The recently concluded VeeamON 2019 in Miami was a landmark event from many perspectives. Veeam Software, the pioneering company in cloud data management, crossed the US$ 1billion mark. With over 350,000 customers globally, the company now steps into its next phase of growth with an aim to become a trusted data management partner in the era of hybrid and multi cloud. DynamicCIO.com exclusively spoke to Dave Russell, Vice President, Enterprise Strategy, Veeam Software on how the company thinks data management will be one of the key success factors in digital transformation journeys of organisations.
Below are the excerpts:
DynamicCIO (DCIO): You’ve spent almost 30 years focusing on data management, especially the backup part. What could be some of the key areas that will influence the technology deployment decisions in this domain in next few years?
Dave Russell (DR): With the shift in business priorities, the driving factors have also changed. Without wasting time on the past, let’s talk of the future. We’re no longer in a world where the options were limited. Suppose you want to backup 100 virtual machines, there are dozens of products available. A lot of these solutions might be sufficient to fulfil the needs today, but are they:
- Easy enough to deploy?
- Easy enough to use?
- Easy to integrate with things that I want to do tomorrow?
That’s when you think about future proofing your technology investment. You’ve got to look at what solution or platform is extensible enough to meet your current and future needs. Typically, organisations hang onto their backup solutions for long. But with the shift in business priorities, people are willing to consider new solutions because they’re frustrated with the existing ones. Organisations are no more wed to a technology. They look for solutions or platforms that can help them drive optimum performance.
DCIO: What are those parameters on which the IT decision makers should actually select the products?
DR: As an industry analyst, I looked at why do people actually switch backup products. After looking at over two and a half thousand data points, the top three reasons that I could find began with the letter C. These were Cost, Capability and Complexity. You could almost put the word perception in front of each. How you perceive the cost. Same was true for ease of use and complexity. If you thought the product was easy enough to use, wasn’t demanding an inordinate amount of time or require you to script or do special things, that becomes your choice. Third is capability. The capability is about speed, speed of data ingested and speed of recovery and the ability to protect new platforms, new workloads.
DCIO: What’s that standard speed of recovery that a customer demands and a product can fulfil?
DR: “It depends” is a phrase certainly applicable here. Increasingly, organisations expect a sub-two hour recovery for almost all sorts of workloads and applications that are deemed mission-critical or business-critical. Typically, organisations today classify three to four times as many applications to be critical. So, two dozen applications need to get back very rapidly. We’ve got a speed component but we have a scale component that puts a lot of pressure or strain on the infrastructure and also on the recovery solutions. We want to get to the point where we resume, and not recover. I often give an analogy of an emergency light. Sometimes the light flicker but then the backup generator kicks in and the lights are back. While there was a problem because of which the lights flickered but there wasn’t a serious outage. You just had a little friction. We are advancing our notion of ‘instant recovery’ because no organisation can afford to be without data for long.
DCIO: We are in the era of cloud sprawl. Multi-cloud environments are becoming the norm. But it comes with its own set of challenges. How would you assess this whole momentum shifting towards multi-cloud and what would be your suggestions when it comes to the protection of data in these clouds?
DR: The first thing that I tell CIOs and IT leaders is if they don’t think they’re a multi-cloud organisation today, they are mistaken. Today’s typical organisation is running Azure or Amazon or Zoho or Microsoft Office 365 or a Salesforce.com. Whether or not, the data centre professionals are aware, its already a reality. Increasingly, we’re also seeing business units adopt services on their own without the knowledge/intervention of IT. In my view, you need to plan in advance even if you believe this might be a future call. CIOs need to ensure they have a strategy to handle multiple environments that supports flexibility or mobility to move workloads between clouds.
DCIO: How does one cope with this challenge?
DR: First step is to take an inventory and try to have a clear view of what is deployed in the IT environments today. Second step is to have an outlook of what is likely to deploy in the future so that there are no surprises. One needs to understand what is going on in their environment. This will help IT departments to change the perception of business owners as well. IT will then be looked at as enabler than the one creating impediments. Plan in advance a platform that can handle workloads from multiple different clouds. That’s how you can provide value versus being seen as someone who’s trying to slow down the business.
DCIO: Let’s talk about Veeam’s key multi-cloud capabilities and how it can really help CIOs in their data management or cloud data management strategies, which includes availability, backup and recovery?
DR: I think of multi-cloud capabilities in three ways.
