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Veeam’s Timashev discusses selling company, next steps

It’s the end of an era at Veeam Software.

Ratmir Timashev and Andrei Baronov are stepping away from the backup, recovery and data management company they founded in 2006. Private equity firm Insight Partners said last week it would acquire Veeam in a transaction that valued Veeam at $5 billion. Timashev said it was his decision to step down from the board of directors and from his position of executive vice president of sales and marketing. He will remain in those roles until the sale closes, likely by the end of the first quarter. Baronov has left his CEO position and will relinquish his spot on the board.

Timashev held the CEO job from 2006 to 2016, and has been the most public face of Veeam. Timashev said he feels he’s leaving Veeam in good hands. For example, William Largent, who has served in various positions since the beginning of the company, returned to the role of CEO.

“At some point, the founders have to step down,” Timashev said in an interview.

He expressed confidence in Insight Partners as the new owner. The firm had invested $500 million in Veeam a year ago and first invested in the company in 2013.

Timashev seemed excited for the future of Veeam, which started in backup for virtual infrastructure and has since expanded to cover cloud and physical environments. It has grown in that time into a billion-dollar annual revenue company and claims 365,000 users and 70,000 partners.

Timashev said Veeam has conquered the VMware backup market and will next tackle the hybrid cloud in its “act two.” He specifically called out four targets in Veeam’s focus: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Google. The transition includes a move to subscription pricing.

Timashev, 53, this week discussed why the founders decided to sell the company, what the sale could mean for customers, and what he plans to do next.

What was behind the decision to sell the company now?

Veeam's Ratmir TimashevRatmir Timashev

Ratmir Timashev: We felt that it’s good timing for us to accelerate our growth globally, but also specifically in the U.S. Insight has been our strategic partner since 2013. But I’ve known Insight since 2001.

We believe right now the whole industry, as well as Veeam, is in a transition to what we call “act two.” For us, “act one” was dominating the highly virtualized, modern, on-premises data center, from the data management and backup point of view. And we’ve done a great job in the last 10 years.

The whole industry and also Veeam is going through a large transition to a hybrid cloud and pay-as-you-go subscription model. It’s a difficult transition, but we believe that we will be successful.

So, we thought that Insight, with the industry experience — and experience with different business models and software companies — would be a great partner to take us to this next level.

Will you still be involved in Veeam?

Timashev: I will be involved in the transition and then my role will be more on a consultant basis.

How long do you see the transition lasting?

Timashev: We don’t know — [at least] until the deal is closed, which is expected by the end of Q1. The transition might [end] sometime after that. But I will not be employed by Veeam when the transaction closes. 

What would you like to see during the transition period? What are some of your goals while you’re still employed with Veeam?

Timashev: We want to make sure that employees understand that not a lot of changes will occur. This acquisition is not about reducing the cost or shrinking the expenses. It’s about growth.

Sometimes when a private equity firm buys a company, in an industry or segment that is not growing, their goal is to reduce the costs. That’s not the case with Veeam because we are in a high growth area with a leading position. And we’re extremely well-positioned to capitalize on this expanding market for us.

We believe that we have a very strong executive management team.

Considering your relationship with Insight, could you have stayed on after the deal closed, as an executive?

Timashev: I could have, but that’s not our plan.

Why, since you’ve been there from the beginning, why is now the time that you want to step away?

Timashev: In general, I want to spend more time with my family and kids. I worked very hard in the last 20, 30 years building two companies. [To start Veeam, the two invested the money they made from selling their first company, Aelita Software, to Quest in 2004.]

Andrei is in a similar position — we are the same age. And we have kids and want to spend more time with family.

Since you’ve been with the company since the beginning, will it be hard to step away?

Timashev: It’s always hard, it’s like a baby. Friends of mine are asking how difficult it is. I asked them, ‘Is it difficult to sell your child for $5 billion?’

Is there anything that’s unfinished that you wish had been completed by now? Do you have any concerns that you hope get resolved in the near future?

Whoever wins this new market is going to dominate. Veeam won the VMware market. When a new market opens up, you only have two, three, four years to win that market.
Ratmir TimashevCo-founder, Veeam Software

Timashev: Not really — right now, we are going through a major transition, which represents some challenges, as well as opportunities. Whoever wins this new market is going to dominate. Veeam won the VMware market. It took us two or three years to win that market and then we basically rode the wave.

