Catalogic data copy sprawl smacker CEO Walsh talks to the Vulture

'Sorry about the soapbox'

Claw hammer

Interview Joining Actifio and Delphix in the general data copy management space Catalogic has launched its ECX product which classifies and catalogs existing copies instead of creating a master copy.

The idea is that you get a better idea of the copies you already have and can re-use good ones, delete unwanted ones and generally manage your copy estate more efficiently, saving disk space and time.

Catalogic Software is a Syncsort spin-out and calls ECX an actionable Instant Copy Data Management Platform.

We basically understand that it catalogs (indexes) NetApp and VMware snapshots. Through this index users can locate a file or object in the data centre and find out if it is old or unwanted data, validate protection compliance and delete the data or do something else with it.

ECX software supports Clustered Data ONTAP, ONTAP 7-mode, CLOUD ONTAP and VMware. It provides instant data access for data recovery, disaster recovery and business continuity and for Test/Dev.

Okay; there is vast copy data sprawl. How should you deal with it? At a top level do you want a virtualised master copy of your data or database from which you spin iff virtual copies for test and dev, etc. or is it better to classify and catalog the copies you already have and make better use if them?

El Reg talked to CEO ED Walsh to find out more.

El Reg What does ECX do?

Ed Walsh It is an agent-less deployment and catalogs both VMware and NetApp (cDOT, ONTAP and Cloud ONTAP) environments.  Clients download a VM and can catalog high level objects in 15 minutes.  A client can select the VMs or Shares that it wants to catalog files.  The File catalog runs overnight typically, via API integration with NetApp.

The platform supports additional plug-ins (we call providers).  We currently ship providers for the four platforms above (the different flavors of ONTAp are dramatically different). We will be adding additional storage and hypervisors in the future.

Catalogics would cover IBM’s whole portfolio via plug-ins for each of its storage platforms or file systems. I was recently was with IBM through the acquisition of Storwize (where I was CEO). We have a very good fit technology-wise across their platform. We would provide IBM clients the same value and uses cases we are launching with NetApp.

El Reg How does ECX provide instant data access?

Ed Walsh We catalog files and snapshots, SnapMirrors and SnapVaults. These snaps are available for immediate access. What we do is bring visibility, Insight and Control of these snaps. Once they know they are there they can use them or we can automat ether creation and use for multiple purposes. The big news here is enterprises already have these copies they are just not leveraged. If a client wants to do a DR, simple run the workflow and the environment come up and running instantly. They key is also repeatability, since you test regularly. Also if it fails you know where it failed and can easily troubleshoot it.

El Reg Does ECX create copies of data?

Ed Walsh NetApp or VMware actually create the copies. We give visibility to these copies or automate the creation and/or recovery of the copies. In fact, clients don’t want yet another data copy or data format, they want to leverage what they have. As we add additional storage and hypervisor plug-ins (we call providers) into the platform, we will leverage the native data snapshot, replication and cloud capabilities of those offerings. Which is what clients want. They buy their primary storage based upon these factors.

El Reg In what sense is the ECX catalog actionable?

Ed Walsh We have added a Closed-Loop Automated Workflow that leveraged the actionable catalog. The combination makes the environment actionable.

We could not do the Closed-Loop Automated workflow without the Actionable catalog. The Drag and Drop interface won’t let a user do something unless its capable in the environment (based upon what it has cataloged). We also understand location, which allows clients to leverage off production box snapshots without impacting production performance. You need all this insight to take action.

El Reg Is CLAW used instead of scripting to configure and test Clustered Data ONTAP environments?

Ed Walsh Absolutely.

El Reg Tell us more.

Ed Walsh We are able to leverage our actionable Catalog with a Closed-Loop Automated Workflow, which is a drag and drop interface. No scripts needed. A few clicks and you can actively test and roll out these “copy Data Use cases”. The first use cases are recovery, DR, Test dev and analytics.  For example: a client can drag and drop to set up a test/Dev environment, test the workflow and then run the workflow at a point in time or schedule it to run on a regular basis (typically daily or weekly).

To run a recovery, a client runs the workflow and instantly have the environment available. The client has the option to bring the environment up in a “test environment" (fenced network) or directly back to production. If the environment is brought up in a “test environment” there is an option to promote it to production. This is what we mean by instant data access.

