Random Short Take #43

Welcome to Random Short Take #43. A few players have worn 43 in the NBA, including Frank Brickowski, but my favourite from this list is Red Kerr (more for his commentary chops than his game, I think).  Let’s get random.

  • Mike Wilson has published Part 2 of his VMware VCP 2020 Study Guide and it’s a ripper. Check it out here. I try to duck and weave when it comes to certification exams nowadays, but these kind of resources are invaluable.
  • It’s been a while since I had stick time with Data Domain OS, but Preston’s article on password hardening was very useful.
  • Mr Foskett bought a cloud, of sorts. Read more about that here. Anyone who knows Stephen knows that he’s all about what’s talking about what’s happening in the industry, but I do enjoy reading about these home projects as well.
  • Speaking of clouds, Rancher was named “A Leader” in multi-cloud container development platforms by an independent research firm. You can read the press release here.
  • Datadobi had a good story to share about what it did with UMass Memorial Health Care. You can read the story here.
  • Steve O has done way too much work understanding how to change the default theme in Veeam Enterprise Manager 10 and documenting the process so you don’t need to work it out. Read about the process here.
  • Speaking of data protection, Zerto has noticed Azure adoption increasing at quite a pace, amongst other things.
  • This was a great article on open source storage from Chin-Fah.

BackupAssist Announces BackupAssist ER

BackupAssist recently announced BackupAssist ER. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Linus Chang (CEO), Craig Ryan, and Madeleine Tan about the announcement.

 

BackupAssist

Founded in 2001, BackupAssist is focussed primarily on the small to medium enterprise (under 500 seats). They sell the product via a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • Direct
  • Partners
  • Distribution channels

 

Challenges Are Everywhere

Some of the challenges faced by the average SME when it comes to data protection include the following:

  • Malware
  • COVID-19
  • Compliance

So what does the average SME need when it comes to selecting a data protection solution?

  • Make it affordable
  • Automatic offsite backups with history and retention
  • Most recoveries are local – make them fast!
  • The option to recover in the cloud if needed (the fallback to the fallback)

 

What Is It?

So what exactly is BackupAssist ER? It’s backup and recovery software.

[image courtesy of BackupAssist]

It’s deployed on Windows servers, and has support for disk to disk to cloud as a protection topology.

CryptoSafeGuard

Another cool feature is CryptoSafeGuard, providing the following features:

  • Shield from unauthorised access
  • Detect – Alert – Preserve

Disaster Recovery

  • VM Instant boot (converting into a Hyper-V guest)
  • BMR (catering for dissimilar hardware)
  • Download cloud backup anywhere

Data Recovery

The product supports the granular recovery of files, Exchange, and applications.

Data Handling and Control

A key feature of the solution is the approach to data handling, offering:

  • Accessibility
  • Portability
  • Retention

It uses the VHDX file format to store protection data. It can also backup to Blob storage. Chang also advised that they’re working on introducing S3 compatibility at some stage.

Retention

The product supports a couple of different retention schemes, including:

  • Local – Keep N copies (GFS is coming)
  • Cloud – Keep X copies
  • Archival – Keep a backup on a HDD, and retain for years

Pricing

BackupAssist ER is licensed in a variety of ways. Costs are as follows:

  • Per physical machine – $399 US annually;
  • Per virtual guest machine – $199 US annually; and
  • Per virtual host machine – $699 US annually.

There are discounts available for multi-year subscriptions, as well as discounts to be had if you’re looking to purchase licensing for more than 5 machines.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Chang noted that BackupAssist is “[n]ot trying to be the best, but the best fit”. You’ll see that a lot of the capability is Microsoft-centric, with support for Windows and Hyper-V. This makes sense when you look at what the SME market is doing in terms of leveraging Microsoft platforms to deliver their IT requirements. Building a protection product that covers every platform is time-consuming and expensive in terms of engineering effort. What Chang and the team have been focussed on is delivering data protection products to customers at a particular price point while delivering the right amount of technology.

