Building a modern data platform – exploiting the cloud

No modern data platform would be complete if we didn’t talk about the use of public cloud. Public cloud can play a very important part in building a modern data platform and provide us with capabilities we couldn’t get any other way.

In this part of our series we look at the benefits of public cloud, the challenges of adoption and how to overcome them and ensure we can embrace cloud as part of our platform.

Why is public cloud useful for our data?

If we look at the challenges normally associated with traditional approaches to data storage, scale, flexibility, data movement, commercials, then it quickly becomes clear how cloud can be valuable.

While these challenges are common in traditional approaches, these are the areas were public cloud is strongest. It gives us scale that is almost infinite, a consumption model were we pay for what we need as we need it and of course flexibility, the ability to take our data and do interesting things with it once it’s within the public cloud. From analytics and AI to the more mundane backup and DR, flexbility is one of the most compelling reasons for considering public cloud at all.

While the benefits are clear, why are more organisations not falling over themselves to move to cloud?

What’s it lacking?

It’s not about what public cloud can do, it is more about what it doesn’t that tends to stop organisations wholeheartedly embracing it when it comes to data assets.

As we’ve worked through the different areas of building a modern data platform our approach to data is about more than storage, it’s insight, protection, availability, security, privacy and these are things not normally associated with native cloud storage and we don’t want our move to cloud to mean we lose all of those capabilities or have to implement and learn a new set of tools to deliver them.

Of course there is also the “data gravity” problem, we can’t have our cloud based data siloed away from the rest of our platform, it has to be part of it, we need to be able to move data in to the cloud, out again, between cloud providers, all while retaining enterprise control and management.

So how do we overcome these challenges?

How to make the cloud feel like the enterprise?

When it comes to the modern data platforms, NetApp have developed into an ideal partner for helping to integrate public cloud storage. If we look back at part one of this series (Building a modern data platform-the storage) we discussed NetApp’s data services which are built into their ONTAP operating system making it the cornerstone of their data fabric strategy. What makes ONTAP that cornerstone is, as a piece of software, the ability for it to be installed anywhere, which today also means public cloud.

Taking ONTAP and its data services into the cloud provides us with massive advantages, it allows us to deliver enterprise storage efficiencies, performance guarantees and the ability to use the enterprise tools we have made a key part of our platform with our cloud based data as well.

NetApp has two ways to deploy ONTAP into public cloud. It can be installed as Cloud Volumes ONTAP, a full ONTAP deployment on top of native cloud storage, providing all of the same enterprise data services we have on-prem and extend them into the cloud and seamlessly integrate them with our on-prem data stores.

An alternative and even more straightforward approach, is having ONTAP delivered as a native service, no ONTAP deployment or experience necessary. You order your service enter a size, performance characteristics and away you go, with no concern at all with underlying infrastructure, how it works and how it’s managed. You are provided with enterprise class storage with data protection, storage efficiencies and performance service levels previously unheard of in native cloud storage, in seconds.

It’s not a Strategy without integration

While adding enterprise capabilities are great, the idea of a modern data platform relies on having our data in the location we need it, when we need it while maintaining management and control. This is where the use of NetApp’s technology provides real advantage. The use of ONTAP as a consistent endpoint provides the platform for integration, allowing us to use the same tools, policies and procedures at the core of our data platform and extend this to our data in the public cloud.

NetApp’s SnapMirror provides us with a data movement engine so we can simply move data in and out of and between clouds. Replicating data in this way means that while our on-prem version can be the authoritative copy, it doesn’t have to be the only one, replicating a copy of our data to a location for a one off task, which once completed can then be destroyed, is a powerful capability and an important element of simplifying the extension of our platform into the cloud.

Summary

Throughout this series we have asked the question “do we have to use technology X to deliver this service?” the reality is of course no, but NetApp are a key element of our modern data platforms because of this cloud integration capability, the option to provide consistent data services across multiple locations is extremely powerful allowing us to take advantage of cloud while maintaining our enterprise controls.

While I’ve not seen any other data services provider coming close to what NetApp are doing in this space, the important thing in your design strategy, if it is to include public cloud, is ensure you have appropriate access to data services, integration, management and control, it’s crucial that you don’t put data at risk or diminish the capabilities of your data platform by using cloud.

This is part 6 in a series of posts on building a modern data platform, you can find the introduction and other parts of this series here.

