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Quantifying the benefits of investing in copy management technology

There are many benefits to implementing copy data storage, including cost reduction and increased operational efficiency while maintaining service-level objectives.

Copy management technology enables IT organizations to standardize and centralize a range of data management tasks....

But how should IT buyers go about justifying the need for a copy data management product and quantifying the benefits it offers? Here we look at some of the considerations and options available.

One of the key benefits of using copy management software and hardware is the potential savings from consolidating multiple data sources. A great starting point for using copy management technology is to look at the different data types your organization uses or plans to use. These data sources may include the following:

  • Backup. This means data that has been secured for recovery from data corruption or loss. In many cases, this does not mean full disaster recovery, where a second set of hardware may be deployed, but rather means where data is recovered for individual virtual machines or servers.
  • Data seeding. This usage covers a range of potential possibilities, but generally includes creating test environments as part of application development or rollout. This does not mean the organization must be developing its own software; rather, test environments can be used for validating software upgrades, for example.
  • Analytics. Copy management products let IT access a wide range of information across multiple systems. This enables data to be searched and mined for a range of reasons, including legal discovery or trend analysis. The ability to perform analytics does depend on the type of data being stored.
  • Archival. The use of long-term backups for archiving may not seem like the most ideal way to offload old data from an application. But, compared to the cost of re-architecting the application to build a true archive, long-term retention of backup data is a viable alternative, and can be space-efficient when data deduplication is applied.

These use cases often incorporate the same data, yet are built from multiple platforms that rarely cooperate. In today's IT environments, where the majority of applications are deployed as virtual machines, it is likely the same interfaces are also being utilized. Bringing these requirements together into a single platform provides several significant financial and operational benefits.

Cost reduction. The most obvious savings come from having data on a single platform. Running one platform rather than four or five can provide significant capital savings, as copy data products use data deduplication to ensure only a single copy of the data is ever retained on physical media.

One of the key benefits of using copy management software and hardware is the potential savings from consolidating multiple data sources.

But the financial savings stretch further with the removal of additional operational costs. Copy data storage requires fewer environments to maintain, upgrade and service. There is less need for specialist skills for multiple platforms, and it may be possible to redirect staff to other, more important work. Consolidation onto a single platform may also provide savings from power, cooling and space reductions.

Operational efficiency. Having only one platform from which to restore applications can provide significant operational improvements. Most products allow virtual machines to be restored into a virtual environment and run from the secondary platform. This means any restores or the recovery of data will not impact production storage. If you have a large amount of application churn, requiring data to be recovered on a daily basis, then a copy data management (CDM) product can be a strong candidate for managing that process.

Having the flexibility to restore production images to a separate physical platform (subject to sensible isolation of the network) means data can be restored for the requirements already discussed, without impacting production performance. This scenario ensures test and development work does not impact production.

Identifying your needs for copy management technology

The first step in justifying the use of copy data storage technology is to identify how many copies of data exist across your organization. This can be a difficult task, and involves engaging with the business and operations teams.

It is not unusual to find teams within an IT organization that are storing up to 10 times the amount of secondary data compared to production images. This figure can be even higher when data is backed up to tape, where the duplication can be significant.

After you identify the amount of data stored, you can translate that into a cost that can be directly compared with implementing a copy management system.

Changes to operational processes

When measuring potential benefits, you must be careful to avoid unduly affecting the operational processes around data management. For example, you may need tape backups to provide an off-site copy of data in case a disaster strikes. If a copy management system cannot be placed in an off-site location, then the technology may not be appropriate for consolidating all data. But if most of your backup and restore needs can be met by moving to copy management, you may be able to change operational processes, while maintaining the same service-level objectives.

The impact on service levels is a good example of where operational improvement can be achieved. The ability to stand up a virtual machine with little or no overhead to recover data can mean that service levels for data recovery can be met more effectively than with current operations. The savings may be even more significant if the business is scaling up its IT infrastructure, as service levels may become more difficult to achieve.

Opportunities in the cloud

Integration of CDM products with a public cloud provides a significant opportunity to separate the cost of storage from the physical deployment in the data center. As volumes of data increase, you can offload inactive data to a public cloud to realize cost savings in storage, as well as in environmental costs, such as power, space and cooling.

In the future, we can envision this cloud-based data being available to mine for analytics or to be used as the seed for test and development with public cloud compute, making the options for using public cloud more attractive.

Copy management technology can be a good fit for organizations that are storing multiple copies of data and using complex operational processes to manage the images. To identify the hard costs, you must:

  • Document the number of data copies being kept, and determine capital and management costs.
  • Document the costs of maintaining and operating multiple platforms.
  • Compare these costs to the costs of deploying a copy management system.

Soft, or intangible, costs are harder to quantify, and will be derived from latent demand in the business. Questions worth asking include:

  • Is the business wasting time waiting for data restores to build test and development environments?
  • Are current backup and restore (particularly restore) service-level agreements being met?
  • Are there new business opportunities that can be gained from being able to archive and analyze existing data?

Chances are, the soft benefits exist, but they are hard to translate into financial savings. You can calculate indicative costs by estimating things such as wasted developer time or application downtime while data is restored.

Do not forget the transition process

Data is historically kept for long periods of time, so backups may take time to roll off existing platforms. Without some kind of ingest process, IT organizations may have to maintain two systems as one system is wound down and the other ramps up. As a result, cost savings may take longer than expected to materialize. This should be built into any TCO or financial model justification.

Next Steps

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This was last published in May 2017

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