StorONE Announces S1:Backup

StorONE recently announced details of its S1:Backup product. I had the opportunity to talk about the announcement with Gal Naor and George Crump about the news and thought I’d share some brief thoughts here.

 

The Problem

Talk to people in the tech sector today, and you’ll possibly hear a fair bit about how ransomware is a real problem for them, and a scary one at that. Most all of the data protection solution vendors are talking about how they can help customers quickly recover from ransomware events, and some are particularly excited about how they can let you know you’ve been hit in a timely fashion. Which is great. A good data protection solution is definitely important to an organisation’s ability to rapidly recover when things go pop. But what about those software-based solutions that themselves have become targets of the ransomware gangs? What do you do when someone goes after both your primary and secondary storage solution? It costs a lot of money to deliver immutable solutions that are resilient to the nastiness associated with ransomware. Unfortunately, most organisations continue to treat data protection as an overpriced insurance policy and are reluctant to spend more than the bare minimum to keep these types of solutions going. It’s alarming the number of times I’ve spoken to customers using software-based data protection solutions that are out of support with the vendor just to save a few thousand dollars a year in maintenance costs.

 

The StorONE Solution

So what do you get with S1:Backup? Quite a bit, as it happens.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

You get Flash-based data ingestion in an immutable format, with snapshots being taken every 30 seconds.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

You also get fast consolidation of multiple incremental backup jobs (think synthetic fulls, etc.), thanks to the high performance of the StorONE platform. Speaking of performance, you also get quick recovery capabilities, and the other benefits of the StorONE platform (namely high availability and high performance).

And if you’re looking for long term retention that’s affordable, you can take advantage of StorONE’s ability to cope well with 90% capacity utilisation, rapid RAID rebuild times, and the ability to start small and grow.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Ransomware is a big problem, particularly when it hits you across both primary and secondary storage platforms. Storage immutability has become a super important piece of the puzzle that vendors are trying to solve. Like many things though, it does require some level of co-operation to make sure non-integrated systems are functioning across the tack in an integrated fashion. There are all kinds of ways to attack this issue, with some hardware vendors insisting that they’re particular interpretation of immutability is the only way to go, while some software vendors are quite keen on architecting air gaps into solutions to get around the problem. And I’m sure there’s a tape guy sitting up the back muttering about how tape is the ultimate air gap. Whichever way you want to look at it, I don’t think any one vendor has the solution that is 100% guaranteed to keep you safe from the folks in hoodies intent on trashing your data. So I’m pleased that StorONE is looking at this problem and wanting to work with the major vendors to develop a cost-effective solution to the issue. It may not be right for everyone, and that’s fine. But on the face of it, it certainly looks like a compelling solution when compared to rolling your own storage platforms and hoping that you don’t get hit.

Doing data protection well is hard, and made harder by virtue of the fact that many organisations treat it as a necessary evil. Sadly, it seems that CxOs only really start to listen after they’ve been rolled, not beforehand. Sometimes the best you can do is be prepared for when disaster strikes. If something like the StorONE solution is going to be the difference between losing the whole lot, or coming back from an attack quickly, it seems like it’s worth checking out. I can assure you that ignoring the problem will only end in tears. It’s also important to remember that a robust data protection solution is just another piece of the puzzle. You still need to need to look at your overall security posture, including securing your assets and teaching your staff good habits. Finally, if it seems like I’m taking aim at software-based solutions, I’m not. I’m the first to acknowledge that any system is susceptible if it isn’t architected and deployed in a secure fashion – regardless of whether it’s integrated or not. Anyway, if you’d like another take on the announcement, Mellor covered it here.

Datadobi, DobiProtect, and Forward Progress

I recently had the opportunity to speak Carl D’Halluin from Datadobi about DobiProtect, and thought I’d share some thoughts here. I wrote about DobiProtect in the past, particularly in relation to disaster recovery and air gaps. Things have progressed since then, as they invariably do, and there’s a bit more to the DobiProtect story now.

 

Ransomware Bad, Data Protection Good

If you’re paying attention to any data protection solution vendors at the moment, you’re no doubt hearing about ransomware attacks. These are considered to be Very Bad Things (™).

What Happens

  • Ransomware comes in through zero-day exploit or email attachments
  • Local drive content encrypted
  • Network shares encrypted – might be fast, might be slow
  • Encrypted file accessed and ransom message appears

How It Happens

Ransomware attacks are executed via many means, including social engineering, software exploits, and “malvertising” (my second favourite non-word next to performant). The timing of these attacks is important to note as well, as some ransomware will lay dormant and launch during a specific time period (a public holiday, for example). Sometimes ransomware will slowly and periodically encrypt content , but generally speaking it will begin encrypting files as quickly as possible. It might not encrypt everything either, but you can bet that it will be a pain regardless.

