Definition

copy data management (CDM)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Develop copy management systems for streamlined production

Copy data management (CDM) is an approach to reducing storage consumption that involves eliminating the unnecessary duplication of production data.

Backup software and other enterprise applications operate independently, often creating multiple copies of the same data. Redundant copies of the same data, however, can waste storage space, slow network performance, and make accessing or restoring mission-critical data more difficult. CDM software can help eliminate those problems by reducing the number of full copies using data virtualization.

How CDM works

Most copy data management software works by creating one full virtual copy of the data. When unique changes are made to the production environment, the software creates and stores a snapshot of incremental changes at the block level. The snapshot mechanism creates a read/write differencing disk with a parent-child relationship to the backup copy without creating an entire new copy. Because write operations are not directed to the backup copy, administrators do not have to worry about the contents of the primary backup being changed by accident. Reducing the number of full copies also reduces the chance of server sprawl and has a positive effect on costs, because valuable storage space is not taken up with unnecessary copies of data.


Jason Buffington, a principal analyst
at Enterprise Strategy Group, explains
the importance of copy data management.

The term copy data management was made popular by virtualization software vendor Actifio. Actifio captures production data, keeps a golden master current and spawns unlimited virtual copies for use whenever a copy of production data is needed. In a development, analytics or test environment, this approach is especially important; it means that the development, analytics or test environment can be based on an exact replica of the organization's production data without unnecessarily consuming storage space before it is needed.

Why copy data management is important

As storage capacity expands, it throws the need for copy data management into sharp relief. Data is growing at a steady rate, and unnecessary copies of data take up much-needed storage space. Storage virtualization has benefited backup and recovery, but the creation and storage of extra copies of data can be a pain point.

Because storing multiple copies and backing up often are standard data protection practices, it's no wonder that the number of copies can quickly grow out of hand. Efficiency and productivity can get bogged down by excess amounts of copy data, and for many organizations a lagging system won't cut it.

And all that extra storage space comes at a cost. Data storage isn't cheap, and the more storage capacity that is given to copies of data, the more money is wasted on unnecessary storage expenses. By eliminating extra copies of data, organizations can not only increase efficiency, but free up expensive storage space.

Copy data management benefits

  • Accelerate application release cycles, improve decision-making, and increase efficiency and productivity with fast, easy and self-directed access to copy data in the appropriate format.
  • Ensure compliance and mitigate security risks by having greater visibility into copy data usage.
  • Lower storage administration costs through centralized control, automation and orchestration.
  • Reduce storage costs by having the right number of copies of data with the right policies on the right storage.

Source: Steve Ricketts

Copy data management vs. backup

While copy data management is a useful backup tool, it should not be considered a replacement for traditional backup. CDM was not designed for data protection, and was primarily created for storage efficiency. And while CDM can be used to create data recovery points, it does not create a true backup of the data source.

Storage snapshots are used in both traditional data backup and CDM, and some organizations consider snapshots as a replacement for backup. However, since both snapshots and backup often give peace of mind through redundancy, CDM may not serve the same purpose.

How to find the right CDM product

While some features and capabilities are consistent across copy data management platforms, products vary among vendors, and some CDM products may be a better fit for particular organizations than others.

Leading CDM vendors include Actifio Inc., Catalogic Software, Cohesity Inc., Commvault Systems Inc., Delphix Corp. and Rubrik Inc.

Questions to ask CDM vendors

Currently, copy data management vendors are releasing products that have many of the same features and capabilities. Most CDM vendors sell products that can import data from production platforms into storage managed by their software. Others allow data management across different traditional storage products from other vendors. All mainstream CDM products work with physical and virtual sources, and some offer appliances for secondary storage. As the market matures, more vendors are adding public cloud capabilities to their products.

The future of the copy data management market

Confronting data sprawl is becoming more of a priority, and the issue of data growth is not going away any time soon. According to a 2017 study by Taneja Group, more than 30% of companies are considering or implementing CDM products.

As vendors add more features to copy data management software to confront common data protection and backup concerns, that number could continue to grow.

This was last updated in October 2017

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What copy data management techniques have you used?
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All CDM solutions not only strive to minimize unnecessary copies, but also improve the usage of copies that are necessary. Most copies just sit idle today.

However, "Most" common approaches aren't always the "best". The practice of requiring a "golden" copy for all data that is managed by the CDM solution is highly restrictive to a user. A better approach is to offer users the flexibility to make use of "in-place" snapshots offered by storage arrays for the production copies. Requiring users to make an extra copy to manage all the other extra copies doesn't sound like the best of ideas.

Also, CDM solutions without the need for dedicated hardware would serve users well in the short and the long run. CDM solutions should enable and reuse storage without the need to procure or dedicate hardware resources specifically for copy data management. 

Catalogic Software offers a software only CDM solution that works on top of NetApp and IBM storage. It's only a matter of time before EMC and other storage platforms are listed under compatible storage arrays as well. Maximize your existing investments in storage with what you have... instead of procuring more new storage and appliances!
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