Why Using HCI Is The Wrong Tool For Backup And Recovery

By Phil Wandrei

We often hear the phrase “using the right tool for the right job,” whether it is a weekend home improvement project or in business. What it means is that you will experience greater efficiency and often reduced cost (and even less physical and emotional pain) if you use a device for its intended purpose. If you have ever used a hammer to pound a screw, you know what I mean. As much as we nod our heads in agreement, we often fail to apply this bit of common sense. 

The growth of Hyperconverged infrastructure

Now let’s apply this concept to Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI). HCI has become extremely popular for primary storage because it combines hardware, software and network infrastructure into a single package that easily scales. According to Gartner, “By 2020, 20% of business-critical applications currently deployed on three-tier IT infrastructure will transition to hyperconverged infrastructure.1 Organizations have seen significant benefits with HCI, from simplifying their environment to providing greater staff and resource efficiency. As such, they will continue to implement it on primary storage and apply it to other use cases.

Why HCI is the wrong tool for backup and recovery

Many organizations have become so enamored with HCI primary storage and its benefits that they are even using it for data protection. Using HCI primary storage for backup and recovery is using the wrong tool. This is reinforced in George Crump’s blog, “Hyperconvergence is NOT Backup.” 

There are three reasons why using HCI for backup and recovery is not practical:

1. Expensive use of primary storage: HCI is expensive storage and it is not cost-effective for storing backup copies. The value of the data should match the cost of the storage.    

2. It puts the organization at greater risk: Putting all of your data (eggs) in one system (basket) is very risky. Having both the primary data and its secondary copies and snapshots on the same system is extremely dicey since a single failure can wipe out all of your data and the ability to recover it. 

3. Inefficient processes lead to longer recovery times: Primary storage is not designed for data protection. While it may contain a tool or two, such as snapshots, it does not have the breadth and depth of data protection, and a comprehensive tool set required to serve as an enterprise class backup and recovery solution. For example, HCI is not designed with granular restores for fast recovery. 

Disasters, accidents and ransomware, oh my!

About now, you may be thinking that this does not apply to you as the odds of having an outage or accident are low and your HCI implementation includes built in redundancy features.  Well, you are wrong. Based on a recent Gartner survey, “Roughly 80% of survey respondents have had an incident during the past two years that required the use of an IT disaster recovery plan. 2 If your DR plan is based on your HCI when an incident occurs and you lose all your data, then you risk losing more than just your DR plan (i.e. internal corporate email: …<your name here> has left the company to pursue other opportunities …). 

A better solution for protecting HCI

When organizations implement HCI they need an enterprise backup and recovery solution, such as Commvault software, to ensure their data is available, protected and supports the business requirements. A modern backup and recovery solution will:

  • Reduce costs: It contains tools and resources to curtail both CapEx and OpEx. It lessens storage costs, with tools like source-side deduplication, to reduce the amount of storage and data migration tools to move data across storage tiers to align the value of the data to the cost of the storage. In addition, it includes automation, self-service and policies to reduce IT management time. 
  • Minimize risk: An enterprise backup and recovery solution provides the resiliency, availability and scale to meet your service levels. It allows backup data to be moved, managed and protected across different storage tiers and locations. It prevents a single event, whether losing multiple disks or nodes – or even the site – from wiping out all of the data and the ability to recover it.
  • Deliver greater efficiency: Through a web-based interface, a modern backup and recovery solution will provide the tools necessary to index, backup, dedupe, snapshot, manage and move data. It will backup wherever the data resides and restore it anywhere.

Using Hyperconverged infrastructure is the right tool for primary storage, but not for backup and recovery. To protect your data, whether it lives on HCI or in the cloud, you also need the right tool: Commvault backup and recovery software.   

1 Gartner, Magic Quadrant for HyperconvergedInfrastructure  Published: 6 February 2018 ID: G00333051  Analyst(s): John McArthur, George J. Weiss, Kiyomi Yamada, Hiroko Aoyama, Philip Dawson,Arun Chandrasekaran, Julia Palmer

2 Gartner, Survey Analysis: IT Disaster Recovery in 2017  Published: 1 December 2017 ID: G00344045  Analyst(s): Mark Thomas Jaggers