Defense In Depth

Ransomware protection isn’t just about data protection though. There are many layers you need to consider (and protect), including:

  • Human – hard to control, not very good at doing what they’re told.
  • Physical – securing the locations where data is stored is important.
  • End Points – BYOD can be a pain to manage effectively, and keeping stuff up to date seems to be challenging for the most mature organisations.
  • Networks – there’s a lot of work that needs to go into making sure workloads are both secure and accessible.
  • Application – sometimes they’re just slapped in there and we’re happy they run.
  • Data – It’s everything, but super exposed if you don’t get the rest of this right.

 

DobiProtect Then?

The folks at Datadobi tell me DobiProtect is the ideal solution for protecting the data layer as part of your defence in depth strategy as it is:

  • Software defined
  • Designed for the scale and complexity of file and / or object datasets
  • A solution that compliments existing capabilities such as storage system snapshots
  • Easy to deploy and does not impact existing configurations
  • A solution that is cost effective and flexible

 

Where Does It Fit?

DobiProtect plays to the strength of Datadobi – file and object storage. As such, it’s not designed to handle your traditional VM and DB protection, this remains the domain of the usual suspects.

[image courtesy of Datadobi]

Simple Deployment

The software-only nature of the solution, and the flexibility of going between file and object, means that it’s pretty easy to deploy as well.

[image courtesy of Datadobi]

Architecture

From an architecture perspective, it’s pretty straight forward as well, with the Core handling the orchestration and monitoring, and software proxies used for data movement.

[image courtesy of Datadobi]

 

Thoughts

I’ve been involved in the data protection business in some form or another for over two decades now. As you can imagine, I’ve seen a whole bunch of different ways to solve problems. In my day job I generally promote modern approaches to solving the challenge of protecting data in an efficient and cost-effective fashion. It can be hard to do this well, at scale, across the variety of workloads that you find in the modern enterprise nowadays. It’s not just some home directories, a file server, and one database that you have to protect. Now there’s SaaS workloads, 5000 different database options, containers, endpoints, and all kinds of other crazy stuff. The thing linking that all together is data, and the requirement to protect that data in order for the business to do its business – whether that’s selling widgets or providing services to the general public.

Protecting file and object workloads can be a pain. But why not just use a vendor that can roughly do the job rather than using a very specific solution like DobiProtect? I asked D’Halluin the same question, and his response was along the following lines. The kind of customers Datadobi is working with on a regular basis have petabytes of unstructured data they need to protect, and they absolutely need to be sure that it’s being protected properly. Not just from a quality of recovered data perspective, but also from a defensible compliance position. It’s not just about pointing out to the auditors that the data protection solution “should” be working. There’s a lot of legislation and stuff in place to ensure that it needs to be more than that. So it’s oftentimes worth investing in a solution that can reliably deliver against that compliance requirement.

Ransomware attacks can be the stuff of nightmares, particularly if you aren’t prepared. Any solution that is helping you to protect yourself (and, more importantly, recover) from attacks is a Very Good Thing™. Just be sure to check that the solution you’re looking at does what you think it will do. And then check again, because it’s not a matter of if, but when.

Random Short Take #62

Welcome to Random Short take #62. It’s Friday afternoon, so I’ll try and keep this one brief.

  • Tony was doing some stuff in his lab and needed to clean up a bunch of ports in his NSX-T segment. Read more about what happened next here.
  • Speaking of people I think of when I think automation, Chris Wahl wrote a thought-provoking article on deep work that is well worth checking out.
  • While we’re talking about work, Nitro has published its 2022 Productivity Report. You can read more here.
  • This article from Backblaze on machine learning and predicting hard drive failure rates was interesting. Speaking of Backblaze, if you’re thinking about signing up with them, use my code and we’ll both get some free time.
  • Had a security problem? Need to recover? How do you know when to hit the big red button? Preston can help.
  • Speaking of doom and gloom (i.e. losing data), Curtis’s recent podcast episode covering ZFS and related technologies made for some great listening.
  • Have you been looking for a “A Unique Technology to Scan and Interrogate Petabyte-Scale Unstructured Data Lakes”? Maybe, maybe not. If you have, Datadobi has you covered with Datadobi Query Language. You can read the press release here.
  • I love when bloggers take the time to do hands-on articles, and this one from Dennis Faucher covering VMware Tanzu Community Edition was fantastic.

Ransomware? More Like Ransom Everywhere …

Stupid title, but ransomware has been in the news quite a bit recently. I’ve had some tabs open in my browser for over twelve months with articles about ransomware that I found interesting. I thought it was time to share them and get this post out there. This isn’t comprehensive by any stretch, but rather it’s a list of a few things to look at when looking into anti-ransomware solutions, particularly for NAS environments.

