Today's guest blogger is Thomas Bakewell, Riverbed's CIO.
Does Tape Measure Up?
I admit I have a small group of friends, mostly IT types. Recently at dinner, three of the four adults were all IT executives (the kids smirked when we tried to talk techie). The subject came around to IT disaster recovery preparedness. Clearly there was either not enough, or too much wine. As you can imagine the conversation started with the right idea, but the wrong media; tape. Since this is my BLOG, I get to say what three things I hate about tape:
- Tape measure home runs hit against the Giants;
- That thing I use to confirm I ate too many slices of pie at Thanksgiving;
- The false sense of security you get thinking that tape is the first form of data protection.
Beginning with the right idea is always a good start, and that is with a simple and fundamental question: “What will your response be when disaster hits your organization, or your legal team wants to examine and hold all documents relating to pending litigation, or one of your executives has lost all of their email?“ Our response typically revolves around risk management, data protection, recovery point and recovery time objectives. Necessary components of any DR plan to be sure, but wholly insufficient in terms of maintaining the health, operation and overall viability of your company. Each of us in IT understands a few well-kept secrets about technology. One of which is the efficacy of tape. We all know that a tape measure has an increasing scale – think of magnetic tape the same way. Tape is simple to think about, easy to use, growing ever more expensive to maintain, and absolutely problematic to rely on.
Under today’s, and likely tomorrow’s economic conditions – spending pressures, global competition, always on environment and ever increasing urgencies around time to market – the current metaphor of data recovery is no longer acceptable. The role of IT therefore can no longer be confined to DR, but rather to overall business continuity. The questions raised above need to be re-thought. We must now ask a different set of questions; “when a disaster strikes, how do I continue to service my customers, electronically interact with my partners, develop and market product all while I restore my IT world behind the scene?” Data protection is my first order of business, not tape.
As the head of IT in an IT performance company I get the opportunity to use our products, provide feedback and ultimately help in the overall quality and direction that we take. You all know of our market-leading WAN optimization products. And yes, of course, I use our Steelhead’s throughout my infrastructure. In addition to Steelheads and Cascade, our network performance management suite of tools, we have recently completed the implementation of Whitewater, our new cloud storage product. Whitewater is one of those products that come along every so often that has an immediate and sustained impact on IT.
Like all of you, I have a backup strategy and set of tools that are in place and with a trained staff to support. Like most of you, the target for my backup tools has been tape. As I have said earlier, tape cannot be thought of as the first form of data protection. In reality, moving data from your production data center to a DR data center is the first form of data protection. And yes, we move our data very efficiently through our Steelheads from one data center to the other. That said, moving data is just the first step. With Whitewater I have been able to back both my production and DR data to the cloud. We began with backing up our DR data. This exercise took about an afternoon to setup two Whitewater appliances, provision storage and begin backing up the data. Not too bad for a half day’s work! Today, we are backing up our production data as well. Some key points to consider:
- We have deployed Whitewater without any change to our existing backup software. No loss of knowledge and no new technology to learn.
- We’ve reduced our data protection costs and at the same time met accelerated recovery SLA’s. We can recover from virtually anywhere.
- We have simplified and secured our data storage for DR and recovery.
While no one wants a disaster and each of us does all we can to avoid them, I know that while others are waiting for tapes to be retrieved and mounted, I am already restored. While others are testing and hoping that the tape is viable, Riverbed is meeting the needs of our customers. And, while others are struggling with making sure they have restored all of their data in the right order, we are continuing to operate globally, competing and winning even in the toughest of times.
My migration from tape is complete, with the possible exception of that Thanksgiving thing… Maybe my next BLOG will be in January. News Year resolutions of a CIO… now that’s a dinner conversation just waiting to happen.