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Something for the weekend – it’s back!

I haven’t done one of these posts for ages, just one of those things, end of the week, didn’t really get time to write them out. But this week I’ve listened to three really interesting podcasts and wanted to share them, so instead of tweeting them out individually I thought i’d pop them all into this blog.

One of the most fascinating areas of my role at the moment is working with organisations around their data strategy and future plans, a big part of those plans is how to get the most from their data in the future, using machine learning, AI, data analytics etc.

Shows and articles on those topics always catch my attention, but three this week really stood out.

Tech Village Podcast – Ep18 – The Dark Side of Algorithms – Guest: Rachel Traylor, Ph.D.

techvillage podcast

Rachel is a proper mathematician and delivers some fantastic insight into the world of analytics and the reality of just how complex this subject is and why it is crucial, if you are going to use analytics and algorithms you need to invest in true expertise.

Great listen from a proper expert in her field and you will learn lots.

Have a listen https://soundcloud.com/techvillage/ep-18-the-dark-side-of-algorithms-guest-rachel-traylor-phd

Arrow Bandwidth Big Data Edition. AI in the wild

On the AI subject, this special edition of the Arrow Bandwidth podcast features a recording of David Fearne chatting about practical implementations of AI and some of the projects that Arrow and David have worked on in the last few years.

He shares some of the challenges on deploying AI and also how services such as IBM Watson has had a significant impact on the ability to bring AI to all kinds of organisations, some fascinating case studies.

Windows Insider – Jobs of Tomorrow

Twindows insider podcasthis focuses on some of the new job types that the future of computing is starting to generate and includes a fascinating chat with members of Microsoft’s quantum computing team, what quantum computing can do, the kind of problems they are solving and the skills they look for to help build this fascinating technology!

You can find the show here : http://windowsinsider.mpsn.libsynpro.com/jobs-of-tomorrow

Some fascinating listening there, so while you’re kicking back this weekend why not give them a listen.

And of course I can’t forget a bit of self promotion, if you’ve never checked out Tech Interview, then Episode 70 is a great place to start as Storage Industry Analyst Howard Marks joins me to discuss the state of the data market, the impact of cloud, the changing roles of those working in the industry and what the future holds.

Check it out here : The State of the data nation – Howard Marks – Ep70

If you’d rather read your tech than listen to it, then I’ve published a couple of articles in the last week, one looking at the challenges of using public cloud storage in the enterprise and how some of those challenges are starting to be tackled, you can find that here:  https://www.infoworld.com/article/3290394/cloud-storage/the-challenges-of-public-cloud-storage-and-how-to-overcome-them.html

And last but by no means least, I revisit an old favourite as we discuss data protection for Office365, As i take a look at Veeam’s new Backup for Office365 tool and why you may want to take the do it yourself stance to protecting your 365 data. Protecting 365 – a look at Veeam Backup for Office 365

Enjoy the content and enjoy the weekend.

 

 

Protecting 365 – a look at Veeam Backup for Office 365

Recently Veeam announced version 2.0 of their Backup for Office 365 product this extended the functionality of its predecessor with much needed support for SharePoint and OneDrive for business. While looking into the release and what’s new it prompted me to revisit the topic of protecting Office 365 data, especially the approach of building your own solution to do so.

Back in April I wrote a post for Gestalt IT (“How to protect Office 365 data”), the basics of which considered the broadly held misconception that Microsoft are taking care of your data on their SaaS platform. While Microsoft provide some protection via retention and compliance rules and a 30-day rolling backup of OneDrive, this is not a replacement for a robust enterprise level data protection solution.

The article examined this issue and compared two approaches for dealing with the challenge, either via SaaS (NetApp’s SaaS backup platform was used as an example) or doing it yourself with Veeam. The article wasn’t intended to cover either approach in detail but to discuss the premise of Office 365 data protection.

This Veeam release though seemed like a good opportunity to look in more detail into the DIY approach to protecting our Office 365 data.

Why flexibility is worth the work

One of the drivers for many in the shift to 365 is simplification, removing the complexity that can come with SharePoint and Exchange deployments. It then surely follows that if I wanted simplicity, I’d want the same with my data protection platform. Why would I want to worry about backup repositories, proxy and backup servers or any other element of infrastructure?

