Backup Just Means Backup

How the Backup Industry Got It Wrong for Two Decades
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I surveyed the room of mostly empty chairs at my VMworld 2017 presentation about Backup and Recovery, and I thought, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

I spent my career being wrong about backup. For two decades I believed customers wanted to get more value out of their backups. They wanted us to add security, compliance, archive, and data intelligence to backup software, right? Backup hardware should do something to add value instead of holding idle copies!

The backup industry keeps believing that customers want to go “Beyond Backup”. They don’t.

 

Backup companies listening to their customers. Courtesy of: smartparenting.com

Customers Didn't Want Beyond Backup

At NetApp, I thought customers should use backup snapshots for test and development. They didn’t. At EMC, I believed Data Domain should store all secondary data and NetWorker should unify archive, compliance and analytics. Customers did not share that belief.

They didn’t want to do more with their backup. They wanted backup to work.

 

"Cost less, Work More" Courtesy: hamiltonmusical.com

Customers Wanted Simpler Backups

Most customers want two things from their backups:

  1. Cost less.
  2. Work more.

Backups and restores fail too often. It takes too many people to manage (read: troubleshoot) backups. Backup software and hardware cost too much. IT directors do not want to think about doing more with their backups. They want to stop thinking about backups!

Those IT silos will kill you. Courtesy: wikipedia

"Beyond Backup" Could Never Have Worked

Not only do customers not want it, but “Beyond Backup” can’t work in a traditional environment. IT departments aren’t built to share backup data or infrastructure. In an enterprise, different teams own backup, archive, file storage, and test/dev (or CI/CD), and they don’t like to share. Each function has different tools, security and access requirements. “Beyond Backup” won’t break down decades of IT silos.

Organizational structure drives architecture more than technology, and IT is not set up to use backup for anything other than backup.  

 

Why Was I So Wrong for So Long?

Enterprise Backup is NOT Simple

We couldn’t make backup simple. We made backup better for some applications and some environments, but we couldn’t make enterprise backup simple.

  • Backup is Complex: Enterprise backup will never be simple. The array of applications, servers, OSes make it a miracle that backup ever works. Anybody who says they can make an existing traditional backup environment simple is lying, crazy, or both.
  • Snapshots are not Enough: Local and remote snapshots (e.g. NetApp SnapMirror) augment backup, but nobody trusts all their data and backups to one storage vendor. Since they build a heterogeneous environment, they need traditional backup.
  • SelfService is not Enough: Some applications can protect their own data (e.g. Oracle), but enterprises don’t have the processes and tools to support self-service protection. Self-service protection augments backup, but customers still anchor on traditional backup. 
Legacy Backup is NOT simple. Courtesy: bjungbogati.com

It's All About the Money

Since we couldn’t build what the customers wanted, we tried to convince the customers to buy what we could build.

The business demanded:

Profit: Backup products boast staggering margins. How do you justify those margins if the product does the same thing every year, just with a faster processor (hello: iPhone)? So you add features, regardless of their value.

Growth: Every company has a backup solution, so you grow by swapping out an existing product. If they’re going to suffer through a switch, customers need to believe that you’re leading them to the promised land. Otherwise, why replace one dinosaur with another?

Courtesy: tinderdistrict.com

I Wanted to Believe

I believed in “Beyond Backup” because I needed to believe that I could do something of value. I wanted to build something that mattered. And if you build backup products, everything becomes a backup problem.

Courtesy: despair.com

Conclusion

Backup has improved in the last 20 years.

Snapshots … Deduplicating backup appliances … VMware snapshots and backup APIs (and modern backup software that uses them) … Application self-service … Backup as a Service…

Despite these advances, customers still spend too much time and money running backups. And vendors are still selling features that customers don’t need.

I spent too much time trying to sell what we could build, instead of solving the customers’ real problem.

At Nuvoloso, we have a new mission: make backup simple and inexpensive.

Courtesy: johnwick.movie

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Stephen Manley

Stephen Manley

Developer and talker, moving into the cloud.

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