The Time And Tech Are Right For Online Backups
October 31, 2016 Dan Burger
Logically, tape backups shouldn’t be as popular as they are. The process is cumbersome and hardly aligned with the accelerating pace of IT capabilities and business decision making. When you factor in the recovery time for most companies that rely on tape, the logic becomes twisted. Even with automation, shorter backup windows, multi-platform complexity, and regulatory compliance combine to push the question of whether tape is reasonable, in spite of its widespread popularity.
The online, service-based, backup alternative has been in place for almost 30 years with many improvements during that time. Internet connectivity, CPU capacity, data compression, encryption, and competition in the growing field of managed services have had positive impacts and helped convince IBM i shops to invest in this form of backup.
One of the benefits of the newest Power Systems iron is the hefty performance, expressed in CPW units, per core. Sometimes we hear the question: What do we do with all that CPW? The best answer is that shops can stay at the P05 level rather than move to P10 machines, with the added cost for hardware, applications, and backup. And the second-best answer is that some shops can move from P10 to P05 boxes and save money. A single Power Systems S814 (model 8286-41A) delivers 64 GB of memory and 40,000 CPWs. Concerns about not having the muscle to drive online backup have pretty much disappeared for a great many shops that are making the Power8 upgrade.
At UCG Technologies, a company specializing in the online backup business for Power Systems running IBM i, a P05 4-core machine with 40,000 CPW is handling backup workloads filling 10 LPARs running 4,000 CPW (or five LPARs with 8,000 CPW depending on the memory limitation) while connected to a V3700 SAN with Fiber Channel links and enjoying virtually unlimited disk capacity.
To handle disaster recovery (DR) workloads, UCG needs P10 machines in its data centers because the memory limitations on the P05 boxes (64 GB) can’t handle the requirements. UCG clients generally need a DR machine with a minimum of 16 GB or 32 GB of memory per LPAR, says UCG Technologies president Jim Kandrac. A single Power S814 machine with 64 GB of memory and 40,000 CPW gives them what they need. For the DR workloads that UCG handles, 512 GB of memory is the minimum requirement. That kind of memory is only available in the P10 boxes.
There is a downside to higher performance.
“The advancement of technology–faster systems, doing more in less time–has resulted in employees having more data at their fingertips and everyone is looking to be more productive,” Kandrac says. “I believe this has caused both management and employees to take their eyes off cyber security.”
Kandrac is locked in on security issues. It begins with disaster recovery, but also covers the topics of education and training to reduce cyber attacks, vulnerability to phishing scams, and data encryption.
“It should be a wake-up call when your company has over 48 percent of employees clicking on examples of email phishing scams in a test. Any single one of those clicks can bring a company to its knees,” he says.
Kandrac emphasizes testing employees to raise awareness and reduce this type of vulnerability.
“This is all part of the disaster recovery and high availability landscape,” he says. “There are a lot of variables in backup and recovery and a company is only as good as its weakest link. Many are still running by the seat of their pants and keeping their fingers crossed.”
UCG includes security training in its online backup offering to raise awareness and better explain the security safeguards UCG has in place.
One of those safeguards is data encryption. UCG provides 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) technology to secure sensitive data–Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other personal information–at rest, in transit, and at colocation data centers.
Online backup discussions begin with business continuity issues and pain points, but costs are never dismissed. UCG and other online backup providers like to point out the charges for DR and HA are generally one-third to one-half the cost of purchasing, implementing, and maintaining an on-premise system.
With IBM getting into the cloud storage business that includes IBM i customers, Kandrac says it “legitimizes” what UCG has been doing the past 10 years. He also noted that IBM is in the early stages of its IBM i cloud storage business and is expecting “bumps in the road” until it gets things sorted out.
“We have clients in 31 states, are very efficient, and execute very well,” he says. “If you are a client, do you want bumps in the road? I think they want a solution that rocks the world.”