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EMC Data Protection execs disclose upcoming features, management UI

EMC Data Protection and Availability Division executives dropped hints about upcoming snapshot and high availability features and showed off a proof of concept of a new management user interface yesterday during their super session at EMC World.

Guy Churchward, the division’s president, told attendees to expect a big announcement “shortly” for a new capability called Centaur. A slide referred to it as “snap shot primary to protection storage.” An EMC representative later confirmed Centaur is a “future deliverable.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually spit directly from something like a VMAX into a Data Domain? And therefore you actually end run the software backup stack,” Churchward said. “Performance-wise, it’s great. Optimization-wise, it’s great. We’re always looking at disrupting this industry and actually driving a level of innovation.”

Churchward also disclosed plans for protection storage high availability (HA). He said that would take EMC Data Domain’s Data Invulnerability Architecture “just a tiny bit further.” Churchward didn’t supply a date. As with Centaur, the EMC representative would say only that HA is a “future deliverable.”

After displaying a slide illustrating some of the management user interface (UI) improvements for backup and recovery, Churchward issued the following caveat to attendees: “This is a concept of what you will be seeing in the next 18, 24 months of a UI of the future.”

The UI’s initial screen was divided into three segments: system optimization, system health and a data chat box for seeking outside help.

The health portion of the screen listed the total number of systems under management and information such as the number under self-care or EMC-assisted care and the number for which operational fixes were available.

Under system optimization, the UI displayed the number of systems optimized and unoptimized in categories such as capacity forecast, garbage collection and replication lag. The dashboard could indicate the number of systems running out of capacity within 90 days and let the user drill down for more detailed, actionable information, according to Stephen Manley, CTO of EMC’s Data Protection and Availability Division.

Manley outlined an example of a system that wasn’t seeing a good deduplication ratio because its workload included videos and encrypted data that doesn’t deduplicate well. The UI supplied information on options to resolve the issue, such as moving the videos from EMC’s Data Domain to VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) and the encrypted data to an encrypted container.

“Now the cool thing with this move is it’s going to wait until a good time to move, when the performance and the network bandwidth are available,” Manley said.

In addition to explaining the new UI concept, Manley laid out the company’s vision for providing data protection that can span on-premise, virtualized and newer hybrid and “born in the cloud” consumption models.

“The future of data protection is in metadata,” Manley asserted. “It’s that information about your infrastructure, about your applications, the information about your information, who owns it, the tags, the keywords that are associated with it. That’s what’s going to move us forward.”

Manley broke down the discussion into three areas: hybrid cloud mobility (“the right data in the right place”), analytics-driven automation and cloud-centric data management.

On hybrid cloud mobility: Manley said a company might want to shift data for disaster recovery or analytics, but it needs to understand where it can move the data and what tools will facilitate the migration. “If I move it, is my protection still going to be there? That’s that infrastructure analytics I need and the metadata that goes with it,” he said.

He said application metadata can provide information to ensure the systems function well after the move. “Data mobility is really the lifeblood of the hybrid cloud, and metadata is how you’re going to make it work,” Manley said.

On analytics-driven automation: Manley said he has spoken with customers who have “gathered all the metadata into this lake” and ask him, “Now what?” Those doing analytics are often buried in reports and dashboards.

He said he often fields questions such as: “Am I getting the most I can out of my Data Domain? Am I getting the right dedupe rate? Am I getting the right performance? Should I be upgrading? Should I add more storage? Should I look at a different type of protection storage?”

“Right now, the answer to that is based on some experience and a lot of black magic,” he said. “But, we can do better.”

EMC already captures information about usage on installed systems to help with customer support. Manley said EMC could feed the telemetry into a Greenplum database, analyze it and apply algorithms to make sure the data is in the real-world sweet spot, “not just the white paper sweet spot.”

“What we really need is a social network of machines that connect to each other so we see the interrelationships and then connect to humans so we can take action on it,” Manley said. The answer lies in metadata, he said.

On cloud-centric data management: Manley discussed the need for metadata about a cloud provider’s infrastructure, such as logs to verify service delivery. He said customers may want to move data either within the provider’s infrastructure or to another cloud provider, or they may need to retrieve data. Searching on- and off-premise, they need the single source of metadata to locate what they need, he said.

“That means you need to do the metadata across the products,” said Churchward. “We’re going to play with things like RecoverPoint and Vplex and whatever, mush it up and it’s all going to be magic and it’ll happen.”

After Manley said “yes” with great enthusiasm, Churchward said, “Yeah, no wonder you’re a CTO.”

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