When a new market opens up, you only have two, three, four years to win that market. And there will always be three winners — number one, number two, number three, and then there will be a whole bunch of others.

We’re very well-positioned.

So you don’t have your third company in the works yet?

Timashev: We always have some ideas — always definitely to find another billion-dollar market opportunity. And I always say it takes three things to create a successful technology company — to be at the right time, at the right place, and create a brilliant product. And me and Andrei have done it twice now.

So, I’m sure that at some point after taking some time off, we might come up with a new idea.

What do you think the sale means for your customers? Have they expressed any concerns going forward following this news?

Timashev: No, they look very positively [on the sale], especially the U.S. customers. As part of this transaction, we are going to become 100% U.S.-shareholder owned. And with the executive management that is primarily U.S.-based, that news is very positive, especially for our U.S. customers. We have lots of large enterprise customers in the U.S., as well as federal customers, and they are taking this very positively.

What will it take to make your product the best for the hybrid cloud era?

Timashev: We have to follow our playbook. We have done it twice. Back in the ’90s, we won the hearts and minds of Windows administrators [with Aelita]. And then 10 years later in 2008, 2009, we won the hearts and minds of VMware administrators. Now 10 years later, we just have to win the hearts and minds of AWS, Azure, Office 365 and Google users.

What does it take? First, the product has to be brilliant, simple, and we have to listen to our core customers. Our core customer used to be [running] VMware. Now it’s going to be a different buyer — AWS, Azure, Office 365, Google buyer. They have their own budget. Sometimes they belong to IT. Sometimes they belong to DevOps.

We have to offer them the simple, flexible and reliable product. That’s what Veeam is known for: simple, flexible and reliable.

Can you give more detail on what your consultant work for Veeam might entail?

Timashev: Just sitting down with [Insight Partners managing director] Mike Triplett, with Bill Largent on a regular basis, and advising them how to attack this new market, how to play the Veeam playbook to win the new markets of AWS, Azure, Office 365 and Google. Those are four big markets.

Will there be any big changes in terms of Veeam offices? What will happen to the headquarters in Switzerland and the people who work there?

Timashev: No, no big changes. We will be looking at U.S. headquarters. We already have two very large offices in Columbus, Ohio, and in Atlanta, Georgia. We have probably around 400 people in each office. So probably one of those will become the U.S. headquarters.

Our office in Switzerland will continue to operate the way it is now. We are unique in the sense that we have always had our management team very distributed. We don’t really have a single office where everybody needs each other.

What do you see generally, for the future of the backup and recovery market and data protection?

Timashev: The market, if you look laterally, it’s backup and recovery, [but it’s also] data management. We believe that there are other components to data management in addition to backup and recovery — [for example] replication, cloud mobility, governance and compliance, analytics.

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Vendors detail cloud-based backup past, present, future

It’s safe to say cloud-based backup has gone mainstream.

In the last five years, cloud backup grew from something that organizations often greeted with skepticism to a technology that’s at least a part of many businesses’ data protection plans.

Some of that evolution is a result of users getting more comfortable with the idea of backing up data in the cloud and the security there. Some of it is a result of vendors adding functionality such as security, backup of cloud-born software as a service (SaaS) data and other enhancements. Challenges remain, though.

In part one of this feature, several experts in cloud-based backup detailed how the market has developed and what businesses can expect in the years to come. In part two, executives from backup vendors, including cloud backup pioneers, discuss their impressions of the past, present and future of the technology.

How has cloud-based backup evolved in the last five years?

Eran Farajun, executive vice president, Asigra: [Cloud-based backup has] become a lot more mainstream as a service.

Headshot of Asigra's Eran FarajunEran Farajun

Because it’s become so popular, it’s become a target. So, it’s moved from becoming a defensive mechanism to it becoming an attack vector. It’s a way that people get attacked, which has then caused even more evolution in the last, I would say two or three years, where cloud backup now has to include security and safety elements. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to recover confidently with it.

Hal Lonas, CTO, Carbonite: We have seen a rise in the popularity of cloud, especially over the past five years as it becomes a more scalable and economical solution for businesses — particularly SMBs that are expanding rapidly. It has also been highly embraced by the service provider and solution market.

Public cloud has also come a long way, especially among highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. We’re seeing these organizations turn to the cloud more frequently than before, as it provides an easier and more cost-effective way to meet their recovery time objective and recovery point objective requirements.