The SME market is notorious for wanting to consume quality product at a particular price point. Every interaction I’ve had with customers in the SME segment has given me a crystal clear understanding of “Champagne tastes on a beer budget”. But in much the same way that some big enterprise shops will never stop doing things at a glacial pace, so too will many SME shops continue to look for high value at a low cost. Ultimately, compromises need to be made to meet that price point, hence the lack of support for features such as VMware. That doesn’t mean that BackupAssist can’t meet your requirements, particularly if you’re running your business’s IT on a couple of Windows machines. For this it’s well suited, and the flexibility on offer in terms of disk targets, retention, and recovery should be motivation to investigate further. It’s a bit of a nasty world out there, so anything you can do to ensure your business data is a little safer should be worthy of further consideration. You can read the press release here.

Random Short Take #42

Welcome to Random Short Take #42. A few players have worn 42 in the NBA, including Vin Baker, but my favourite from this list is Walt Williams.  A big man with a jumpshot and a great tube sock game. Let’s get random.

  • Datadobi has formed a partnership with Melillo Consulting to do more in the healthcare data management space. You can read the release here.
  • It’s that time of the year when Backblaze releases its quarterly hard drive statistics. It makes for some really interesting reading, and I’m a big fan of organisations that are willing to be as transparent as Backblaze is with the experience it’s having in the field. It has over 142000 drives in the field, across a variety of vendors, and the insights it delivers with this report are invaluable. In my opinion this is nothing but a good thing for customers and the industry in general. You can read more about the report here.
  • Was Airplay the reason you littered your house with Airport Express boxes? Same here. Have you been thinking it might be nice to replace the Airport Express with a Raspberry Pi since you’ve moved on to a different wireless access point technology? Same here. This article might just be the thing you’ve been looking for. I’m keen to try this out.
  • I’ve been trying to optimise my weblog, and turned on Cloudflare via my hosting provider. The website ran fine, but I had issues accessing the WordPress admin page after a while. This article got me sorted out.
  • I’ve been a bit loose with the security of my home infrastructure from time to time, but even I don’t use WPS. Check out this article if you’re thinking it might somehow be a good idea.
  • This article on caching versus tiering from Chris Evans made for some interesting reading.
  • This was a thorough review of the QNAP QSW-308-1C Unmanaged Switch, an 11 (!) port unmanaged switch boasting 3 10Gbps ports and 8 1Gbps ports. It’s an intriguing prospect, particularly given the price.
  • DH2i has announced it’s extending free access to DxOdyssey Work From Home (WFH) Software until December 31st. Read more about that here.

 

Pure Storage and Cohesity Announce Strategic Partnership and Pure FlashRecover

Pure Storage and Cohesity announced a strategic partnership and a new joint solution today. I had the opportunity to speak with Amy Fowler and Biswajit Mishra from Pure Storage, along with Anand Nadathur and Chris Wiborg from Cohesity, and thought I’d share my notes here.

 

Friends In The Market

The announcement comes in two parts, with the first being that Pure Storage and Cohesity are forming a strategic partnership. The idea behind this is that, together, the companies will deliver “industry-leading storage innovations from Pure Storage with modern, flash-optimised backup from Cohesity”.  There are plenty of things in common between the companies, including the fact that they’re both, as Wiborg puts it, “keenly focused on doing the right thing for the customer”.

 

Pure FlashRecover Powered By Cohesity

Partnerships are exciting and all, but what was of more interest was the Pure FlashRecover announcement. What is it exactly? It’s basically Cohesity DataProtect running on Cohesity-certified compute nodes (the whitebox gear you might be familiar with if you’ve bought Cohesity tin previously), using Pure’s FlashBlades as the storage backend.

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

FlashRecover has a targeted general availability for Q4 CY2020 (October). It will be released in the US initially, with other regions to follow. From a go to market perspective, Pure will handle level 1 and level 2 support, with Cohesity support being engaged for escalations. Cohesity DataProtect will be added to the Pure price list, and Pure becomes a Cohesity Technology Partner.

