Simplifying Data Protection in the Emerging Age of Multicloud

Backup and recovery pose distinct challenges in hybrid and multicloud environments. Two experts explore how to confront the obstacles to fast, simple data protection as multicloud becomes more mainstream

By Tom Mangan

By Tom Mangan March 19, 2021

IT leaders are waking up to the risks of scrimping on data protection in hybrid and multicloud environments. It’s not just a matter of shadow IT and enterprises walking back their commitment to public clouds. It’s the quantum leap in complexity in an age when technology users expect more simplicity.

These were the core takeaways from a webinar convened by IDG to explore the data-protection ramifications of multicloud. The panelists were Simon Taylor, CEO of HYCU, which specializes in data-protection-as-a-service, and Steven Kaplan, vice president of customer success/finance at Nutanix, which supplies multicloud software to enterprise customers around the globe.

“People were so confused about what backup recovery is,” said Taylor. “They thought, ‘Well, if it's in the cloud, I'm sure it's sitting somewhere and I'm sure I can get it back’.”

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Such illusions have begun to fade in the past 12 months, he added. 

“Almost every company that we've been speaking to now says, ‘I need to have a backup and recovery protocol for multicloud. It's got to be fast. It's got to be application-aware’.”

Critical data projection objectives like service levels, recovery times and recovery points must be supported. Everything must support the entire multicloud estate, Taylor said.

In the webinar, Taylor and Kaplan talked about industry trends and market forces accompanying the rising popularity of multicloud: shadow IT acceptance, public cloud pullbacks, native backup and recovery, and faster, simpler data protection capabilities.

Accepting Shadow IT

Kaplan shared a favorite story about shadow IT. He talked about how a corporate marketing department started its own IT operation, which swelled to 150 people over a few years. That’s often the nature of technology in large enterprises. Departments and divisions spin up their own IT resources because dealing with corporate IT seems too cumbersome. But when unwatched, cloud services costs from so-called shadow IT projects can add up.

“Shadow IT drives a lot of CIOs crazy,” Taylor said. 

“At HYCU, we've got about 2,000 customers worldwide. And what we hear more and more from the C-levels is, five years ago we were actively fighting shadow IT. Now, we accept that it's going to happen.”

Why concede to renegade IT? Because large companies with multiple departments and sprawling operations can’t resist the appeal of multicloud

“It’s just common sense that at some point a department head is going to go and turn on a new cloud,” Taylor said.

This raises a raft of challenges. For one thing, managers outside the IT realm might not realize the importance of data protection. Still, shadow IT raises opportunities for companies like Nutanix and HYCU that specialize in multicloud and backup technologies, Taylor said. 

Bouncing Back to On-Prem

A big part of HYCU’s business model is working with organizations migrating IT workloads to the public cloud. But many of its clients are reversing course.

“Out of all of our customers, 40% of the migration we're doing is not on-prem to cloud – it's cloud to on-prem,” Taylor said. “There are so many customers who are sitting there saying, ‘Wait a second, I moved everything to cloud and it's not working’."

Kaplan pointed to a 2020 IDC study of more than 2,000 enterprises using public cloud resources. 

“85% of them reported repatriating at least one or more applications back out of public cloud,” he said. “And it’s projected that 56% of all lift-and-shift applications will come back out over the next two years. And there've been several other studies out there corroborating these types of results.”

What’s going on? 

Kaplan said a lot of enterprises have arbitrary goals like moving 60% of operations to the public cloud. 

“I'll ask, ‘where does that goal come from? Why 60? Why not 80 or 40 or 20?’ And when you just venture into public cloud without doing the rigorous analysis and without determining what type of tools you are going to need to manage the environment, you get a situation like this.”

Taylor and Kaplan agreed that it’s essential to have a well-thought-out financial analysis supporting a multicloud environment. Backups and data protection must align with that analysis.

Deploying Native Backup and Recovery

Companies may create a sound strategy supporting a multicloud initiative while neglecting to fold backup/recovery into their plans. 

“Oftentimes, it ends up being this monster,” Taylor said, because multicloud backups are not a good fit for traditional three-tiered data center architectures.

“In a multicloud world, you need purpose-built backup and recovery services that are natively integrated with each and every cloud that you have,” Taylor explained. “Instead of going out and having to buy the same thing twice, you're leveraging what you've already got.”

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For instance, HYCU integrates its backup-as-a-service offering with Nutanix Mine, a cloud-based data-protection product.

“It's so completely agentless that you reduce the additional silos you would otherwise need,” Taylor added. “I think customers are just getting wonderful traction from it. They're really able to just plug and play.” 

For all the advantages of multicloud, this new world cannot escape the potential for data silos that pose genuine risks to large organizations. “And because of that, I think we're seeing an explosion in need for true multicloud backup-recovery-as-a-service,” Taylor said.

Creating Faster, Simpler User Experiences

In the webinar, Kaplan surveyed the advantages of virtualizing data center operations with software that converges compute, storage and networking in a single cloud-based service. That’s the heart of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which Nutanix pioneered. A new Nutanix offering called Clusters runs HCI on bare-metal instances in Amazon Web Services and is coming next to Microsoft Azure and other public cloud providers.

“That means as a customer, you no longer have to hire specialized IT staff with a specific knowledge around security and disaster recovery and data protection, or send your existing staff to extensive training and probably augment them,” Kaplan said. “You can just move your workloads over to the public cloud with the same operational model, the same security policies and the same IT governance.”

That’s the model Nutanix and HYCU are partnering to deliver. Taylor recalled how the two companies helped Delaware Valley Community Health improve its services to low-income people in the Philadelphia metro area. The healthcare agency often faced extensive delays if they had to recover lost information about patients and diagnostics.

“The recovery time, once they installed Nutanix and HYCU, went from 48 hours to six minutes,” Taylor said, accelerating the agency’s ability to treat its patients. This underscores the value of simplifying IT data protection in the multicloud era.

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Meanwhile, enterprise software vendors face increasing pressure to emulate the consumer-grade user experiences people enjoy on smartphones and cloud-based SaaS apps. 

Taylor noted that data-protection providers cannot ignore this shift.  

“The idea of using an interface that is ugly difficult is nonsense to customers,” he said. “The idea that it's going to take me 30 hours to do anything is nonsense to customers. And the idea that I need to deploy a service but use professional services folks to come in and do the install is nonsense to customers.”

Kaplan noted that the shift toward remote work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is just one of the challenges that multicloud technologies help address. The key is finding ways to corral the rising complexities.

“One of the things that it is accelerating is the absolute imperative to move away from complexity to simplify the environment,” Kaplan said. That’s a driving force for the Nutanix-HYCU partnership.

“We think this is a wonderful time in the marketplace for data protection,” Taylor concluded. “And, certainly, it keeps us on our toes as we continue to architect and develop new services.”

Tom Mangan is a contributing writer. He is a veteran B2B technology writer and editor, specializing in cloud computing and digital transformation. Contact him on his website or LinkedIn.

© 2021 Nutanix, Inc. All rights reserved. For additional legal information, please go here.

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