VM backup drops off as DR motors on: what’s behind the survey figures?

We look behind the storage and backup headlines in the ComputerWeekly.com IT spending priorities survey

Last week's storage and backup headlines from the TechTarget IT Priorities Survey for 2015 in the UK were that virtual machine (VM) backup is “job done”, while activity around disaster recovery continues at similar levels to previous years.

But what lies behind the figures? What is driving the dip in VM backup implementations while disaster recovery deployments remain at high levels?

Then there are the potential storage and backup pitfalls that lurk behind the headlines. Why, for example, does mobility rank as the number one project in 2015 while backup for mobile devices figures nowhere in the survey results?

And what does the survey – which questioned 111 UK IT professionals about their IT project plans for 2015 – tell us about emerging storage and backup trends, such as private/hybrid cloud and hyperconverged compute and storage?

The survey shows virtual server backup is a key priority for 28% of respondents in 2015. This is another year-on-year decline, from 36% in the 2014 survey and 41.5% in 2013.

Meanwhile, disaster recovery is a key project for 45% of those questioned, which is up a little on 2014, when 40% declared it their top priority, but on a par with 2013’s figure of 44%.

In the background are wider projects and concerns for IT departments.

The second highest priority is compliance, which was named as top IT priority in 2015 by 31% of those questioned and is clearly a driver for disaster recovery and backup. Then comes datacentre consolidation – a catch-all for server virtualisation and related storage and backup tasks – which is the third highest priority in terms of 2015 projects (29%).

We can only speculate why VM backup has declined as a key task, given the lack of further questions that could explain this. But here is a likely scenario for how things have played out.

Backup is fundamental to any organisation. It is part and parcel of datacentre consolidation and server virtualisation and has largely been achieved as part of these projects.

And while effective backups serve as a backstop in case of unplanned outages, true disaster recovery – over two sites, utilising the new features available in hypervisor platforms such as VMware’s SRM – takes longer to achieve, so it remains a live priority for many.

So perhaps we will see disaster recovery decline as a priority over the coming years as effective DR provision becomes as-standard for datacentres.

Mobility top priority, but where’s the data protection?

All the time we are looking at VM backup and disaster recovery, we are actually missing the number one priority for UK IT organisations: mobility.

This is top of the IT to-do list for 42% of those questioned in the survey and reflects the tide of mobiles, smartphones, tablets and laptops sweeping organisations as well as the new ways of doing things they have brought in their wake, such as the rise of the app, as opposed to the plain old application.

Drilling down further, the top mobility project in 2015 is master data management (MDM), which is number one on the to-do list for 73% of respondents. This is followed by implementation of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programme for the organisation (46%), deployment of a corporate mobile device programme (44%), and deployment of an enterprise mobile application development programme (27%).

Although MDM goes some way to satisfying the needs of data protection, with its drive towards a single ‘golden copy’ of corporate data, the glaring omission here is backup for mobile devices.

MDM is potentially a hugely useful tool, but it leaves gaps where backup is required, particularly for unstructured data that is not subject to master data harmonisation. Such information, emails, PDFs, Word documents and so on are just as much, or more likely to be, the subject of compliance-based legal and regulatory constraints on their retention, and could easily sit unprotected on a single remote device.

Meanwhile, although enterprise and, to some extent, laptop backup is catered for by the major backup software suppliers, mobile backup is completely neglected in enterprise and midrange backup.

We will just have to see if all this leads to a bring-your-own-disaster.

Private and hybrid the key variants of cloud – for now

Cloud storage in its various forms continues to gain traction. In this year’s survey, 35% of those questioned cite cloud storage as a key storage priority, while 30% say cloud backup is a key task for 2015.

Neither of those questions explicitly asked what type of cloud respondents have in mind, but other questions found that private cloud is the fourth-highest priority datacentre infrastructure project (24% of those questioned), while hybrid cloud and hybrid cloud management are planned deployments by 22% and 18%, respectively.

These point to the reality of a situation in which public cloud for primary data is not yet really an option for most use cases because of concerns about latency/bandwidth, compliance and security of data in third-party datacentres.

What has emerged, however, is that private cloud and hybrid cloud are front-runners in the cloud stakes. That is because they offer cloud-like features, such as elasticity of supply to user departments, chargeback, low latency (hybrid cloud) and security (private cloud).

Over time, we should expect hybrid and private cloud approaches to grow in popularity, but as the public cloud becomes more reliable and trusted, it will begin to attract more user attention.

Hyperconverged architectures join the mainstream

Also in datacentre infrastructure projects, 10% of respondents said they planned converged or hyperconverged infrastructure deployments. This is another trend we should expect to gain prominence over time.

Hyperconverged storage and compute merges processing and storage in a single device, which can be multiplied in grid-like fashion by adding further instances.

It arose with web giants such as Google and Facebook, which eschewed the recent tradition of servers with shared storage and developed combined server/storage nodes in which data is replicated between them and entire hardware instances are replaced in case of failure.

More recently, the hyperconverged model has gained mainstream acceptance with products from specialist startups such as Simplivity and Nutanix and, more recently, VMware with its EVO:Rail hyperconverged software and partnerships with major hardware manufacturers.

With such backing from the big fish in servers and storage, it's a fair bet that hyperconverged architectures will be a rising trend over the coming years.

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