 

Thoughts

My first thought when I heard about this was why would you? I’ve traditionally associated scalable data protection and secondary storage with slower, high-capacity appliances. But as we talked through the use cases, it started to make sense. FlashBlades by themselves aren’t super high capacity devices, but neither are the individual nodes in Cohesity appliances. String a few together and you have enough capacity to do data protection and fast recovery in a predictable fashion. FlashBlade supports 75 nodes (I think) [Edit: it scales up to 150x 52TB nodes. Thanks for the clarification from Andrew Miller] and up to 1PB of data in a single namespace. Throw in some of the capabilities that Cohesity DataProtect brings to the table and you’ve got an interesting solution. The knock on some of the next-generation data protection solutions has been that recovery can still be quite time-consuming. The use of all-flash takes away a lot of that pain, especially when coupled with a solution like FlashBlade that delivers some pretty decent parallelism in terms of getting data recovered back to production quickly.

An evolving use case for protection data is data reuse. For years, application owners have been stuck with fairly clunky ways of getting test data into environments to use with application development and testing. Solutions like FlashRecover provide a compelling story around protection data being made available for reuse, not just recovery. Another cool thing is that when you invest in FlashBlade, you’re not locking yourself into a particular silo, you can use the FlashBlade solution for other things too.

I don’t work with Pure Storage and Cohesity on a daily basis anymore, but in my previous role I had the opportunity to kick the tyres extensively with both the Cohesity DataProtect solution and the Pure Storage FlashBlade. I’m an advocate of both of these companies because of the great support I received from both companies from pre-sales through to post-sales support. They are relentlessly customer focused, and that really translates in both the technology and the field experience. I can’t speak highly enough of the engagement I’ve experienced with both companies, from both a blogger’s experience, and as an end user.

FlashRecover isn’t going to be appropriate for every organisation. Most places, at the moment, can probably still get away with taking a little time to recover large amounts of data if required. But for industries where time is money, solutions like FlashRecover can absolutely make sense. If you’d like to know more, there’s a comprehensive blog post over at the Pure Storage website, and the solution brief can be found here.

Random Short Take #41

Welcome to Random Short Take #41. A few players have worn 41 in the NBA, but it’s hard to go past Dirk Nowitzki for a quality big man with a sweet, sweet jumpshot. So let’s get random.

  • There have been a lot of articles written by folks about various home office setups since COVID-19 became a thing, but this one by Jason Benedicic deserves a special mention. I bought a new desk and decluttered a fair bit of my setup, but it wasn’t on this level.
  • Speaking of COVID-19, there’s a hunger for new TV content as people across the world find themselves confined to their homes. The Ringer published an interesting article on the challenges of diving in to the archives to dig up and broadcast some television gold.
  • Backblaze made the news a while ago when they announced S3 compatibility, and this blog post covers how you can move from AWS S3 to Backblaze. And check out the offer to cover your data transfer costs too.
  • Zerto has had a bigger cloud presence with 7.5 and 8.0, and Oracle Public Cloud is now a partner too.
  • Speaking of cloud, Leaseweb Global recently announced the launch of its Leaseweb Cloud Connect product offering. You can read the press release here.
  • One of my favourite bands is The Mark Of Cain. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Ill At Ease album (the ultimate gym or breakup album – you choose), and the band has started publishing articles detailing the background info on the recording process. It’s fascinating stuff, and you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
  • The nice folks over at Scale Computing have been doing some stuff with various healthcare organisations lately. You can read more about that here. I’m hoping to check in with Scale Computing in the near future when I’ve got a moment. I’m looking forward to hearing about what else they’ve been up to.
  • Ray recently attended Cloud Field Day 8, and the presentation from Igneous prompted this article.

Random Short Take #40

Welcome to Random Short Take #40. Quite a few players have worn 40 in the NBA, including the flat-top king Frank Brickowski. But my favourite player to wear number 40 was the Reign Man – Shawn Kemp. So let’s get random.

  • Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager 19.5 was released in early July and Preston covered it pretty comprehensively here.
  • Speaking of data protection software releases and enhancements, we’ve barely recovered from the excitement of Veeam v10 being released and Anthony is already talking about v11. More on that here.
  • Speaking of Veeam, Rhys posted a very detailed article on setting up a Veeam backup repository on NFS using a Pure Storage FlashBlade environment.
  • Sticking with the data protection theme, I penned a piece over at Gestalt IT for Druva talking about OneDrive protection and why it’s important.
  • OpenDrives has some new gear available – you can read more about that here.
  • The nice folks at Spectro Cloud recently announced that its first product is generally available. You can read the press release here.
  • Wiliam Lam put out a great article on passing through the integrated GPU on Apple Mac minis with ESXi 7.
  • Time passes on, and Christian recently celebrated 10 years on his blog, which I think is a worthy achievement.