The reality however, is when it comes to data protection, simplification and limiting complexity may not be the answer. Simplicity of SaaS can come at a price of reducing our ability to be flexible enough to meet our requirements, for example limiting our options to;

  • Have data backed up where we want it.
  • Deal with hybrid infrastructure and protect on-prem services.
  • Have full flexibility with restore options.

These limitations can be a problem for some organisations and when we consider mitigation against provider “lock-in” and the pressures of more stringent compliance, then you can see how for some, flexibility quickly overrides the desire for simplicity.

It is this desire for flexibility that makes building your own platform an attractive proposition. We can see with Veeam’s model the broad flexibility this approach can provide;

Backup Repository

Data location is possibly the key deciding factor when deciding to build your own platform, Veeam provide the flexibility to store our data in our own datacentre, a co-lo facility, or even a public cloud repository. Giving the flexibility to meet the most stringent data protection needs.

Hybrid Support

The next most important driver for choosing to build your own solution, is protecting hybrid workloads. While many have embraced Office365 in its entirety, there are still organisations who, for numerous reasons, have maintained an on-premises element to their infrastructure. This hybrid deployment can be a stumbling block for SaaS providers, with an Office 365 focus only.

Veeam Backup for Office365 fully supports the protection of data both on-prem and in the cloud, all through one console and one infrastructure, under a single licence. This capability is hugely valuable, simplifying the data protection process for hybrid environments and removing any need to have multiple tools protecting the separate elements.

Recovery

It’s not just backup flexibility when building your own platform that has value, it is also the range of options this can bring to recovery. This flexibility to take data backed up in any location and restore it to multiple different locations is highly valuable and sometimes an absolute necessity for anything from practicality to regulatory reasons.

What’s the flexibility cost?

Installation

Does this extra flexibility come with a heavy price of complexity and cost? In Veeam’s case no, they are renowned for simplicity of deployment and Backup for Office 365 is no different. It requires just the usual components of backup server, proxy, backup repository and product explorers with the size of the protected infrastructure dictating the scale of the protection platform.

There are of course limitations (Backup for Office 365 System Requirements) one major consideration is bandwidth, it’s important to consider how much data you’ll be bringing into your backup repository both initially and for subsequent incremental updates. While most SaaS providers will have substantial connectivity into Microsoft’s platform for these operations, you may not.

Licencing

A major benefit of software as a service is the commercial model, paying by subscription can be very attractive and can be lost when deploying our own solution. This is not the case with Backup for Office 365 which is licenced on a subscription basis.

Do it Yourself V as a Service

The Gestalt IT article ended with a comparison of the “pro’s and Cons” of the two approaches.

Do It Yourself

As A Service

Pro’s

Cons

Pro’s

Cons

Flexibility Planning Simplicity Lack of control
Control Management Overhead Lower Management Overhead Inability to customise
Customisation Responsibility Ease of Deployment Cloud only workloads
Protect Hybrid Deployments Data Sovereignty

I think these points remain equally relevant and when deciding what approach is right for you, regardless of what we’ve discussed here with Veeam’s offering. If SaaS is the right approach, it remains so, but If you do take the DIY approach, then I hope this post gives you an indication of the flexibility and customisation that is possible and why this can be crucial as part of your data protection strategy.

If building your own platform is your chosen route then Veeam Backup for Office365 V2 is certainly worthy of your consideration, But regardless of approach remember the data sat in Office365 is your responsibility, make sure its protected.

If you want to know more, you can contact me on twitter @techstringy or check out Veeam’s website.

Getting on my bike for Marie Curie

This isn’t something I normally use this site for but I hope you won’t mind me making an exception on this occasion to share a challenge that Mrs Techstringy has “encouraged” me to join her on this year!

My wife works for the Marie Curie Charity here in the UK, they do incredible work helping to care for those with terminal illness who require end of life care. As you can imagine the work can be very challenging, in fact helping those and those close to them deal with terminal illness, is perhaps some of the most challenging circumstances you could be faced with.

Through a range of services from nursing support to hospice care, this incredible charity takes on this challenge daily, providing crucial services and support for those who need it, every day of someone’s life matters – from the first to the last and the charities role is to ensure that is the case.

All these services are provided for free, but of course aren’t free to provide, as Mrs Techstringy says, “Marie Curie is an amazing charity and working for them has given me an appreciation of just how much money needs to be raised for us to be able to continue to support as many people as possible”.

