Scale-Out For Greater Backup And Recovery Flexibility

By Jonathan Howard

Reading George Crump’s recent blog about “Why Scale-Up Architecture Breaks Backup” got me thinking about a number of challenges that backup architectures have historically had. It’s an interesting take on the industry challenges that relate to specific design principles, which have traditionally applied to backup. Commvault has a long history of support for multiple open architectures. One of our strengths is that we can address any type of storage (disk, cloud, tape) and incorporate it into a customer’s solution as a tier. Our approach is one of inclusion, not exclusion, when it comes to new architectures.

From Commvault’s inception, there have been a few guiding principles that have allowed us to continually adapt to new technology and incorporate new architectures as they emerge. Those principles, two of which are discussed in more detail below, are distributed data and a single virtual repository. It’s no wonder that our customers like this approach given that the majority of storage capacity in today’s enterprises is consumed by secondary copies of data. Therefore, enabling technology flexibility has proven to be a major asset. Running low on storage in your data center but have some spare capacity somewhere else? We can add that. But what about scalability?

Distributed data drives easy scalability

As George noted, having a single monolithic catalogue can cause scaling problems because those servers need to be continually refreshed or upgraded to larger versions, sometimes before their lifecycle is over. At Commvault, we distribute the metadata along with the protected data, which helps to ensure that as the data and architecture grows there is no constraint on a central catalogue.

This also helps ensure that as scale and capacity increase, physical locations of the data change (e.g., production storage to archiving), and as infrastructure gets refreshed, we can always manage the data no matter where it resides (on-premises or in the cloud).

One virtual repository creates flexibility of choice

For instance, the Virtual Repository has historically allowed Commvault to scale regardless of architecture type. I’ve often been told that a certain technology type is dead, for instance tape. By taking this open stance, and addressing any type of storage, whether it’s block, file, cloud, or even tape in its native format and without the need for additional software or gateways, we provide customers the flexibility to make that choice and manage it all under one solution.

While our approach has been extremely successful, it left some elements of the scaling and operational requirements to the customer. Choice and flexibility meant that the infrastructure layers (the darker layers on the diagram) were left to the customer to architect and maintain. Refreshing production infrastructure can be daunting, but this is just backup so how complicated can it be, right?

Remember my previous comment that the amount of storage in use for backup and secondary operations is massive? That’s why making this “just” about backup can still be daunting. Again, we have mitigated a number of potential issues inside of our platform to make these refreshes easier and less challenging.

However, if the underlying infrastructure wasn’t architected properly, there could still be scaling challenges. So, while the open approach to architecture has served us well, it’s time that we add something new to the mix, which leads us to Commvault HyperScale™ Technology.

Commvault HyperScale™ Technology

Commvault HyperScale solutions bring a unified approach to backup, architecture and operations. By seamlessly integrating the hardware and software together to improve hardware utilization, provide scalability that eliminates waste, and provide cloud-like agility, resiliency and availability for on-premises solutions, a number of critical customer considerations and questions are immediately solved.

Commvault HyperScale Technology provides an integrated approach for customers that are looking for a software-defined solution that can combine that entire stack and eliminate traditional scale and management challenges. It’s crucial to point out that this approach is still one of inclusion and choice. Commvault HyperScale Technology comes in two different forms, Commvault HyperScale™ Software or the Commvault HyperScale™ Appliance.

Commvault HyperScale Software provides customers with flexibility of utilizing their existing purchasing power and buying infrastructure from industry-leading infrastructure vendors. This has led Commvault to create a Validated Reference Design Program to provide standard builds, streamlined installation options and upkeep for these systems. Customers can start with bare metal systems and our software will automatically deploy and configure the infrastructure for the Commvault solution. Easy!

What happens if you’re looking for a hardware and software solution in one? We have that covered also, with the Commvault HyperScale Appliance.

Commvault HyperScale Appliance takes the software approach to the next level. We offer a fully-integrated solution that includes both hardware and software, which further improves support and operational efficiencies. This streamlines the experience for customers since all support is provided by Commvault.

Regardless of the solution path the customer takes, Commvault HyperScale Technology makes forklift upgrades a thing of the past, with the ability to expand as required, mix hardware generations and sizes, and of course the ability to sunset older generations without manually shifting the data or workload.

The cost problem that George discusses also brings up a great point about scale-out storage by itself. We have seen some architectures replace traditional storage with scale-out storage and think that this by itself counts as a scale-out architecture. Unfortunately, that approach only solves a small part of the overall architecture as the platform and the hardware are still not connected and scale differently. This looks very much like a scale-up architecture but can lead to unpredictable costs and management challenges.

A complete solution

Customers are looking for a total solution that not only includes great backup and recovery features but also allows for architectural freedom that includes a software-defined architecture. In today’s modern environments, building large monolithic solutions that require forklift upgrades and have major scaling issues should be a thing of the past.

Commvault believes that choice is a fundamental requirement for any solution, and the ability to scale on demand, integrate with the cloud and manage the entire stack from a single solution solves these architectural challenges and makes backup work.