jason-buffingtonJason Buffington is the senior analyst at ESG covering data protection. He has actively deployed or consulted on data protection and storage technologies since 1989 and is the author of the book “Data Protection for Virtual Data Centers”.  He blogs at TechnicalOptimist.com and tweets as @JBuff.

I had an opportunity to connect with Jason recently to get his views on data protection trends in the industry as well as his take on the Nimble-CommVault solution. Excerpts from the conversation below:

Radhika: What are some trends in the data protection industry today?

Jason: According to the ESG 2012 IT Spending Intentions survey, improving data backup and recovery is tied as the #1 investment area in 2012 (alongside server virtualization).  Notably, business continuity and disaster recovery made the list at #6, as well – and in almost all cases, customers are looking first and foremost at reducing costs, as well as improving performance over the status quo.

It is particularly interesting to see Backup and Virtualization tied in that #1 slot, since virtualization (while great for other aspects of IT) can often cause challenges with legacy backup and recovery methods.  As an example, with virtual machine sprawl, data protection has become very challenging, as it is very easy to deploy new VMs (and consume storage at inordinate rates).  In addition, backups are IO intensive.  With physical servers, most were under-utilized, so backup IO was not a challenge. With virtualization on the other hand, backup consumes precious resources that can impact not only that VM’s performance, but also the underlying host, the other VMs on that host and the storage that they share. This, coupled with the high cost and complexity of backing up and replicating large volumes of data, is forcing customers to rethink their data protection strategies altogether.

Radhika: What are some data management problems in datacenters today?

Jason: Today’s datacenters are far more decentralized when it comes to backup management. Demands triggered by consolidation of workloads is forcing more collaboration between the backup and infrastructure admins towards delivering an agile backup infrastructure with a rich set of management features, that can address application owner/DBA needs.

According to a recent ESG survey, IT is not meeting its restore SLAs in one out of five restores, which can result in fines or lost productivity, as well as a lack of confidence in IT overall.

Radhika: Why are customers using snapshots? How are their needs changing?

Jason: Improved recovery time objectives and recovery point objects are top reasons why customers are turning to snapshot based methods.

ESG survey results show that 55% of customers are planning to either replace or augment their traditional backup solutions with either snapshots or replication or a combination of both.

Radhika: What is your take on the Nimble storage offering and the integration with SnapProtect specifically? How do you see it benefitting customers?

Jason:  Nimble’s approach to storage provides some very interesting capabilities for both primary and near line storage that can enable some cool data protection scenarios. Through snapshots, Nimble’s solution is capable of enabling frequent hourly backups and months of retention, while assuring performance and space efficiency.

CommVault has been a leader in integrating snapshotting and storage array capabilities with their data protection platform for years. The IntelliSnap Connect Program provides a programmatic way of delivering integrations, so that up and coming storage vendors like Nimble Storage can take advantage of the Simpana platform and offer great solutions to their shared customers.

The combined solution provides a rich set of backup and archival management capabilities including centralized management of backups, shortened RPOs, reduced RTOs, and support for a broad range of application environments.

Radhika:  How would you like to see the partnership develop in future?

Jason: At the end of the day, the application owner SLA’s around performance need to be met as well as recovery and retention objectives.  Success comes from driving customer conversations where a storage admin using Nimble arrays, and a backup admin using CommVault solutions can join together to offer a “better together” backup and recovery capability to their customers, the IT app and platform owners, as well as business stakeholders who depend on the data.