Over the last 5 years my wife has supported several charities, primarily through cycling events, be they local, national, long and even longer rides including riding through Vietnam, raising thousands of pounds and acting as a constant source of inspiration to me as I’ve watched her take on these epic challenges.

After a year working with Marie Curie she knew her next challenge would be something to help support the work they do, to do that she has decided to take on the Prudential Ride London event, a 100 mile ride around the UK’s capital city. Her inspirational examples of taking on long cycling challenges to raise money for great causes has rubbed off as she has “inspired” me to join her and having never really done any long distance cycling, 100 miles seemed a sensible place to start!!

We are a couple of months away from the event, training is well underway, I rode my first 100km event a couple of weeks ago (well thanks to some suspect measuring 106km) we are taking on hilly midweek rides with a long ride at weekends and spending a bit of time down the gym on the cycling machines, my bottom has adopted the relevant resistance to time in the saddle, so with a few more weeks of training to go, we should be ready to take it on.

Why am I sharing this? well of course, not only has my wife’s willingness to spend many hours in a bicycle seat inspired me to want to have a go, but the incredible work this fantastic charity does in providing end of life care has also inspired me to want to help and see if I can do a bit to financially support this great work.

How can the techstringy.com readers and listeners to the Tech Interviews podcast help? Well of course some heartfelt good lucks on this page or on the twitters would be wonderful, but of course what would help Marie Curie is if you’d be able to contribute on our Just Giving Page to help us towards our target of £1100.

Every penny you donate will make a difference so please, if you can help we would both really appreciate it, and if you can’t, that’s no problem, a good luck message will help with those hours in the saddle.

Thanks for letting me steal some space on my blog site to share this personal adventure and if you can help, that would be marvellous.

Right, where’s my bike!?

For more on Marie Curie and the amazing work they do visit mariecurie.org.uk

To find out more about the challenge visit the Prudential Ride London Event page.

If you can help us to support the charity financially then please visit our Just Giving Page.

Wrapping up VeeamON – Michael Cade – Ep 66

A couple of weeks ago in Chicago Veeam had their annual tech conference VeeamON, it was one of my favourite shows from last year, unfortunately I couldn’t make it out this time but did catch up remotely and shared my thoughts on some of the strategic messages that where covered in a recent blog post looking at Veeam’s evolving data management strategy ( Getting your VeeamON!).

That strategic Veeam message is an interesting one and their shift from031318_0833_Availabilit2.jpg “backup” company to one focused on intelligent data management across multiple repositories is, in my opinion, exactly the right move to be making. With that in mind, I wanted to take a final look at some of those messages as well as some of the other interesting announcements from the show and that is exactly what we do on this week’s podcast, as I’m joined by recurring Tech Interviews guest, Michael Cade, Global Technologist at Veeam.

Michael, who not only attended the show but also delivered some great sessions, joins me to discuss a range of topics. We start by taking a look at Veeam’s last 12 months and how they’ve started to deliver a wider range of capabilities which builds on their virtual platform heritage with support for more traditional enterprise platforms.

Michael shares some of the thinking behind Veeam’s goal to deliver an availability platform to meet the demands of modern business data infrastructures, be they on-prem, in the cloud, SaaS or service provider based. We also look at how this platform needs to offer more than just the ability to “back stuff up”

We discuss the development of Veeam’s 5 pillars of intelligent data management, a key strategic announcement from the show and how this can be used as a maturity model against which you can compare your own progress to a more intelligent way of managing your data.

We look at the importance of automation in our future data strategies and how this is not only important technically, but also commercially as businesses need to deploy and deliver much more quickly than before.

We finish up by investigating the value of data labs and how crucial the ability to get more value from your backup data is becoming, be it to carry out test, dev, data analytics or a whole range of other tasks without impacting your production platforms or wasting the valuable resource in your backup data sets.

Finally, we take a look at some of the things we can expect from Veeam in the upcoming months.

You can catch up on the event keynote on Veeam’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/ozNndY1v-8g

You can also find more information on the announcements on Veeam’s website here www.veeam.com/veeamon/announcements

If you’d like to catch up with thoughts from the Veeam Vanguard team, you can find a list of them on twitter – https://twitter.com/k00laidIT/lists/veeam-vanguards-2018

You can follow Michael on twitter @MichaelCade1 and on his excellent blog https://vzilla.co.uk/

Thanks for listening.