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). More appliances give organizations the opportunity to recover from local failures in the cloud though how they deliver this functionality varies widely. Some place their appliances at the cloud provider's site to facilitate recoveries on the cloud data protection appliance itself. Others partner with cloud providers to deliver disaster recovery services as part of a broader offering from the cloud provider to include using the cloud provider's compute, network, and storage services.
Freeing organizations to simultaneously access multiple available cloud providers and providing more features to recover with these cloud providers are just some of the ways these appliances are evolving. Organizations will also find "cloud-like" features appearing on some of these appliances. Among these features, three specific ones already appear on leading products that foreshadow what these products will collectively look like in the years to come. These features include:
- Scalable architectures. Products garnering a great deal of attention and disrupting traditional solutions are those that leverage scale-out architectures. Using these architectures multiple appliances may function as a single logical instance which simplifies managing and gives organizations more flexibility to scale-up or down. They also help to mitigate if not eliminate the need to do data migrations from one generation of appliances to the next.
While scale-out products such as hyperconverged infrastructure solutions are still establishing a foothold in production environments, these solutions make a great deal of sense in less visible, secondary use cases such as data protection. These solutions give organizations more flexibility to more easily scale capacity and performance, run test and dev VMs using backup data, and perform non-disruptive software upgrades while minimizing administrative overhead.
- Virtual appliances.. Virtual appliances. One might expect that virtual appliances (a virtual machine image file consisting of a pre-configured operating system and a single application) would be widely available and adopted due to the heavily virtualized infrastructures that already
exist in many organizations. These cloud-like environments make it very easy for organizations to spin up virtual appliances and mitigate the need to purchase additional hardware. However, the unique capacity, processing and/or throughput requirements of backup software as well as the use of deduplication software have slowed the adoption of virtual appliances to date.
However, as organizations accelerate their adoption of public and private cloud providers and create software-defined data centers in their environments, the demand for cloud data protection appliances to be available as virtual appliances will almost certainly increase. While some providers already ship their software as virtual appliances, expect the availability of cloud data protection virtual appliances to become more widespread and vendors to make more noise about them going forward.
- Intuitive management interfaces. Enterprise products come with multiple product bells and whistles which inevitably means added management complexity as there are more knobs to turn and buttons to push. While these added features are a necessity on enterprise products, organizations loathe the idea of their IT environments becoming more complex. Rather, they want all the knobs and buttons minus the complexity.
To counter this complexity, some enterprise cloud data protection appliances present customized, personalized interfaces based upon an individual's login. Once the appliance is configured and user login templates are created, administrators get the custom views they want to more simply manage their company's environment or their portion of the company's environment.
Additionally, more products give organizations the options to create backup and recovery policies based upon business rules. This methodology frees business rules to change dynamically as the backup and recovery policies associated with them also change while giving them higher level, business views into their IT environment as opposed to the more technical views.
These features and many others are examined as part of this DCIG 2017-18 Cloud Data Protection Appliance Buyer's Guide. This Buyer's Guide helps enterprises assess the cloud data protection appliance marketplace and determine which appliances may be the best fit for their environment. This Buyer's Guide includes data sheets for 22 cloud data protection products that achieved rankings of Recommended or Excellent after DCIG's review of dozens of appliances. These leading products are available from six vendors including Cohesity, Commvault, Quorum, Rubrik, Unitrends, and Veritas.