Happy Friday!

Backup Awareness Month, Backblaze, And A Simple Question

Last month was Backup Awareness Month (at least according to Backblaze). It’s not formally recognised by any government entities, and it’s more something that was made up by Backblaze. But I’m a big fan of backup awareness, so I endorse making up stuff like this. I had a chance to chat to Yev over at Backblaze about the results of a survey Backblaze runs annually and thought I’d share my thoughts here. Yes, I know I’m a bit behind, but I’ve been busy.

As I mentioned previously, as part of the backup awareness month celebrations, Backblaze reaches out to folks in the US and asks a basic question: “How often do you backup all the data on your computer?”. This has shown some interesting facts about consumer backup habits. There has been a positive decrease in the amount of people stating that they have never backed up their data (down to around one fifth of the respondents), and the frequency of which backup has increased.

Other takeaways from the results include:

  • Almost 50% of people lose their data each year;
  • 41% of people do not completely understand the difference between cloud backup and cloud storage;
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to backup their data daily; and
  • Seniors (65+) have gone from being the best age group at backing up data to the worst.

 

Thoughts

I bang on a lot about how important backup (and recovery) is across both the consumer and enterprise space. Surveys like this are interesting because they highlight, I think, the importance of regularly backing up our data. We’re making more and more of it, and it’s not magically protected by the benevolent cloud fairies, so it’s up to us to protect it. Particularly if it’s important to us. It’s scary to think that one in two people are losing data on a regular basis, and scarier still that most folks don’t understand the distinction between cloud storage and cloud backup. I was surprised that Millennials are most likely to backup their data, but my experience with younger generations really only extends to my children, so they’re maybe not the best indicator of what the average consumer is doing. It’s also troubling that older folk are struggling to keep on top of backups. Anecdotally that lines up with my experience as well. So I think it’s great that Yev and the team at Backblaze have been on something of a crusade to educate people about cloud backup and how it can help them. I love that the company is all about making it easier for consumers, not harder.

As an industry we need to be better at making things simple for people to consume, and more transparent in terms of what can be achieved with technology. I know this blog isn’t really focused on consumer technology, and it might seem a bit silly that I carry on a bit about consumer backup. But you all have data stored some place or another that means something to you. And I know not all of you are protecting it appropriately. Backup is like insurance. It’s boring. People don’t like paying for it. But when something goes bang, you’ll be glad you have it. If these kind of posts can raise some awareness, and get one more person to protect the data that means something to them in an effective fashion, then I’ll be happy with that.

Random Short Take #39

Welcome to Random Short Take #39. Not a huge amount of players have worn 39 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I’m any real fan of The Dwightmare. But things are tough all around, so let’s remain optimistic and push through to number 40. Anyway let’s get random.

  • VeeamON 2020 was online this week, and Anthony Spiteri has done a great job of summarising the major technical session announcements here.
  • I’ve known Howard Marks for a while now, and always relish the opportunity to speak with him when I can. This post is pretty hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading the followup posts.
  • This is a great article from Alastair Cooke on COVID-19 and what En-Zed has done effectively to stop the spread. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on returning to the US, and I do agree that it’s going to be some time until I make the trip across the Pacific again.
  • Sometimes people get crazy ideas about how they might repurpose some old bits of technology. It’s even better when they write about their experiences in doing so. This article on automating an iPod Hi-Fi’s volume control over at Six Colors was fantastic.
  • Chris M. Evans put out a typically thought-provoking piece on data migration challenges recently that I think is worth checking out. I’ve been talking a lot to customers that are facing these challenges on a daily basis, and it’s interesting to see how, regardless of the industry vertical they operate in, it’s sometimes just a matter of the depth varying, so to speak.
  • I frequently bump into Ray Lucchesi at conferences, and he knows a fair bit about what does and doesn’t work. This article on his experiences recently with a number of virtual and online conferences is the epitome of constructive criticism.
  • Speaking of online conferences, the Australian VMUG UserCon will be virtual this year and will be held on the 30th July. You can find out more and register here.
  • Finally, if you’ve spent any time with me socially, you’ll know I’m a basketball nut. And invariably I’ll tell you that Deftones is may favouritest band ever. So it was great to come across this article about White Pony on one of my favourite sports (and popular culture) websites. If you’re a fan of Deftones, this is one to check out.

