IT has evolved significantly in the past decade as hardware and software innovations accelerate and customers seek solutions that increase efficiencies and lower costs. Globally and in India, companies of all sizes have benefited from this IT transformation. And while all this change has swirled around in the IT department, one aspect has remained the same: backup. Data protection remains the one underlying tenant of every IT department. The concept of taking copies of the data to ensure business continuity has always been a necessity as companies would fail to operate without it. And as the dependence on data grows for business insights and analytics, backup will only become more important in IT.
While backup and data protection remain a steady priority; Tech industry has been preoccupied with various network and infrastructure transformations. These changes are shifting how data is protected and used and handled by the Tech industry. In the past few decades, three significant infrastructure movements have dominated the market: 1) mainframe to client server; 2) physical to virtual and 3) virtual to cloud hosted.
Historical IT Transformations
As with all transformations of such magnitude, vendors have been fighting for market share as these shifts takes place. The first market transformation of mainframe to client server infrastructure took place in the datacenter and manifested itself as the operating system wars of the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Microsoft emerged as the dominant force in the IT market.
In the late 1990s, the second infrastructure transformation from physical to virtual infrastructure started. The recognition that resource sharing on the compute infrastructure would provide a better consolidation metric, utilization ratio and increased flexibility gave way to the emergence of new vendor. VMware was first to market in a significant manner in the early 2000s which allowed them to wrest control from Microsoft as the true “owner” of the IT operations manager.
Finally, in 2007, Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced the latest IT transformation: cloud. It enables faster delivery of services through resource sharing across customers for an even faster service delivery time without the necessity of acquiring, provisioning and managing hardware. Since then, cloud infrastructures are the reason for exponential IT growth as new workloads are deployed or shifted from on-premises. However, cloud has faced slower adoption rates than the physical to virtual infrastructure shift due to security. Only now, a decade later cloud has reached its full potential as IT has become more comfortable how and when to leverage the cloud especially for elastic demand, geographical reach, machine learning and development. Ironically, security has now become a cloud enabler as the practices and compliance of cloud infrastructure now outpaces the ability of the local data center.
Even as IT is undergoing the cloud shift, it is becoming evident that cloud is the not the whole infrastructure of choice. Virtualization still remains very prevalent and thus many companies opt to run on a hybrid cloud infrastructure. This movement might be based on policy, performance or cost, but the ability to decouple workloads from the infrastructure on which it resides enables a new freedom for the enterprise.
This flexibility and freedom of choice exposes a new field of software vendors – those that abstract the service from the infrastructure. Leading this field is a technology i.e., backup.
IT Backup to the Future of Cloud
Since the start of IT, backup has been an intrinsic part of that landscape. Backup and data protection have been part of every transformation shift. Media types and software have evolved to enable faster recovery times and recovery time objectives (RTOs) as well as more frequent recovery points and recovery point objectives (RPOs). It is also true that for all future IT shifts and transformations such as containers, serverless, edge computing and more, the necessity of backup will continue to prevail.
Recently, the focus of backup has expanded beyond a simple precautionary copy of the data and movement offsite. IT organisations of all sizes have taken a seemingly stagnant function and sought to give expanded access to the copies of the data for proactive business means and to accelerate business functions. Leading these use cases are DevOps (iterate on the production services more quickly), security (vulnerability assessment and forensics on copies of the data), operations (patch testing and update management) and compliance (analytics and data governance). This enablement of self-service data access shifts backup from simply being a reactive function, to one that drives the business more quickly and is sometimes known as copy data management.
Cloud Data Management begins with Backup
Given the relevance of backup in cloud data management, it is immediately apparent that backup may dictate the winner of the cloud era. While there are many solutions that backup data services, those that can protect the data and enable cloud mobility in a completely portable and self-describing format have a distinct advantage over those that require a centralized management stack. Cloud mobility can only be truly realized when the data is decentralized in a portable format and not dependent on a centralized media server or proprietary file system.
As the era of cloud continues to unfold, backup will not only eliminate some of the barriers to adopting new service models but will drive greater cloud adoption and use cases. It is likely that the age-old practice of backup is the practice that establishes the true cloud leader for the decade to come. No matter the outcome of this new infrastructure battleground, companies will win through the tremendous insight into data movement and digital transformation.
Danny Allan, Chief Technology Officer, Veeam Software