 

It Kicked Him Right In The NAS

The way I see it (and I’m really not the world’s strongest security person), there are (at least) three approaches to NAS and ransomware concerns.

The Endpoint

This seems to be where most companies operate – addressing ransomware as it enters the organisation via the end users. There are a bunch of solutions out there that are designed to protect humans from themselves. But this approach doesn’t always help with alternative attack vectors and it’s only as good as the update processes you have in place to keep those endpoints updated. I’ve worked in a few shops where endpoint protection solutions were deployed and then inadvertently clobbered by system updates or users with too many privileges. The end result was that the systems didn’t do what they were meant to and there was much angst.

The NAS Itself

There are things you can do with NetApp solutions, for example, that are kind of interesting. Something like Stealthbits looks neat, and Varonis also uses FPolicy to get a similar result. Your mileage will vary with some of these solutions, and, again, it comes down to the ability to effectively ensure that these systems are doing what they say they will, when they will.

Data Protection

A number of the data protection vendors are talking about their ability to recover quickly from ransomware attacks. The capabilities vary, as they always do, but most of them have a solid handle on quick recovery once an infection is discovered. They can even help you discover that infection by analysing patterns in your data protection activities. For example, if a whole bunch of data changes overnight, it’s likely that you have a bit of a problem. But, some of the effectiveness of these solutions is limited by the frequency of data protection activity, and whether anyone is reading the alerts. The challenge here is that it’s a reactive approach, rather than something preventative. That said, companies like Rubrik are working hard to enhance its Radar capability into something a whole lot more interesting.

Other Things

Other things that can help limit your exposure to ransomware include adopting generally robust security practices across the board, monitoring all of your systems, and talking to your users about not clicking on unknown links in emails. Some of these things are easier to do than others.

 

Thoughts

I don’t think any of these solutions provide everything you need in isolation, but the challenge is going to be coming up with something that is supportable and, potentially, affordable. It would also be great if it works too. Ransomware is a problem, and becoming a bigger problem every day. I don’t want to sound like I’m selling you insurance, but it’s almost not a question of if, but when. But paying attention to some of the above points will help you on your way. Of course, sometimes Sod’s Law applies, and things will go badly for you no matter how well you think you’ve designed your systems. At that point, it’s going to be really important that you’ve setup your data protection systems correctly, otherwise you’re in for a tough time. Remember, it’s always worth thinking about what your data is worth to you when you’re evaluating the relative value of security and data protection solutions. This article from Chin-Fah had some interesting insights into the problem. And this article from Cohesity outlined a comprehensive approach to holistic cyber security. This article from Andrew over at Pure Storage did a great job of outlining some of the challenges faced by organisations when rolling out these systems. This list of NIST ransomware resources from Melissa is great. And if you’re looking for a useful resource on ransomware from VMware’s perspective, check out this site.

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 #28

New year, same old format for news bites. This is #28 – the McKinnie Edition. I always thought Alfonzo looked a bit like that cop in The Deuce. Okay – it’s clear that some of these numbers are going to be hard to work with, but I’ll keep it going for a little while longer (the 30s are where you find a lot of the great players).

  • In what seems like pretty big news, Veeam has been acquired by Insight Partners. You can read the press release here, and Anton Gostev shares his views on it here.
  • This one looks like a bit of a science project, but I find myself oddly intrigued by it. You can read the official announcement here. Pre-orders are open now, and I’ll report back some time in March or April when / if the box turns up.
  • I loved this article from Chin-Fah on ransomware and NAS environments. I’m looking forward to catching up with Chin-Fah next week (along with all of the other delegates) at Storage Field Day 19. Tune in here if you want to see us on camera.
  • Speaking of ransomware, this article from Joey D’Antoni provided some great insights into the problem and what we can do about it.
  • A lot of my friends overseas are asking about the bush fires in Australia. There’s a lot in the media about it, and this article about the impact on infrastructure from Preston made for some thought-provoking reading.
  • I still use Plex heavily, and spend a lot of time moving things from optical discs to my NAS. This article covers a lot of the process I use too. I’ve started using tinyMediaManager as well – it’s pretty neat.
  • All the kids (and vendor executives) are talking about Kubernetes. It’s almost like we’re talking about public cloud or big data. Inspired in part by what he saw at Cloud Field Day 6, Keith weighs in on the subject here and I recommend you take the time to read (and understand) what he’s saying.
  • I enjoy reading Justin’s disclosure posts, even when he throws shade on my state (“Queensland is Australia’s Florida”). Not that he’s wrong, mind you.