 

Random Short Take #38

Welcome to Random Short Take #38. Not a huge amount of players have worn 38 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I was ever a Kwame Brown fan. Although it did seem like he had a tough time of it. Anyway let’s get random.

  • Ransomware is the new hotness. Or, rather, protecting storage systems from ransomware is the new hotness. My man Chin-Fah had a writeup on that here. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when you’ll run into a problem. It’s been interesting to see the various approaches being taken by the storage vendors and the data protection companies.
  • Applications for the vExpert program intake for the second half of 2020 are open, but closing soon. It’s a fantastic program to be a part of, so if you think you’ve got the goods, you can apply here. I also recommend this article from Christopher on his experiences.
  • This was a great article from Alastair on some of the differences between networking with AWS and VMC on AWS. As someone who works for a VMware Cloud Provider, I can confirm that NSX (T or V, I don’t care) has a whole slew of capabilities and whole slew of integration challenges.
  • Are you Zoomed out? I am. Even when you think the problem can’t be the network, it might just be the network (I hope my friends in networking appreciate that it’s not always the storage). John Nicholson posted a typically comprehensive overview of how your bandwidth might be one of the things keeping you from demonstrating excellent radio voice on those seemingly endless meetings you’re doing at the moment. It could also be that you’re using crap audio devices too, but I think John’s going to cover that in the future.
  • Scale Computing has a good story to tell about what it’s been doing with a large school district in the U.S. Read more about that here.
  • This is one of those promotions aimed at my friends in Northern America more than folks based where I am, but I’m always happy to talk about deals on data protection. StorCentric has launched its “Retrospect Dads & Grads Promotion” offering a free 90-Day subscription license for every Retrospect Backup product. You can read more about that here.
  • Pure//Accelerate Online was this week, and Max did a nice write-up on Pure Storage File Services over at Gestalt IT.
  • Rancher Labs recently announced the general availability of Longhorn (a cloud-native container storage solution). I’m looking forward to digging in to this a bit more over the next little while.

 

 

Random Short Take #37

Welcome to Random Short Take #37. Not a huge amount of players have worn 37 in the NBA, but Metta World Peace did a few times. When he wasn’t wearing 15, and other odd numbers. But I digress. Let’s get random.

  • Pavilion Data recently added S3 capability to its platform. It’s based on a variant of MinIO, and adds an interesting dimension to what Pavilion Data has traditionally offered. Mellor provided some good coverage here.
  • Speaking of object storage, Dell EMC recently announced ECS 3.5. You can read more on that here. The architectural white paper has been updated to reflect the new version as well.
  • Speaking of Dell EMC, Preston posted a handy article on Data Domain Retention Lock and NetWorker. Have you pre-ordered Preston’s book yet? I’ll keep asking until you do.
  • Online events are all the rage at the moment, and two noteworthy events are coming up shortly: Pure//Accelerate and VeeamON 2020. Speaking of online events, we’re running a virtual BNEVMUG next week. Details on that here. ZertoCON Virtual is also a thing.
  • Speaking of Pure Storage, this article from Cody Hosterman on NVMe and vSphere 7 is lengthy, but definitely worth the read.
  • I can’t recall whether I mentioned that this white paper  covering VCD on VCF 3.9 is available now, and I can’t be bothered checking. So here it is.
  • I’m not just a fan of Backblaze because of its cool consumer backup solution and object storage platform, I’m also a big fan because of its blog. Articles like this one are a great example of companies doing corporate culture right (at least from what I can see).
  • I have the impression that Datadobi has been doing some cool stuff recently, and this story certainly seems to back it up.