Danny Allan, CTO, Veeam: The first perspective of customers was, ‘I’ll just take my backups and [move them] to the cloud,’ and there wasn’t really thought given to what that meant.

We’ve become a lot more efficient about the data movement, both in and out, and secondly, there are now options that didn’t exist in the past. If you need to recover data in the cloud, you can, or you can recover back on premises. And if you are recovering it back on premises, you can do that efficiently.

Headshot of Arcserve's Oussama El-HilaliOussama El-Hilali

Oussama El-Hilali, CTO, Arcserve: [There has been] tremendous evolution both in quantity and quality of the cloud backup. We’ve seen a number of vendors emerge to provide backup to the cloud. We’ve seen the size of the backups grow. We’ve seen the number of people who are interested in going to cloud backup grow as well.

I think one of the fundamental things in data protection has been creating the distance between the primary and secondary data, in case of disaster.

Where are we in the story of cloud-based backup? Is it at the height of its popularity?

Farajun: I don’t think it’s at the height. It’s still growing fairly quickly as an overall service. So, it’s not flat; it’s still growing in double-digit figures year over year.

And I think what lends to its popularity is future evolution. It’ll get more secure. It has to be more secure.

There will be new types of workloads that get included as part of your backup service. For example, backing up machines today is fairly common. Backing up containers is not as common today, but it will be in three to five years.

The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level.
Hal LonasCTO, Carbonite

I think cloud backup for SaaS applications [will grow]. A lot of cloud backup services and vendors support Office 365, Salesforce and G Suite, but as more and more end customers adopt more software as a service, the data itself also has to be protected. So, you’ll see more cloud backup functionality and capabilities protect a broader set of SaaS applications beyond just the big ones.

Lonas: The cloud market is mature and is fast becoming the infrastructure of choice for many companies, whether at the SMB or enterprise level. This can be proven with the popularity of Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google along with other cloud providers.

Right now, many still equate cloud with security and while cloud solves some problems, it is not a complete cure. Rather, we will see more cloud-oriented security solutions protecting cloud assets and their specific issues in the upcoming years.

One of the biggest pain points with cloud adoption today is migrating data to these infrastructures. The good news is that there are a number of tools available now to alleviate the traditional issues related to data loss, hours of downtime and diverted key resources.

Allan: We’re not at the height of its popularity. We’re in early stages of customers sending their data into the cloud. It’s been growing exponentially. I know cloud has been around for 10 years, but it’s only really in the last year that customers are actually sending backup data into the cloud. I would attribute that to intelligent cloud backup — using intelligence to know how to do it and how to leverage it efficiently. 

El-Hilali: It’s a good step, but we’re not at the peak, or anywhere close to the peak.

The reason being is that if you look at the cloud providers, whether it’s public cloud like AWS or companies like us, the features are still evolving. And the refinement is still ongoing.

What do you expect in the cloud backup market in the next five years?

Farajun: I think there will be more consolidation. I think that more of the old-school vendors, the big broad vendors, will continue to add more cloud backup service capability as part of their offerings portfolio. They’ll either acquire companies that do it or they will stand up services that do it themselves. There will be more acquisitions by bigger MSPs that buy smaller MSPs because they deliver cloud backup services and they have the expertise.

I think you’ll see an increase of channel partners bringing [cloud-based backup] back in-house and actually being the service provider instead of just being a broker. And that will happen because it adds more value to their business.

And I think you’ll see unfortunately ransomware attacking more and more backup software, whether it’s delivered as a service or on premises, just because it’s so damaging.

Lonas: Looking ahead, we will see cloud backup and data protection continue to gain popularity, especially as businesses implement cyber-resiliency plans.

More organizations now trust the cloud to be available, secure and meet their business needs. We will continue to see Moore’s Law drive down network and storage costs so that businesses can continue to reduce their on-premises footprint. Some of this change is technical, and some is cultural, as most of us trust the cloud in our personal lives more than businesses do; and we expect to see this trend continue to shift for businesses in the future.

Allan: I think there’s going to be a whole emergence of machine learning-based companies that exist only in the cloud, and all they need is access to your data. In the past, what was the problem with machine learning and artificial intelligence on premises? You had to install it on premises to get access to that data or you needed to pick up petabytes of data and get it to that company. If it’s already there, you can imagine a marketplace emerging that will give you value-added services on top of this data.

