Ask the Expert: Jason Buffington of ESG talks about the need for data protection modernization
Author: Cheryle Cushion Posted: Mar 15, 2016

In an effort to better understand the challenges of data protection facing IT executives and professionals in today’s data centers as well as the potential opportunities presented by technologies such as the cloud and virtualization, I’ve been talking with various “industry experts”, many of whom have spent most of their careers in these areas. In this new blog series of Ask the Expert, I’ll share the key learnings and insights that I’m getting from these valuable conversations.

This first post is based on my discussions with industry expert Jason Buffington (@JBuff) and the concept of data protection modernization. Jason has been tackling areas such as data protection /availability, BC/DR and systems management with over 25 years of field-engagement, sales/marketing and product management experience across two ISV’s, three channel resellers, and Microsoft … and most recently at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) where he leads the Data Protection coverage. He has also written a book called Data Protection for Virtual Data Centers.

Cheryle: You have talked a lot about the importance of organizations to start planning and implementing a strategy around data protection modernization. What exactly do you mean by this?

Jason: Many organizations are investing in modernizing their new production capabilities or platforms. As a result, this will often require organizations to also invest in data protection solutions in order to either “keep up with” or to be able to protect new workloads that are not protectable with the existing backup/DR solutions. Especially as IT operations teams continue to aggressively virtualize their production infrastructure, they will experience suboptimal protection or even negative impact to their highly-virtualized infrastructures from these legacy backup/DR mechanisms, resulting in the need for an urgent upgrade, replacement, or addition of a virtual machine-capable solution.

Cheryle: What do you believe is the biggest challenge organizations face when trying to accomplish data protection modernization?

Jason: There are several fundamental debates happing right now in data protection including whether you should be using disk vs. tape vs. cloud as your medium, whether you should be doing traditional backups vs snapshots vs some level of replication, whether ROBO’s should have centralized backup vs automated backups vs using a cloud-BaaS solutions or even whether data protection should be unified or more workload specific. But the real debate is between “what implementers need vs what executives want” where everyone agrees that they need better data protection but not always on how to achieve it. And often times the right answer is “and”, and not “or”.

Cheryle: Last month you talked about your predictions for data protection in 2016. You noted that the cloud is going to be one of the biggest trends of the year. Why is that?

Jason: The thing is, there’s at least five different ways that data protection and cloud intersect. You can back up to the cloud with backup as a service (BaaS), or disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), or just augment on-premise backups with cloud storage. What if your data’s already in the cloud (utilizing IaaS), do you backup to the same cloud, to a different cloud, or maybe bring that data home, copy last resort kind of thing. How about if you’re running software as a service (SaaS)? Most people don’t realize that that stuff is not getting backed up.

Cheryle: When it comes to DR in the cloud, what considerations will IT professionals need to think about when leveraging the public cloud?

Jason: More and more organizations are considering using a public cloud – like AWS or Azure – as their secondary site for disaster recovery. The economics, the agility and the geographically dispersed are all opportunities that make sense for many organizations of all sizes. However, it isn’t as straightforward as one might think. The simplest way to look at it may be like this. Think of hyperscale cloud providers as being similar to your local Home Depot or Lowes. They have thousands of items in stock to address just about any project you might want to tackle. The question you then have to ask yourself is…how much of this project do you want to do yourself? For example, if your project is new kitchen cabinets. Do you want to buy the lumber, nails, sander, tape measure, tools, etc and build the entire set of cabinets from scratch and install them, or do you want to buy cabinets that are built to your specifications and then install them? Or do you want to just hire a contractor who can do the job soup to nuts? The key is understanding how much expertise you want to (or can) bring to the table, keeping in mind that often times the answer to that question has a direct correlation to the budget you’ll need to set aside to accomplish the project, as well as how ‘custom’ the fit will be for your needs.

Cheryle: What piece of advice would you give anyone who is tasked with modernizing their data protection strategy?

Jason: Maybe you’ll modernize protection reactively because your legacy approach is hindering those new production systems. Or, maybe you’ll modernize protection proactively, because you’re smart like that and you understand that evolving production systems will assuredly need better protection than your legacy solution provides. But let’s just agree, when you modernize production, you will modernize protection. But how? Start with understanding the needs of the business units and the platform owners. Then, talk with the tech folks to figure out how you’re going to deliver the levels of IT resiliency the business users are asking for. And then, and only then, are you really ready to start looking at the technologies that you’ll need. The key here is balancing the operational and economical goals against the business unit’s IT dependency…in other words ensuring that the solution doesn’t cost more than the business impact of the problem.

After my discussion with Jason, I thought about how we here at OneCloud are contributing to this data protection transformation. Asking questions like how are we helping IT organizations align business requirements with their protection strategies? How are we enabling them to modernize their approach in order to ensure their business isn’t impacted by unplanned downtime? OneCloud was founded on the fundamental belief that cloud-based disaster recovery should be “accessible by the masses”. This meant making our OneCloud Recovery solution as easy to deploy and manage as possible. By incorporating a high level of intelligent automation throughout the entire DR lifecycle, our software-based solution allows you to leverage a public cloud such as AWS without having to be an AWS expert and without having to spend days, weeks or even months to get it working. Learn more about how else we believe we are transforming data protection here at OneCloud.

Share your thoughts with us (@JBuff, @CheryleCushion) on what data protection modernization means to you. And what advice would you offer a fellow IT professional who finds themselves tasked with taking this on in the coming year?

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