Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 15. My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event. Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.
SLA Policy-driven, Eh?
IBM went to some length to talk about their “SLA-based data protection” available with their Spectrum Protect Plus product (not to be confused with Spectrum Protect). So, what is Spectrum Protect Plus? IBM defined it as a “Data Reuse solution for virtual environments and applications supporting multiple use cases”, offering the following features:
- Simple, flexible, lightweight (easy to deploy, configure and manage);
- Pre-defined SLA based protection;
- Self-service (RBAC) administration;
- Enterprise proven, scalable;
- Utilise copied data for production workflows;
- Data recovery and reuse automation; and
- Easily fits your budget.
They also spoke about SLA-based automation, with the following capabilities:
- Define frequency of copies, retention and data and target location of data copies for any resources assigned to the SLA;
- Comes installed with 3 pre-defined policies (Gold, Silver, and Bronze);
- Modify or create as many SLAs as necessary to meet business needs;
- Supports policy-based include / exclude rules;
- Capability to offload data to IBM Spectrum Protect ensuring corporate governance / compliance with long term retention / archiving; and
- Enable administrators to create customised templates that provide values for desired RPO.
This triggered Chris Evans to tweet the following during the session.
He went to write an insightful post on the difference between service level agreements, objectives, and policy-based configuration, amongst other things. It was great, and well worth a read.
So It’s Not A Service Level Agreement?
No, that’s not really what IBM are delivering. What they are delivering, however, is software that supports the ability to meet SLAs through configuration-level service level objectives (SLOs), or policies. I like SLOs better simply because a policy could just be something that the business has to adhere to and may not have anything to do with the technology or its relative usefulness. An SLO, on the other hand, is helping you to meet your SLAs. “Policy-driven” looks and sounds better when it’s splashed all over marketing slides though.
The pre-defined SLOs are great, because you’d be surprised how many organisations just don’t know where to start with their data protection activities. In my opinion though, the one of the most important steps in configuring these SLOs is taking a step back and understanding what you need to protect, how often you need to protect it, and how long you’ll have if you need to get it back. More importantly, you need to be sure that you have the same understanding of this as people running your business do.
You Say Potato …
Words mean things. I get mighty twitchy when people conflate premise and premises and laugh it off, telling me that language is evolving. It’s not evolving in that way. That’s like excusing a native English speaker’s misuse of their, they’re and there. It’s silly. Maybe it’s because I pronounce premise and premises differently. In any case, SLAs are different to SLOs. But I’m not going to have IBM’s lunch over this, because I think what’s more exciting about the presentation I saw is that IBM are possibly dragging themselves and their customers into the 21st century with Spectrum Protect Plus.
Plenty of people I’ve spoken to have been quick to tell me that SPP isn’t terribly exciting and that other vendors (namely startups or smaller competitors) have been delivering these kind of capabilities for some time. This is likely very true, and those vendors are doing well in their respective markets and keeping their customers happy with SLO-focused data protection capabilities. But I’ve historically spent a lot of my career toiling away in enterprise IT environments and those places are not what you’d call progressive environments (on a number of levels, unfortunately). IBM has a long and distinguished history in the industry, and service a large number of enterprise shops. Heck, they’re still making a bucket of cash selling iSeries and pSeries boxes. So I think it’s actually pretty cool when a company like IBM steps up and delivers capabilities in its software that enables businesses to meet their data protection requirements in a fashion that doesn’t rely on methods developed decades ago.