No One Wants to be “The Backup Guy” … or Do They?

By Mike Riley • July 31, 2018

No one rockets out of bed in the morning and says to themselves, “Wow! Another great day to do backup stuff! Oh, man, I can’t wait for my phone to start ringing and the texts to start flying. Who knew emojis could be used in such creative combinations and the exclamation points – can you ever have too many?!”

Nope. No way that’s happening. No, the backup guy is rarely recognized; they’re usually thought of last on any project (as that project comes flying over the transom); and when their phone rings, you can guarantee whoever is on the other end is already pissed off. It can be quite literally a thankless task. However, a Cohesity approach can change all that.

Central to the Cohesity strategy is a data platform that helps you activate and monetize your data. Now, you can’t effectively activate and monetize your data if all you do is backup. You have to cast a wider net. I’m now walking into customer and partner conversations where the topic is, “Tell me about your scale-out NAS capabilities; tell me about your S3 implementation.” We’re no longer asked to talk about backup and stumbling over a NAS opportunity! The topic is NAS and the conversations have progressed beyond group shares to applications that require S3 or NAS storage pools. That’s exciting stuff!

But, what is truly exciting is talking to customers about unlocking the value of that data and, again, you can’t do that if all you do is backup. Take GDPR prep for example. I’d much rather ask Personally Identifiable Information (PII) questions of one data repository that includes backup data, objects, and NAS vs. asking the same question to a backup silo, your object silo, and your NAS silos.

Beyond Backup

Now, I’m not saying backup is unimportant. Backups are critical to a business, but I’ve said, and I’ve heard a lot of customers say, “Backups are worthless; restores are priceless.” People will call the backup guy to congratulate them for getting a critical business service up and running again. Yes, I know we all have SLAs, but when something goes sideways, I wouldn’t recommend sending out the SLA sheet and heading to lunch. You get things back up ASAP. It’s at that moment all of the investment of time and money to get that restore right makes sense.

Here’s what I find interesting: Even though you just saved someone’s bacon, we still treat backup as a necessary evil – a chore. It doesn’t take long for us to chase the backup guy back down to the basement to prepare his cost justification reports. How do we know this is true? Take a look at the evolution (or lack of it) in backup. Certainly, we have made incremental improvements – appealing UIs, useful APIs, increased automation, application integration – but ever since the first RAMAC 350 rolled off the line, we have attacked backup using the same approach. Is it any wonder we’re still asking the same questions: Can I meet my backup windows? How long do I keep these things? Where? How do I know I have a good backup?

We keep asking the same questions and answering them with the same answers. Truth be told, you can plop down TSM, NBU, Backup Exec, Commvault, and Veeam on a spectrum and they’re all good products. All use the same basic approach. (By the way, have you ever met anyone that’s thrilled with their current backup solution? Very rare.) But, as a customer, you can justify any one of them. Something in your Kepner Tregoe (KT) Analysis can tip the scales one way or another for you.

Somewhere on the spectrum you might put “next-gen” backup vendors. Compared with the cost and complexity of the traditional vendors, those vendors look great. It’s another rip-and-replace backup product, but your KT Analysis might show it’s worth it. (Sometimes that 10- to 15-year-old install inertia is hard to overcome).

Recently, in what I consider an interesting read on the software-defined market, Dell/EMC and Commvault ripped a page out of a 1990s playbook, and now tout “backup appliances.” In fairness, I do understand offering multiple consumption models, but, I think cobbling together a server OS, a hypervisor, and some virtualized versions of some stuff you had in the old acquisition shed to provide just a backup solution misses the mark. I do understand that once you get enough of your non-virtualized versions displaced, you have to figure out how to compete. But, you’re still answering the same questions using the same old approach. You wind up as another entry in what I call the “Flip Phone Spectrum.” By contrast, Cohesity is on the “iPhone Spectrum.”

If you’re on the flip phone spectrum, backup is the solution. However, if you’re on the iPhone spectrum, backup is an app. The actual solution is the platform. Absolutely, your backup app must provide improvements above and beyond the traditional vendors – simplicity, performance, efficiency, search, massively parallelized ingest and restore operations – but the platform itself sets you apart. It gives you a versatility you can’t find on the flip-phone spectrum: analytics (MapR), S3, scale-out NAS (NFS and SMB), as well as that easy on-ramp/off-ramp to AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.

In fact, if you take the iPhone analogy out further, the Cohesity DataPlatform serves as the perfect app platform for data analysis and platform analytics. Rather than try to ship the data out for other applications to work on it, it makes sense to simply bring the apps to the data.

The way I describe what this fundamental “iPhone vs. flip phone” design decision means to Cohesity partners and customers is this: What we have the flip phone guys will never get. What they have, we can easily do. You have to have the platform to do what we do! Flip phones still have value. My dad still uses one! But, the goal of the Cohesity data platform is to activate and monetize data. Where do you start? You start in the most logical place: backup.

Now take the phrase: “Backups are worthless; restores are priceless.” False! Backups have enormous value if we can activate and monetize that data; if we have the opportunity to analyze that data in combination with other data stored across multiple formats.

In the age of big data, the backup guy just moved from cost center to profit center, and to the center of interesting discussions around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. I can’t tell you how many people who have brought in Cohesity to help them with a backup issue have sat back in their chairs as they consider the versatility of a data platform.

Now, as the backup guy, life just got really interesting!

madison