El-Hilali: I think the potential for DRaaS will continue to grow and I say that because the availability of the data, the spontaneity of recovery, is becoming more of a need than a good-to-have.

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Western Digital 4TB 2.5″ External Passport Hard Drive
Black in colour, used for only backup movies.

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Major funding, SaaS trends top data backup news in 2019

In the backup market, 2019 started with a financial bang.

On back-to-back days in January, Rubrik announced a $261 million funding round, while Veeam disclosed that Insight Venture Partners invested an additional $500 million in the data backup and management vendor.

That data backup news set the tone for a busy year of more funding rounds, acquisitions, CEO changes, new products and key trends in a market that is constantly evolving.

Backup business busy with acquisitions, funding, leadership changes

Much like recent years, backup was big business in 2019.

Carbonite had one of the busiest years of all. In March, the data protection vendor acquired cybersecurity firm Webroot for $618.5 million, with a focus on fighting ransomware. In July, CEO Mohamad Ali left to take the same job at tech media company International Data Group, with board chairman Steve Munford filling the role at Carbonite on an interim basis. Then in November, following months of rumors of a possible sale, content management provider OpenText acquired Carbonite for $1.42 billion, to help expand its cloud offerings.

Commvault also transitioned to a new leader, as longtime CEO Bob Hammer stepped down and former Puppet CEO Sanjay Mirchandani stepped in. The company made its first acquisition in September, buying software-defined storage vendor Hedvig for $225 million to help converge primary and secondary storage for better data management.

Headshot of Commvault's Sanjay MirchandaniSanjay Mirchandani

Acronis became the latest unicorn, closing a $147 million funding round in September at a valuation of more than $1 billion. The company has shifted from a backup-focused product portfolio to a more comprehensive cyber protection platform. Like Carbonite, Acronis now has a major emphasis on cybersecurity.

Druva and its cloud-focused backup and recovery product set received a $130 million funding haul. Just a month later, the vendor acquired CloudLanes and its cloud migration technology.

Veeam Software, which is on the lookout for acquisitions, actually did the reverse this year. The vendor sold back AWS data protection provider N2WS, a company it acquired two years ago, to the original founders. Veeam is launching its own products focused on AWS and Azure backup.

In other data backup news developments:

  • Veritas Technologies acquired Aptare to improve its storage analytics and monitoring.
  • Cohesity made its first acquisition, choosing Imanis Data for NoSQL database protection.
  • Spencer Kupferman took over as CEO of AWS data protection provider Cloud Daddy, a recent entrant into the market.
  • OwnBackup secured $23.25 million, its largest funding round, for expansion of its Salesforce data protection.
  • David Bennett, previously the chief revenue officer at Webroot, became the new CEO of backup and disaster recovery vendor Axcient.

SaaS backup continues its ascent

The software-as-a-service backup market remains one of the hottest in tech. The word is out that SaaS applications such as Salesforce, Google’s G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 need backup because these vendors typically have protection for their own infrastructure but not for your individual files.

Clumio came out of stealth in August with its cloud-based backup as a service. Noting that “SaaS is taking over,” Clumio CEO Poojan Kumar described his company’s founding vision as “building a data management platform on top of the public cloud.” The vendor originally offered protection for VMware on premises, VMware Cloud on AWS and native AWS services. While closing a $135 million funding round in November, Clumio pledged support for more public clouds, SaaS applications and containers, starting with Amazon Elastic Block Store protection.

Clumio backup dashboard
Clumio, which provides backup as a service, came out of stealth in August.

Commvault launched a SaaS backup subsidiary, Metallic, with an emphasis on protecting servers and VMs, Office 365 and endpoints. The data protection vendor is aiming Metallic at smaller businesses than its usual enterprise customers.

Much like recent years, backup was big business in 2019.

In other notable data backup news on the SaaS front:

  • Druva enhanced its SaaS backup capabilities, adding restore options to its Office 365 protection and introducing backup for Slack and Microsoft Teams conversations.
  • Odaseva, a data protection vendor focused on Salesforce, unveiled a high-availability option for the customer relationship management provider.
  • The newly launched Actifio Go SaaS platform offers direct-to-cloud backup to AWS, Azure, Google, IBM and Wasabi public clouds.
  • Arcserve updated its Unified Data Protection product to provide granular, file-level backup and recovery for Office 365.
  • Veeam enhanced its Backup for Microsoft Office 365, the fastest growing product in the history of the company, to back up directly to the cloud to either Azure or AWS.