El Reg How does ECX overcome the overcopying problem? By helping users identify unwanted copies so they can be deleted? How are such unwanted copies identified? By lack of access over time?

Ed Walsh Clients do use the Catalog and file analytic reports to find files that either by age or access are old.

Clients use our product to gain visibility of overprotected (too many snapshots) and under-protected (not enough recover points or not within SLA for Recover Point Objective). I will admit that clients find equal amount of over protected and under protected environments.

The real way Copy Data Management over comes the overcopying problem is by changing the paradigm altogether. Most enterprises already have copies of their data mirrored to a second storage array or to a remote storage array.  These copies sit idle…big waste of budget. Additionally, the Enterprise has hung onto an old paradigm of tape based backup with a large investment of complicated and expensive disk cahe with the sole purpose of hiding the slowness of tape. This tape based paradigm has not met their needs for years but they continue at great OpEx and CapEx expense. This paradigm also dictates large data movement, as data is growing by leaps and bounds. What made sense in 1980 might not make sense today.

What we do is allow Enterprises to leverage their storage platform of choice (no rip and replace…no agents). We help them leverage their data copies for multiple uses cases, like recovery, DR, Test/Dev and Anylytic uses. The paradigm shift is “once you have catalog and control over your data copies and you can easily mount any data in a writable snapshot without any impact to production (off box snapshots), what would you use the data copies for?”

Also, what would you stop doing? You would leverage the data copies for recovery, DR, Test/Dev and Analytics. You would stop doing Data Domain/Avamar.

It just adds cost and don’t meet your recovery SLA. You can’t leverage Data Domain/Avamar infrastructure for any use case. I was the CEO of Avamar so I have some history here. Tape doesn’t go away but is used for Archive purposes not operational recoveries. You would also stop traditional dedicated Test/dev environments, that require huge data movements, OpEx and CapEx.

Now this is where it gets interesting: by automating the mounting of the last snapshot of production and using that data for Test/Dev, Test/Dev gets transformed into DevOps for Agile development. Better Test/Dev by simply leveraging what you have and stop doing the absurd. True Blue Ocean Value Innovation, Cost savings by eliminating or reducing factors while simultaneously lifting factors not offered before.

Sorry about the soapbox.  I do see this as a sea change for the storage industry. For years we focused on making copies and backups of those copies. The next large value in enterprise storage will be crated by managing and leveraging these copies – Copy Data Management.

ECX, Actifio and Delphix

El Reg How does ECX compare and contrast to Actifio's copy data management product?

Ed Walsh We get compared to Actifio a lot but we don’t directly compete with them. Our Copy Data Management platform leverages your current storage platform. We provide Instant Data Copy Visibility, Operational Insight and Business Control. Our solution allows an enterprise to drive significant operational efficiencies and business agility through visibility, insight and control of their data copies.

Actifio solves a similar set of Copy Data challenges but through deploying a set of appliances to copy your data (one more time…) and then leverage it. I do think there is a group of clients that will replace their storage to get the benefits – that’s Actifio’s target client.

We believe clients want to leverage their current storage, not do rip and replaces of storage infrastructure and they love the ability to download it and start using the software within 15 minutes.

A few additional advantages we have are:

  • We have a catalog. We agentless-ly catalog the existing environment, providing Instant visibility and operational insight into the current situation quickly. Of course, we constantly update the catalog providing on going visibility and insight.
  • This catalog allows our clients to search, do reporting and leverage dashboards across the entire environment, from either the storage view or hypervisor view.
  • We have over 20 standard reports and you can build custom reports easily.
  • Searching and reporting on existing environment may seem boring but a lot of our clients see this as one of the killer apps for our solution. We allow clients to easily “see the mess” and then “fix the mess”.
  • Actifio doesn’t have a catalog or real reporting.
  • Actifio needs to create another copy of your data to manage it, they do not have a way to provide insight or manage your existing storage infrastructure.
  • We also support any protocols supported by the storage. We support File (NFS/CIFS/SMB), Block (iSCSI, or Fibre Channel) and Object in our current solution. Actifio supports Block Fibre Channel.

El Reg How does ECX compare and contrast to the Delphix copy data management product?

Ed Walsh Interesting question. I know Delphix more as a database-specific copy virtualisation and workflow engine. I know the team and love what they do. We are not a direct competitor of Delphix, from my perspective. I could see Actifio being viewed as another appliance based solution that adds value around copy data. ®

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