Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 13. My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and Pure Storage. 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.
StorageCraft Are In Your Data Centre
And have been for a while (well, since 2003 in any case). I first came across StorageCraft about ten years ago when the small integrator I was working for at the time was looking for a solution to make P2V migrations easier. ShadowProtect did this (and a lot more stuff) really well. In fact, a colleague of mine used it last year to P2P some SAP cluster nodes from a hospital to a managed infrastructure environment (don’t even get me started). I hated P2Vs, but I loved the idea of moving away from crappy physical machines. While SPX has been primarily aimed at smaller organisations, it supports a range of operating systems, hypervisors and hardware combinations. And, most importantly, it’s quite good at recovering data too.
And In The Cloud
How does that work then? Well, you create local backup images with ShadowProtect SPX or StorageCraft ShadowProtect. You then use ImageManager to replicate those encrypted backups offsite to the StorageCraft Cloud. You can also seed the cloud data with your base backup image and any existing consolidated incremental images by replicating these to a seed drive and shipping it to StorageCraft (this is a feature I’ve always been fond of with CrashPlan). SPX is installed on each machine, and ImageManager runs on a single machine. Its job is to verify your backup images and perform consolidation functions. There’s a portal you can access to manage resources.
[image courtesy of StorageCraft]
StorageCraft’s cloud (OpenStack with Ceph distributed storage) is a managed service from them. Their primary data centre is located in the Rocky Mountains in Utah, with a secondary site in Georgia. They also have a DC presence in “the UK somewhere”, Canada and Sydney. The cool thing about using ShadowProtect is that there’s support for physical and virtual environments, with support for Windows and Linux (CentOS, Redhat, Ubuntu). You can also replicate to other clouds if required (but StorageCraft can’t guarantee you can recover when you’re in those clouds). There’s also a built-in connector to AWS if you need to dump a bunch of data there.
Is the recovery temporary? Yes. It’s not a permanent restore. This is really only something you’d use in the event of a disaster. Not just because you’ve decided to save yourself some power in your own DC. As such, there’s not really the facility to run some “supporting infrastructure” VMs (such as DNS, authentication services, etc). You can test the facility though. The connection to the cloud is asynchronous, with ImageManager using an FTP connection to get the data to the cloud.
In terms of granularity, you can go down to 15 minutes, but typically customers are doing a nightly synchronization of data. The average sized customer is backing up 20 – 30 servers there. You can find out more about the guaranteed service levels here.
Conclusion and Further Reading
When I heard StorageCraft were presenting at Storage Field Day 13, I was hoping they’d spend some time on their plans for Exablox integration with their existing products. Us storage pundits had various thoughts on what it might look like, and were hoping that they’d give us at least a hint. It wasn’t to be, which isn’t really a bad thing, as the acquisition only happened in January this year, and I’d rather they spent the time to do it properly. Instead, I was pleasantly reminded of a lot of the things I like about StorageCraft’s offering.
Backup and recovery is hard to do at times. And DR as a service has been hard to do because the software mechanisms and the bandwidth haven’t been available to make the solutions work really well. This is even more of a problem in smaller environments who don’t have the luxury of hiring specialists to look after their data protection requirements (both on-premises and off). The cool thing about StorageCraft’s offering is that it’s terribly simple to manage and not very complex to get up and running. And, as I mentioned at the start, it’s quite good at recovering data when required. This is critical to the success of these kinds of offerings. StorageCraft are likely never going to dominate the data protection market (although they may have plans to do just that), but they offer a technically interesting and price-competitive offering that should appeal to smaller places looking for peace of mind.
I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with in terms of Exablox integration, as I think that acquisition gives them a really cool hardware play to leverage as well, at the right price point for their target market. If you’d like to know more, you can find more technical information on ShadowCraft’s offering here, and the data sheet can be downloaded from here.