Data protection may not be the sexiest of IT topics but it’s an incredibly critical one: surveys in the area are contentious but it’s generally thought that about 30% of all backups fail.
Anyway I had an enlightening chat with the CEO of data protection service management firm Bocada this week: Nancy Hurley. It turns out that in the era of server virtualisation, her firm’s backup management and analytics technology – my words rather than hers – is really rather useful.
Having worked in Sun Microsystems’ storage group and then done a stint as a storage analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, Hurley knows a thing or two about data protection. So when she was made CEO of Bocada in 2008 she quickly set about honing the company’s focus on an area she calls data protection service management.
What does Bocada do? It’s essentially a dashboard that quickly shows you if your backups have been successful, and if they haven’t, why they failed. It also helps with backup policy management thanks to built-in workflow, helps you manage your service level agreements (SLAs) in the backup realm and offers a single pane of glass across what are typically heterogeneous backup environments.
"When we surveyed our customers we found that they saw data protection service management as a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have," says Hurley. "And when we looked at why they saw backup as so critical compared to some other firms, we found it is because they saw data protection as a service that they provide to their customers. They are in effect delivering data protection as a service, whether that’s to external customers or to their own organisation."
But the nice thing about Bocada’s offerings is that they can help to manage and optimise the backup process for both physical servers and virtual servers. With the exponential rise in the number of organisations that have virtualised their server environments, that’s quite crucial, because it’s often tricky to know – when there are virtual machines being spun up here, there and everywhere – whether they have been backed up, whether the backup was a success, and whether SLAs are being met and policy being complied with.
"We have a case study with a large US company where it took 8 people two and a half days to work out what their backup structure was in their virtual environment," Hurley says. "They tried our tool and got more accurate information in less than five minutes, and then rolled it out to their physical servers too."
Hurley believes the technology can help organisations to drive out inefficiency and cost from the backup process. "We had another organisation that went from an 85% [backup] success rate with 30 staff to a 99.999% success rate with 11 people," she says.
But don’t the traditional backup tools from the likes of CommVault, Symantec, EMC or IBM give users the necessary reporting tools to manage them effectively? Not according to Hurley. "They all have some reporting but it’s not their primary focus," she says. "Some will only report on one server at a time, not be granular enough for virtual servers, and of course also not be able to report on other vendors’ backups. Whereas we support all of the major backup technologies, so we can sit on top of heterogeneous environments. We see ourselves as complementary to the backup vendors which is why we would never launch our own backup tool."
As well as sitting above heterogeneous backup technologies, the Bocada technology also harmonises the data from multiple vendors so that operators are able to compare like with like. The Bocada tools (Prism for physical servers, Vision for virtual servers and VP Connect for environments with a bit of both) integrate with other systems management frameworks such as VMware’s vCenter and Quest.
Today the firm sells 70% direct and 30% through the channel but has mostly focused on the US. Now it’s spreading its wings into EMEA it’s going to look to sell 100% through the channel, and Hurley said the firm hopes to be able to announce its first UK channel partners soon.
And a little scoop for you too: the firm currently supports VMware virtual servers but in the third quarter of the year it will add support for Microsoft Hyper-V.