There is some data to the cloud. You can think about it as a replacement to the situation when we used to write the physical tape and then someone would pick it and go to a vault. Now we can send copies of our backup (DR) to a target. So that’s sort of a cloud notion.
Then you’ve got ‘born in the cloud data’ that can be infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) like Amazon S3 or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) like Office 365.
The third piece is that of data mobility where data moves from one cloud instance to another or vice versa. Veeam actually manages all of this for you automatically, seamlessly. We can do the BIOS conversion and you can put one cloud provider to another. Hybrid cloud is a key part of multi-cloud. But what you’ve got in the data centre shouldn’t be excluded from that strategy either.
It all starts with the visibility of all the data points and the ability to provide the right kind of availability. Whether that’s about offering multiple layers of protection or to move that, migrate that, to another location. The key is to make the data availability in the least possible cost and in the shortest amount of time. Veeam solutions are today capable of delivering all of this.
DCIO: You spoke about the 3C’s – Cost, Capability and Complexity. When a CIO plans for technology deployment, s/he gets confronted by many issues like legacy systems, budgets etc.. How does a CIO take care of these 3C’S?
DR: It’s a trade-off. Or a better way to say it is, it’s a balance. It’s hard to optimize every variable. So if we talk about three C’s it’s important to understand what is most important or what is the greatest pain point. For a moment let’s say it’s ‘budget’ or cost. If it is cost, is it acquisition cost, or maintenance costs? Would it be beneficial to move to a subscription-based model versus paying upfront? There are ways to address it. Also, there are ways to break down the project and implement it in phases as long as the organization truly has the discipline to make it to the next call in on various phases.
There could be an issue of complexity that one doesn’t have enough skilled IT staff to be able to keep this environment up if it’s going to be very demanding and require a lot of extra care. In some cases, the skills aren’t just available. You might have a skill shortage even if you have the money. It’s very difficult to get all the right people you need and then retain them. In such a case, you’d be looking for a solution that can be deployed easily or that can be managed easily on an ongoing basis or perhaps looking at a ‘service provider model’.
Sometimes we start with selling licences to a customer and they gradually grow and realize that it should be converted into a managed service model. They can port that licence over to a managed service provider who can take over those activities.
The other C would be around capability. Frankly, there’s not an easy answer to it. If your current product doesn’t offer the capabilities, you’ve got to step back and assess what is truly an important capability that’s missing. May be, you can live without it. Is it on the vendor’s road map? Could I wait a period of time for it? What’s my confidence level that it will deliver? Or do I need to augment or replace my solution? Increasingly we’re seeing organizations do all of this. Veeam provides the augmented or replaced solution that comes into the legacy environment.
DCIO: Earlier, backup was not considered as a key component of the IT strategy or roadmap. But today, it’s a very critical. What has instigated this change?
DR: Yes, it has really changed dramatically. Historically, backup was taken once a day. That time, systems were to be shut down to do so. Someone would write it on physical tapes, pick up those tapes and preserve them. The recovery also was very infrequent. If you had to get the data back it took 24 to 48 hours to get the copy back. Backup wasn’t considered as mission critical and its value was low. Businesses suffered outages for days together. Now things have changed dramatically. In case of a disaster, you can get back to ‘business as usual’ within hours. Something that took days to retrieve literally takes minutes and in less than a couple of hours you are up and running. That raises its use case not only from an availability point of view but also from business transformation perspective. All of a sudden you’ve got a greater value that can be derived from the current capabilities or function that you’re spending so much money on.
DCIO: As opposed to deploy these solutions on their own, what merits do you think a customer can get if he opts for a managed service?
DR: I always think whether organisations should data management solutions themselves or should take the professional services/managed services route. The key question to ask is: “Do I have the skills to do this on my own?” Even if you have the skills, do you actually want to use those skills?
You might be one of the best administrators in the data centre but if I were your supervisor I’d say I don’t want you to focus on this activity. I’d rather want them to focus on other core business activities or working on new projects. So sometimes it’s not just about skill but the time spent on things that can be left for experts. Most organizations have a backup of some kind. They’re certainly not starting from scratch. But they may or may not have the right expertise to design and configure the new systems. In such cases professional services/managed services come handy. You bring in expertise to take a fresh look at your environment. They understand newer technologies and capabilities better. They can help either implement and take the burden away from you and run it on an ongoing basis.
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