Container backup takes the spotlight

One area that emerged in 2019 is backup of containers. As Kubernetes workloads in particular increase in popularity, organizations will need specifically targeted protection. Newer vendors, including Kasten, Robin and Portworx, focus on Kubernetes protection and management. Products from other vendors, including IBM Spectrum Protect, tackle Kubernetes protection in addition to other capabilities.

Container and SaaS backup will likely increase in 2020. Organizations should continue to keep an eye on data backup news, as products and businesses are evolving at a dramatic pace.

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For Sale – Western Digital 4TB 2.5″ External Passport Hard Drive

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Druva expands on AWS backup, moves S3 snaps across regions

Customers with multiple Amazon accounts now have a way to manage backup policies for all of them.

Druva is adding a global policy management tool to its CloudRanger software, alongside other AWS backup features. Originally, CloudRanger only allowed backup policy setting within individual accounts. The update allows users to create backup policies first, then select or exclude the Amazon accounts to apply them to.

Druva’s vice president of product David Gildea said there has been an increase in the number of enterprises that hold multiple accounts. He said Druva designed the new CloudRanger feature around the idea that customers have thousands of accounts and multiple resources, and it gives the customer a “broad stroke” approach to backup policy management.

“[Amazon] S3 is one of the biggest and most important data sources in the world now,” Gildea said, highlighting the need to protect and manage the data within it.

S3 backup is one of Druva’s key new AWS backup features. Customers can back up S3 snapshots across regions, protecting them from a regional outage. In addition, users can move EBS snapshots to S3 storage, including Glacier and Glacier Deep Archive tiers for greater cost efficiency.

Druva CloudRanger is a management tool for AWS workloads and automated disaster recovery. The total list of Amazon workloads CloudRanger protects now includes EBS, S3, RedShift, ODS, EC2, DocumentDB and Neptune DB. Along with AWS backup, Druva also has products for on-premises data center, endpoint and SaaS application protection.

Druva is not alone in the AWS backup space. Clumio recently extended its backup as a service to support EBS, and Veeam recently launched a cloud-native EC2 protection product in AWS Marketplace.

Screenshot of Druva CloudRanger
Druva CloudRanger now lets customers apply backup policies by account.

Druva’s new AWS backup capabilities are available immediately to early access customers and are expected to become generally available in the first quarter of 2020.

Gildea said customers who have built apps on Amazon and use them at a large scale have a large amount of off-premises data that may not be under the protection of a business’s traditional backup. Druva’s AWS backup saves these customers the trouble of scripting and developing custom backup, which typically does not scale and needs to be continually maintained with every Amazon update.

There is a growing adoption of hybrid cloud infrastructure, said Steven Hill, a senior analyst at 451 Research. Backup vendors have products for protecting on-premises workloads, as well as offerings for the cloud. However, Hill said the challenge for vendors is eliminating the complexity that comes with managing separate environments, one of which is off premises.

Hill said as businesses push more critical workloads to the cloud, the cost of backup will be minor compared to the potential loss of data. He said some businesses have to learn this the hard way through a data loss incident before they buy in.

“Data protection is a bit like buying insurance — it’s optional,” Hill said.

Hill said over time, businesses will learn that cloud workloads need the same quality of backup and business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) as on-premises environments. However, monitoring off-premises systems is an additional challenge. Therefore, he believes the future of BC/DR will lie in automation and flexibility through policy-based management regardless if an environment is on or off premises.

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Container backup grows, following container adoption

The popularity of container deployments is reaching a tipping point where all backup vendors will eventually need to be able to support them, industry experts said.

As container technology adoption increases, the need for container backup grows. Until now, most containers have been stateless and required no backup.

“We’re going to be seeing more stateful containers, buoyed by the fact that now there’s ways to protect them,” said Steven Hill, senior analyst at 451 Research.

Tom Barton, CEO of container storage vendor Diamanti, said he is seeing more customers’ containers with persistent storage. Barton said when containers replace virtual machines, they require the same data protection and disaster recovery (DR) requirements.

“I think containers will generally displace VMs in the long-run,” Barton said.

