August 3, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The coronavirus pandemic has made most IT shops seriously re-evaluate a number of the technologies they have to maintain, operate, backup, and protect their mission-critical applications and their data. And the companies that have IBM i systems as their main platforms are no more insulated from these issues than those who picked other platforms – although it is safe to say that they have very good tools to help with all of the above, and in many cases, these tools are arguably better than – or identical to – what is available for Windows Server, Linux, or other platforms.
Over the past decade, there have been lots of arguments about whether or not tape technology is dead. We have heard it all, you have heard it all. And none of it matters. It is helpful to remember that the three biggest users of tape technology in the world are Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. And in fact, it is widely believed that the Glacier long-term storage service at AWS, which supports long-term S3 object storage, is in fact based on tape, not disk or flash, storage. For certain kinds of workloads and at certain price points, tape is still needed so long as latency is not an issue. Use disk when you can, use tape when you must would be how we would put it. And by all means, keep remote copies of tape offsite in a secure vault for the absolute safest – but most annoying – data recovery.
But at this point, with a lot of programmers and system administrators working from home, this argument about tape being dead or not is falling flat. It doesn’t matter if no one can get to a tape because they can’t get into the datacenter, and at this point, backing up to the cloud, where data is not only secure but sharable and recoverable, is what companies are figuring out what they need to do. The underlying storage technology is not nearly as important as having archive and backups offsite where they are equally accessible to all employees who need access to that data for application testing or disaster recovery purposes.
This shift from on-premises to cloud is the important transition right now, and UCG Technologies, which has been in the cloud backup and archiving business with its VAULT400 offering, which is powered by the Carbonite software owned by OpenText, for so long we can’t remember when it didn’t offer this to IBM i shops, has just put together a white paper that goes through the reasons why now – especially during the COVID-19 crisis – that shifting from tape backup to cloud backup is the right thing to do as part of a broader business continuity plan.
“We are seeing a significant increase in inquiries and revenues from VAULT400 since the pandemic struck,” says Jim Kandrac, president at UCG Technologies. “With most IT staff working remote during this pandemic, much of the interest has been related to transitioning from a tape-based model to cloud based backup and DRaaS that can be entirely managed remotely.”
The issue is not tape or cloud, but both. Tape will continue to play a role in backup and archiving and therefore in business resilience and disaster recovery, whether it is on premises tape or tape masking as disk as in the Glacier service at AWS, or at companies using the Vault400 service, which is backing up to disk and replicated across multiple datacenters.
The bigger issue not disk or tape, but getting a handle on the types of data that application are dependent on and how fast they are growing. In many cases, there is no way to store it all on disk, whether it is on premises or in the cloud, or if there is, there is no way to do it affordably and therefore tape enters the picture – again, whether it is on premises tape or offsite archive and backup based on disk that is sold as a service but has either data replication or tape backup of its own to ensure data is not lost in the event of a failure offsite in the cloud.
There are a lot of things to think about, and they are presented well in the whitepaper that UCG Technologies has put together.