What’s the State of Your Backup?
March 27, 2019 Alex Woodie
If you’re like most IT professionals, you scarcely noticed that this Sunday, March 31, is World Backup Day. But now that you do know, you’re going to immediately do all you can to ensure that your company’s most valuable asset – its data – is sufficiently protected from the powers of destruction. The next question is: What does that mean for your IBM i server?
As anybody who has ever lost an important document, database, or set of files knows, losing stuff hurts. And the more one loses, the more it hurts. That’s why it’s so critical to ensure that documents, databases, and files are sufficiently backed up and protected from the glitches, gotchas, and gremlins that invariably rear their ugly little heads when you least expect them.
So backing up is important. We all get it. But what does backing up data on IBM i actually entail? According to the latest Marketplace Study from HelpSystems, we’ve come a long way from the dingy old days of slow quarter-inch tape drives.
HelpSystems’ survey found that 49 percent of IBM i shops are protecting their data through high availability software, while 25 percent are using tape, 13 percent are using virtual tape libraries (VTLs), and 11 percent are using cloud backups. (It also found that 2 percent aren’t doing anything to protect their data, which is downright scary.)
The IBM i community has been slowly migrating to HA over the years, and while HelpSystems laments the fact that 51 percent of IBM i shops aren’t using HA, getting half of the installed base on HA is still quite a feat. And while HA software usually is associated with minimizing the downtime associated with application or server issues, the fact is that having a “hot backup” loaded with a copy of all your production data counts as a backup too.
There are a number of vendors providing HA/DR software, including HelpSystems, which has its own Robot/HA product and has taken over development of IBM’s PowerHA product, too. Other vendors sailing the HA/DR seas include Syncsort (formerly Vision Solutions), Rocket Software, Maxava, Shield Advanced Solutions, and iSam Blue. EMC also offers real-time data replication with its enterprise storage arrays, which is a form of hardware-based HA.
Tape still commands a large chunk of the backup market, and with good reason: it’s the cheapest method of backing up data, and people are familiar with it. IBM sells a number of LTO tape drives, with LTO generation 9 drives expected soon.
The VTL market has been relatively solid for a number of years on the IBM i platform. Companies like Laservault, Cobalt Iron, Dynamic Solutions International, Tributary Systems, EMC Data Domain, and Falconstor are playing in the IBM i market. Most VTLs are storage appliances that emulate LTO drives to receive backups from hosts like the IBM i, and many of them come with features like data replication, de-duplication, and encryption.
Cloud backup is an emergent category that virtually didn’t exist 10 years ago. Nearly every private cloud company that’s supporting IBM i offers some sort of cloud backup. But there are also dedicated cloud backup services for IBM i, such as UCG Technologies Vault400, Carbonite‘s Backup for IBM iSeries, and Data Storage Corp.‘s ezVault, among others. Some of the VTL solutions also integrate with cloud storage solutions, providing a hybrid backup solution that includes onsite hardware for speedy backups and recoveries and a cloud-based copy to provide geographic separation (and protection from onsite disasters).
Arguably the most compelling IBM i cloud backup offering is the one from IBM. Launched in October 2016, IBM’s Cloud Storage Solutions for i enables IBM i shops to back up their data to IBM Softlayer data centers (since renamed IBM Cloud Private) directly from BRMS. The product, which is actually developed and manage by Rocket Software, has since been bolstered with recovery options. It’s unclear how much of the cloud backup marketshare comes from this IBM solution, but it’s likely a decent portion.
On World Backup Day, instead of taking the consumer pledge – “I solemnly swear to back up my important documents and precious memories on March 31st” – IT Jungle encourages you to take the enterprise version of the pledge, which states: “I solemnly swear to back up my important documents and precious data on March 31st.”