One On One With HelpSystems’ Debbie Saugen
March 20, 2017 Alex Woodie
HelpSystems scored a big win in the business resiliency department last month when it announced the hiring of IBM veteran Debbie Saugen to head up its new business continuity services offerings. IT Jungle caught up with Saugen and HelpSystems CEO Chris Heim last week to discuss what the move means for Saugen, how it will impact HelpSystems, and how customers will benefit.
IT Jungle: Debbie, please tell me about your background at IBM. Have you always been involved in backup and recovery?
Debbie Saugen: I spent over 37 years at IBM and I was the technical owner of IBM i Backup and Recovery. And for the last 18 years I was the IBM i National Lead for IBM Resiliency Services. My entire time since the AS/400 has been around has been spent in the area of backup and recovery. I was involved in every aspect of backup and recovery, from testing and design to performing recoveries.
It was really the last 18 years where I was helping customers test their disaster recovery. So I’m very passionate about performing backups and doing recoveries. I like to help customers. It’s the best feeling when an IBM i customers’ recovery is solid and confirmed in the desired amount of time we’re allowed.
ITJ: What accomplishments are you most proud of in your role as technical owner of backup and recovery for IBM i?
DS: I think the time in that role is just making sure that backups are easy and simple to perform, and the improvements that were made to make backups faster. And recoveries have also been streamlined and made faster over the years.
ITJ: HelpSystems sells its backup and recovery product, Robot Save, which competes with BRMS. Will that be at all awkward for you to compete against your old product?
DS: Actually, I’ll be providing services in the arena of backup and recovery. So those services could be either for Robot Save or BRMS. My role is not to provide a competing product.
Chris Heim: We want to recommend the best solution for customers, whether it’s BRMS or Robot, whether it’s Robot HA or somebody else’s product. We want Debbie to recommend whatever is the best solution.
ITJ: So it’s not just backup and recovery?
DS: No, it’s not just backup and recovery. It’s looking at their architecture. A lot of customers are looking to go to the cloud. They’re looking to go to virtual tape libraries. They’re looking at high availability. But they don’t know what that actually means to their environment or how they might need to change their backup recovery strategy. What is the cost going to be? Is it going to be cost effective? Those are the things that I’ll be looking at.
ITJ: So, you’ll be providing more high-level advisory services as opposed to getting your hands dirty with the code or the products?
DS: It will be somewhat high-level when we’re looking at what they’re looking to go do and reducing their backup window and reducing their recovery time. But I will do in-depth assessment on their backups, their daily, weekly, monthly backups and look for issues there. So we’re going to be digging in deep to their backup process and digging in deep to their whole recovery process.
ITJ: Are business continuity services a new offering for HelpSystems?
CH: Yes they are, Alex. We’ve seen increasing interests from our customers to raise their competency in this area, and….that was behind our acquisition of the Robot high availability solution from Bug Busters. We’ve known Debbie for a lot of years, and we’re always very impressed with her. She has a fantastic reputation and when the opportunity came up to work with her, we jumped at it.
ITJ: Debbie, you spent 37 years at IBM. That’s a full career for most people.
DS: I like to joke that I started when I was 10, so I have a second career coming.
ITJ: What are you most excited about in your new position?
DS: What I’m most excited about is actually getting to help the customers with their backups, with their recoveries, with their high availability strategy. The most rewarding part is making those changes to know that they’re going to be able to recover their business and they’re going to be able to do it in a fine grained fashion.
ITJ: How is your new role at HelpSystems going to be different than what you were doing at IBM Resiliency Services?
DS: A lot of the job will be the same because I can really jump in and help customers with their backups and recoveries and testing their role swaps. I can actually help customers doing disaster recovery. But I think I’ll be able to spend more time doing what I like to do, and that’s working directly with customers.
CH: We also want her to play a role in the future developments around Robot Save and around Robot HA as well. She will definitely have a product influence as well.
ITJ: What’s your impression of Robot HA at this point and where do you see taking it?
DS: I see the Robot HA product as very simple and easy to use, and at a very competitive price. I think you’ll see a lot of customers who have been considering high availability but really never made the jump will seriously now consider implementing Robot HA.
ITJ: What’s your take on the state of cloud backup for IBM i right now? Is that something you’re seeing a lot of interest in from customers?
DS: There is some interest in cloud backup. But understanding that when you’re doing a cloud backup, you still have a recovery process that you need to go through in a disaster recovery, and weighing that against the high availability replication offering, you really want to lean more toward replicating all your data offsite because it’s going to give you better recovery times and recovery points. I think many of the customers who are adapting cloud are overlooking the complete system recovery aspect, and cloud may be more suited to file-level recovery rather than a complete disaster recovery.
ITJ: Is there one thing that stands out to you as something that IBM i shops just aren’t getting when it comes to having a resilient system?
DS: They’re not looking at the loss of their business if they have a system outage and really analyzing the cost factor of having their systems go down. I think you have to look at not only the actual dollar amount but the customer loyalty. A lot of customers leave your business if they don’t have access to you, especially if it goes into days.
ITJ: Are there any other general concerns you have about the state of business continuity at IBM i shops?
DS: I think the biggest concern with business continuity is when customers implement replication for high availability, they have a tendency not to test the recovery, so they don’t know for sure if it’s going to work and they don’t know how long it’s going to take.
ITJ: What role do you see tape playing in business continuity for IBM i shops?
DS: I absolutely recommend using tape as a core part of business resiliency. It’s still required even if you’re replicating your system. Tape on IBM i is very fast and very inexpensive. But there are issues that can evolve with your replication and you can have some data loss when you need to go back to tape, or you need to have things archived off, and tape would be the correct media for that.
ITJ: Do you see customers migrating away from tape?
DS: I see some customers who want to migrate away from tape. I have seen the use of VTLs growing on IBM i just as I’ve seen the use of replication software growing on IBM i. But I still think it’s an important form of media. With VTL, you have your VTL locally. You can replicate that remotely. You might be able to eliminate tape, but it’s still good to have a physical tape copy.
ITJ: What has changed over the last five years in terms of architecting a solid business continuity strategy for IBM i?
DS: I think what’s changed is the cost of software replication has come down and the cost of having a second system with the CBU offering is very attractive. And so with those two things it makes having replicated systems for disaster recovery very attractive. And also if you’re not looking at CBU there are a lot of service providers out there that can provide you an LPAR where you can replicate to.
ITJ: What’s your take on PowerHA? Are you seeing customers adopting that? And should IBM i shops consider that alongside software replication offerings?
DS: Absolutely, PowerHA is a good offering. It has various benefits just like the software replication has various benefits, so customers have a choice. I think some of your larger customers who have really invested in the SAN storage, who will really be looking to invest in the cost of GlobalMirror, will be a good fit with PowerHA.
ITJ: PowerHA is complicated, with three different forms of replication. Does that complexity hurt?
DS: It’s hard to navigate all the different offerings and what it can do with high availability and disaster recovery. That’s one of the things that I can help the customer with is navigate the roadmap and where they really want to go. You really have to consider what you want your recovery strategy to be. That’s even true if they’re just looking at backup. You can’t just go design a backup strategy without looking at the recovery strategy. So it’s really starting with what’s my recovery strategy, what are my RPO and RTO requirements, and then what should I be looking at.
ITJ: What’s the long-term goal with HelpSystems business continuity services? Will you be hiring a bunch of people to fill out the business continuity team?
CH: That’s definitely our long-term goal. We know Debbie is such a unique talent and so experienced here that we felt she was the right person to build around. We have high hopes for this service.
ITJ: Thank you, Debbie and Chris, for participating in our Q&A.