If I had to pick the two most popular IT initiatives that I hear most about today they would be automation and modernization. I find these two initiatives holding the top of the list in almost all data-centric organizations I’ve talked with. We want to be seen as modern and current, but we always want do things better, faster, and with less effort.
Automation is a natural desire – we want new capabilities enabled by new technologies, but we can’t just “add” more work to our plates every time something shiny and new comes along. To bring in the “new”, we have to either automate older solutions or converge layers of our technology stacks, which is really a form of embedding automation. The other course of action, jettisoning older solutions, usually requires “lift and shift” work to brand new platforms at some real cost and additional risk. While that may often happen (may have to happen in cases where technology has gone obsolete), volunteering for that kind of project is not usually high on anyone’s list.
To some folks automation and modernization are seen as the same thing. As time rolls forward, it’s always possible to increase automation (although not always easily) and one could argue that any kind of modernization by nature implies adding more layers of automation. In fact it’s hard to envision any kind of modernization that doesn’t significantly embed or virtualize a previously manually managed under-layer of technology.
Today, modernizing IT shops are looking at what is going on at the bright edge of IT:
- Cloud adoption, resource commoditization, and convergence for infrastructure
- Vastly bigger, faster (ie.. real-time) and far more distributed volumes of data
- Growing user expectations for lower IT costs, consumer-like usage (e.g. app stores, instant provisioning) and everything-as-a-service
Interestingly, every one of these modern trends and expectations require (and are further fueled by) better ways of processing and protecting data. In order to reach significantly new speed, scale, or agility goals, data protection has to be baked in to the point where it can equivalently perform, scale, and adapt. Therefore you might guess what I’m going to say next – any significant modernization efforts must be based on highly automated data protection.
Modern Data Protection
What are some of the hallmarks of modern data protection?
- Proactive Policy-based Approach – If you want to be modern, you have to be proactive. And at today’s speed and scale of operations, proactive operations require policy-based approaches to automation, data protection included.
- Data Protection Everywhere – Data must be protected today wherever it’s generated, stored, or accessed. This means the data center, but also out to devices, edge nodes, and especially up into clouds of all kinds. Data may have gravity, but it’s also increasingly distributed. The data “center” is no longer a physical building with a secure door and raised floor.
- Leveraging Cloud Services – Not only is cloud real, but if you are stretching to deliver services or perform non-differentiating operations that your peers and competitors simply get by subscription from an expert-as-a-service provider, you are definitely not Modern! Time to get with the cloud program. This includes cloud storage for backup, Cloud DRaaS, and both SaaS and Management-as-a-Service solutions. You can’t beat a good service provider’s center of excellence, concentrated experience, or economies of scale.
- Deliver Consumer Services – There is little difference today between what internal business users want and expect from their organizations IT and what they externally want and expect as individual consumers. You need to offer Time Machine-like services, one-click provisioning, and full insulation (i.e. cloud-like) from infrastructure concerns. And keep in mind that they want to order up IT services in friendly terms like relative availability, not in terms of number of back-end backup copies, snapshot intervals, or replicate zones.
- Actually reduce RTO/RPO – Should go without saying, but if you can’t beat your current legacy based RTO/RPO, you probably aren’t really trying. But beyond that, you need to “show your work” with clear analytics and reports about the data being protected and the service levels actually delivered, what data is at risk, and costs in terms of showback or chargeback.
In the sense we’ve talked about in this post, IT modernization and automation may be never-ending initiatives – always part and parcel of staying abreast of new technologies that keep layering up increasing value. But there is one last angle here today that I want to point out, and that’s about finally being able to turn the corner from reactive to proactive.
If your next modernization/automation initiative can actually help you finally become proactive, you should have no qualms about getting on with it as soon as possible. And I believe that the opportunities outlined above, implemented through a data protection modernization program available by way of solutions like Cobalt Iron’s Compass, can get you quickly off and running into future.
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