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Workload-enabled Data Protection is the Future … and that is a good thing

When asked about “what is the future for datacenter data protection,” my most frequent answer is that DP becomes less about dedicated backup admins with dedicated backup infrastructure … and more about DP savvy being part of the production workload, co-managed by the DP and workload administrators.

  • In the last few years, we’ve seen a few examples of that with DBA’s using Oracle RMAN to do backups that aren’t rogue outside of corporate data protection mandates, but in concert with them – and being stored in the same deduplicated solution as the rest of the backups (e.g. DDboost for Oracle RMAN).
  • More recently, we are seeing more examples of VMware administrators getting similar functionality, including not only VMware’s own VDPA/VDPA+, but also traditional backup engines that are being controlled through vCenter plug-ins to give the virtualization admin their own solution.

EMC’s announcement of ProtectPoint is another step in that evolutionary journey, enabling VMAX production storage to go directly to Data Domain protection storage, thereby giving yet another group of IT Pro’s more direct control of their own protection/recovery destiny, while at the same time extending the agility and sphere of influence of data protection professionals.

To be clear, as workload owner enablement continues to evolve, the role of the “Data Protection Manager” (formerly known as the “backup administrator”) also evolves – but it does not and cannot go away. DPM’s should be thrilled to be out of some of the mundane aspects of tactical data protection and even more elated that the technology innovations like snap-to-dedupe integration, application-integration, etc. create real partnerships between the workload owners and the data protection professionals. And it does need to be a partnership, because while the technical crossovers are nice, they must be coupled with shared responsibility.

If the legacy backup admin simply abdicates their role of protecting data to the workload owner, because they now have a direct UI, many backups will simply stop being done – because the tactical ability to back up and the strategic mindset of understanding business and regulatory retention requirements are very different. The “Data Protection Manager” should be just that, the role that manages or ensures that data protection occurs – regardless of whether they enact it themselves (using traditional backup tools) or enable it through integrated data protection infrastructure that is shared with the workload owners.

Some naysayers will be concerned that as the workload owners gain tools that enable their own backups, the DP admin role diminishes – but there is a wide range of behaviors that are enabled by this evolution:

Some workload owners will wholly take on the DP mantle, but the DP manager will still need to “inspect what they expect” so that corporate retention and BC/DR mandates still happen.

Some workload owners will be grateful to drive their own restore experiences, but happily rely on the DP managers to manage the backups beforehand.

Some workload owners will recognize that they are so busy managing the workloads, the DP admins will continue to do the backups and restores – but now with better backups/snaps that are continue to be even more workload-savvy.

And there are likely other variations of those workload owner/DP Manager partnerships beyond these. But any way that you look at it, the evolution and collaboration of workload-enhanced data protection that can be shared between the workload owner(s) and the data protection managers is a good thing that should continue.

[Originally posted on ESG’s Technical Optimist.com]

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