Diamanti recently launched the beta version of its Spektra platform, a Kubernetes management layer designed for migrating Kubernetes workloads between on premises and cloud. Spektra enables high availability and DR for Kubernetes workloads, and Barton said Diamanti and its competitors partner with data protection vendors to provide container backup.

Other products that offer container backup include Veritas NetBackup, which introduced its Docker container support at the beginning of this year, and IBM Spectrum Protect, which has recently entered this space by rolling out snapshotting for Kubernetes users.

Hill shared similar beliefs about containers replacing VMs but stressed it will not be a one-for-one replacement. He said economics will always play a role. He said some applications and workloads will remain that make sense to keep on VMs while others will belong on containers. The situation will vary between organizations, but it won’t be fair to say containers are strictly better than VMs, or vice versa.

Screenshot of vProtect version 3.9
Storware vProtect supports a wide variety of hypervisors.

“You never do everything with just the one tool,” Hill said.

Hill also stressed that containers themselves aren’t a mature market or technology yet, and vendors are still waiting to see how organizations are using them. Customers putting mission-critical applications on containers have nudged demand for data protection, backup, recovery, availability and failover — the same kind of capabilities expected in any environment. Vendors are responding to this demand, but the tools aren’t ready yet.

“Protecting stateful containers is still relatively new. The numbers aren’t there to define a real market,” Hill said.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said containers still lack the security, flexibility and resilience of VMs. He chalks that up to containers’ lack of maturity. As customers put containers into production, they will realize the technology’s shortcomings, and vendors will develop products and features to address those problems. Staimer said the industry has recently reached a tipping point where there’s enough container adoption to catch vendor interest.

Staimer acknowledged that when containers mature to the same point where hypervisors are now, there will be widespread replacement. Like Hill, he does not expect it to be a wholesale replacement.

“We like to believe these things are winner-takes-all, but they’re not,” Staimer said. “In tech, nothing goes away.”

Staimer said from a technical standpoint, container backup has unique problems that differentiate it from traditional server, VM and SaaS application backup. The core problem is that containers don’t have APIs to allow for backup software to take a snapshot of the state of the container. Most backup vendors install agents in containers to scan and capture what it needs to build a recoverable snapshot. This takes time and resources, which goes against the intent of containers being lightweight VMs.

Trilio CEO David Safaii said installing agents in containers also create extra hassle for developers because they have to go through an IT admin to conduct their backups. He said there’s a “civil war” between IT managers and DevOps. IT managers need to worry about data protection, security and compliance. These are all important and necessary measures, but they can get in the way of DevOps’s philosophy of continuous and agile development.

Trilio recently launched the beta program for its TrilioVault for Kubernetes, which is an agentless container backup offering. Asigra similarly performs container backup without using agents, as does Poland-based Storware’s vProtect.

Storware vProtect started in the container backup space by focusing on open platforms first, protecting Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes projects. Storware CTO Paweł Mączka said no one asked for container data protection in the early days because container workloads were microservices and applications.

Mączka saw customers now use containers as they would VMs. DevOps now put databases in containers, shifting them from stateless to stateful. However, Mączka doesn’t see containers taking over and proliferating to the same point as hypervisors such as VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, which vProtect only started supporting in its latest version 3.9 update.
“I don’t think they’ll rule the world, but it’s important to have the [container backup] feature,” Mączka said.

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Insurance company uses Cohesity backup to wean off tape

Change is hard, especially when it comes to moving from legacy backup to modern methods.

Insurance company Illinois Mutual, based in Peoria, Ill., adopted cloud-based Cohesity backup and has been transitioning off its old, tape-based system. The switch seemed like it should’ve been an easy decision, but Shawn Gifford, senior infrastructure administrator and infrastructure team lead at Illinois Mutual, said the company was resistant to change when he joined four years ago.

“When I came to the company, the cloud was regarded as somewhat of a bad word,” Gifford said. He was hired to change that culture.

Gifford had experience in cloud consulting, and he had seen his share of failed cloud endeavors before his time at Illinois Mutual. He said the key to both avoiding failure and convincing people to buy in is a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

Gifford calculated a lower total cost of ownership and other cost savings with Cohesity backup, but also went beyond raw financials.

He helped build his case by emphasizing it would reduce the time staff would have to spend working with backups, as well as lower backup and restore times. Other selling points were that Cohesity put deduplication and encryption in the same layer, and consolidates hardware and software.

