Sepaton Launches VirtuoSO for Data Protection

The increasing amount and diversity of data is putting pressure on data backup. Here's how Sepaton's new scale-out NAS aims to address the problem.

David Hill

October 17, 2013

6 Min Read
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When you hear the words “volume, variety, and velocity,” you probably think of big data. While those three words certainly apply to big data use cases and technologies, they also apply in a general sense to all data creation and flows. And that presents a big challenge to data protection architectures that were not crafted to deal with a huge diversity of workloads and data types. That’s especially true within the context of ongoing information infrastructure transformation, most notably cloud and server virtualization.

Sepaton, a backup and recovery company, designed its new VirtuoSO platform specifically to meet the increasing volume, variety and velocity challenges that apply to data protection. I'll provide a close look at VirtuoSO and how it works. But first, let's examine the trends that have forced architectural changes in data backup.

IT Transformations

The first transformation of IT, which focused on the digitization of business workflow and business automation (notably online transaction processing systems), used backup software from disk to tape as the primary means to achieve basic data protection. The second transformation of IT added digitization to the human experience, starting with employees using social, communication and productivity tools such as email and word processing. The Web and mobile computing expanded consumers' access to cyberspace.

Data protection was retrofitted to try to accommodate these new processes, even though original business data was block-oriented structured data and most of the new data is file-oriented semi-structured or unstructured information. A new, important architectural change has been the adoption of disk-to-disk data protection, such as the use of a virtual tape library (VTL) that effectively replaces tape with hard disks as the first tier of backup data protection. The major driver of that change involved the incorporation of deduplication as integral to the backup process.

The third transformation of IT involves machine-created data, such as sensor-based information, a trend often referred to as the “Internet of Things.” This raises an additional challenge for data protection.

How VirtuoSO Works

VirtuoSO is a scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) product, meaning it's file-oriented (i.e., it uses the standard CIFS and NFS protocols) rather than block-oriented, like a VTL. That also means VirtuoSO is separate and distinct from Sepaton’s block-oriented VTL. However, Sepaton said VirtuoSO will eventually support VTL.

VirtuoSO contains all the necessary hardware (including storage) and software required for backup/restore, which is why the company calls it a data protection platform. The word “appliance” might also be used here, as it serves the single-purpose, dedicated mission of data protection. Sepaton describes VirtuoSO as managing all data types individually but within a single pool of storage (think of this as analogous to server virtualization consolidation).

[Read about Asigra's new pricing model, which focuses on how much data needs to be recovered rather than how much storage is used in "Shifting The Backup And Recovery Focus To Recovery."]

Although Sepaton does not refer to it in this way, I believe VirtuoSO can be considered a converged heterogeneous infrastructure for data protection, because it tightly combines HP servers, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) storage, data backup/restore software (such as CommVault, NetBackup, Networker, Tivoli Storage Manager, and Veeam), and its own software into a single system. Consequently, it promises to provide the benefits of converged infrastructure -- centralizing the management of IT systems to consolidate systems, increase resource utilization rates and lower costs.

VirtuoSO focuses on being able to efficiently work with all types of data. This is important because the increased diversity of data types typically favor file versus block orientations. That requires the use of a file system abstraction (as there is a need for file services that provide a richer metadata environment), finer granularity on managing particular data and greater flexibility in managing data, including data movement in a virtual environment. By the way, note that understanding and managing blocks is still essential to this process, since everything is still composed of blocks (to use a chemistry/physics analogy, think of “molecular” objects made up of “atomic” blocks).

Sepaton has built VirtuoSO around its OptiScale architecture, which is based on the Sepaton OptiScale File System (SOFS), an object store with a file system presentation layer. This reflects the movement toward object storage, which is a key trend in the storage arena. The advantage of an object store is that it can be designed to manage an essentially unlimited amount of storage.

Now, how file system abstraction can play a key role in an object store may not be intuitive, but it does. In this case, VirtuoSO has a POSIX-compliant (Portable Operating System Interface) file system abstraction on top of the object store that works with remote access methods that include NFS and CIFS at first and others later on.

Next Page: Deduplication And Object Management

Deduplication is essential to any modern data protection system and the VirtuoSO data deduplication engine is tightly integrated within SOFS. Incoming data is parsed to determine its type. Based upon the type identified, an algorithm (i.e., software intelligence) that has a content-aware knowledge base about each type of data type decides to either dedupe the data inline or via post-processes (at rest).

How objects are managed is also essential. Beyond deduplication and performance management, VirtuoSO can manage objects within different storage tiers, which is critical, because less frequently accessed objects can be placed on more cost-effective storage layers. It also can replicate designated high-value data objects for even higher availability and also move selected objects offsite (such as for disaster recovery or cost reasons).

Contrast this approach to the narrower focus of VTL systems. A VTL implements only a tape abstraction (i.e., disk appears to be tape) on top of a high-performance extent manager (which is not a file system). As a result, a VTL has no support for different storage tiers or for stubs that point to relocated objects. An example of why this is important is that a data protection platform has to protect not only mission-critical systems, but also important, though not time sensitive, data.

Putting all data on expensive, high-performance disk storage that mission-critical applications need in order to provide the necessary performance for a recovery action would be overkill for data that doesn’t demand that level of recovery performance. Bottom line: Tiering data properly saves money.

On the physical storage side, VirtuoSO uses HUS-110 from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), although it can easily adapt to other storage products. And via its gateway configurations, VirtuoSO supports additional HDS storage products, such as the entire HUS line as well as the Virtual Storage Platform.

Mesabi Musings

We are now -- more than ever -- in a data-driven world. The onrush of new data from not only familiar applications and data types, but now from new applications and data types, can seem overwhelming. The resulting challenge to IT is two-fold: How do I manage the business on a daily, operational production basis and how do I manage all that quantity and diversity of data?

Sepaton recognized that a block-based approach has its limitations in being able to deal with all the requirements that the brave new world of data protection needs, which is why VirtuoSO features file-orientation. That enables the use of functions and features, such as hybrid deduplication, that are required to deal with volume, variety and velocity challenges.

The data protection world requires parallel development to the production world because it complements that world. With VirtuoSO, Sepaton has placed a stake in the ground. It will be interesting to see how other vendors respond.

Sepaton is a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

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