Headshot of Shawn GiffordShawn Gifford

Illinois Mutual has a staff of around 200 at its Peoria headquarters and about 60 sales representatives working remotely. Its main data center is in Peoria, but the company also replicates to a colocation site in Bloomington, Ill. In total, the company is protecting 130 TB of data. Much of that data is important insurance information with a retention period of 25 years.

Gifford said the toughest part of modernizing Illinois Mutual’s backup wasn’t finding a vendor with the right technology or working out a cost strategy. For him, the biggest challenge was cutting through a company culture that was set in its ways. Much of IT was used to maintaining status quo rather than examining what processes could be improved.

“Instead of a swear jar, we have a, ‘That’s the way it’s always been’ jar,” Gifford said, on the company’s resistance to change.

Instead of a swear jar, we have a, ‘That’s the way it’s always been’ jar.
Shawn GiffordSenior infrastructure administrator and infrastructure team lead, Illinois Mutual

Illinois Mutual adopted Cohesity backup in October 2018 following a 60-day proof of concept. Gifford said he spends about half as much time as he used to on backup administration since the switch, and called the period before Cohesity, “painful years.” Not only did backup processes take longer with tape, but he estimated a full restore in case of a major outage could take as long as a month.

To illustrate how much of an improvement the new backup system is, Gifford told the story of a mishap during a backup restoration test. During this test, a new database administrator made an error and sent backup jobs to a remote location. Even though the system was restoring from that remote site instead of local, the test took less than 30 minutes, far less than Gifford said it would’ve taken with the previous setup.

When shopping for a new backup vendor to replace its Commvault and NetApp combination, Illinois Mutual also looked at Rubrik and Veeam. Gifford needed a product that could support tape while he transitioned off it.

“We were so entrenched in tape. We couldn’t just switch data protection and roll off tape immediately,” Gifford said.

Illinois Mutual is also entrenched in Microsoft products, using its Hyper-V hypervisor over VMware. This created an additional challenge for Gifford. He ultimately chose Cohesity backup because he found few vendors supported both Hyper-V and tape.

The insurance company’s Microsoft investment continues to grow, as it is currently in the middle of migrating from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. Gifford said Cohesity’s Office 365 backup capabilities were also selling points for him, and he’s looking forward to the vendor providing Teams support in the future.

Gifford said Illinois Mutual has always had a deep partnership with Microsoft and its products, then immediately noted he owed money to the jar. But at this point, the company is so invested in Hyper-V and other Microsoft products that there wasn’t a good reason to switch out. Going through a single vendor for multiple IT needs just makes more sense.

“Not all their products are perfect, of course, but we’re not decreasing our [Microsoft] footprint,” Gifford said.

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For Sale – ALL SOLD Clearout – 15 x 2TB HDDs CAN NOW POST!

Hi all,

I have for sale 15 x 2TB HDDs taken from one of my backup Unraid servers. These are a mixture of Hitachi, WD and Toshiba (Hitachi Rebrand) and have varying hours. NO WARRANTY is left on any of the drives. I have had no issues with the drives, 2 of which are recerts. None of the drives have errors.

I have attached all 15 drive’s preclear logs. Please pay attention to the “199-UDMA_CRC_Error_Count” line. These CRC errors were due to what I thought at the time was a dodgy SAS card when in fact was due to faulty cables. If you look at the logs you will see the initial count and cycle count has not increased and that the status count is zero.

For those not aware of “preclear”, it is essentially a stress test before you commit a drive to an array and compares S.M.A.R.T values to determine its health. You cannot complete a preclear with a duff drive, the preclear will just fail to start after checking values.

Reason for sale..I’ve moved my wedding forward and so am selling off a few bits of hardware to fund it!

I’m looking for £20 + delivery per HDD. If purchasing multiples then I can knock a few quid off. If you want to buy all 15 then i’m sure we can knock some more off, although I would insist they are collected. Delivery method would be either Collect+ or Royalmail.

All the drives are currently resting in new anti static bags awaiting a new owner(s).

1 x WD Red & 1 x WD Green brotchaq – paid and posted
2 x HDDs 19329hrs & 17249hrs – Andrips – paid and posted
2 x Tosh/Hitachi & 1 Hitachi – paul99 – paid and posted
8 x Hitachi – moofie – paid and posted



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