converged secondary storage

Converged secondary storage is a combination of common data protection elements and non-primary storage tasks into one platform.

The data protection elements in converged secondary storage products include:

  • backup
  • recovery
  • archiving
  • replication
  • deduplication
  • compression
  • encryption

Converged secondary storage can also include data for test and development, search capabilities and analytics.

What converged secondary storage is used for

Vendors of converged secondary storage platforms aim to consolidate important processes and eliminate the need for multiple data protection products.

Led by startups Cohesity and Rubrik, converged secondary storage has gained traction in recent years.

One of the more popular platforms for convergence in secondary storage is combining data backup and archiving. Though both processes involve data that may need to be restored, organizations must recognize that they are different types of data sets. While archived data is typically in cold storage, backup data includes more mission-critical data and may require quick restoration during a failure.

Convergence of backup and recovery is another trend. While the two tasks used to be treated separately, many of today's disaster recovery (DR) products provide features that have traditionally been found in backup applications, and vice versa.

Converged secondary storage offers capabilities similar to traditional continuous data protection products, but scalability is often easier. Since converged secondary storage vendors commonly use snapshots as part of their overall approach to data protection, it is important that the snapshot mechanism be able to scale as well.

Converged secondary storage vs. hyper-converged secondary storage

Converged secondary storage shares similar qualities with hyper-converged platforms, and vendors sometimes refer to their systems as hyper-converged secondary storage. Hyper-converged infrastructure systems are platforms for running virtual machines, while converged secondary storage products exchange the hypervisor for integrated backup software.

Hyper-converged platforms integrate compute, storage and virtualization in a single box below a hypervisor. While hyper-convergence initially focused on primary storage, data protection in hyper-converged platforms is a growing trend. As it is still a new industry, hyper-converged secondary storage options range from hyper-converged vendors that offer backup and recovery support to data protection and management vendors that support hypervisors.

According to the Taneja Group analyst firm, there are several fundamental requirements for hyper-converged secondary storage:

  • It must be scale-out, and scale as far as needed without performance issues, using a nodal architecture.
  • It has to take care of all secondary workloads, including data protection, archiving, DR, replication, data deduplication, compression, encryption, test and development, and analytics.
  • The ability to index metadata and content, including sophisticated searching.
  • Support for both virtual and physical workloads.
  • Built-in data virtualization principles that allow one data copy to serve many application workloads.
  • Enterprise-grade security that includes encryption for data at rest and in motion, as well as access control.
  • Recovery point objectives that can be measured in seconds and minutes, with instant recovery time objectives.

Issues and benefits

A goal of converged secondary storage is to simplify data protection management. A top benefit of convergence in secondary storage is a decrease in the number of products an organization needs to fulfill several important data protection tasks. As a result, the organization can save money, time and resources. Using multiple products can lead to compatibility issues. Converged products are scalable and typically secure, pre-built and pre-optimized.

There are challenges, though. Organizations seeking convergence need to be careful about vendor lock-in, especially when working in the cloud. Bandwidth availability can be an issue when backing up on-premises data to the cloud. And though a converged product can be cheaper than multiple products, organizations need to keep an eye on cloud storage costs, which can soar over time.

Major vendors and products

The converged secondary storage market is still relatively new, so there are significant differences among the vendors. Some provide purpose-built backup software tightly integrated into a hardware appliance. Some provide a converged product based on off-the-shelf backup software.

Cohesity, founded in 2013 by Mohit Aron, who previously helped found hyper-converged pioneer Nutanix, offers a range of products. Cohesity DataPlatform, which consists of storage hardware and operating software, is a web-scale service platform for secondary storage workloads, including backup, archiving and analytics. It can handle features such as deduplication, compression, encryption and tiering. Cohesity DataPlatform also has a software-only version, as well as a Cloud Edition designed to run on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

Scott Lowe discusses secondary
storage with Cohesity CEO
Mohit Aron.

Rubrik, founded in 2014, is another leader in converged secondary storage. Rubrik Cloud Data Management combines backup, recovery, replication, search, analytics, archiving and copy data management. The platform supports native cloud applications in AWS and Microsoft Azure. The software previously supported AWS and Azure as backup targets. Rubrik Cloud Data Management works across various clouds and on premises on a commodity hardware appliance.

Commvault launched its first scale-out integrated hardware appliance for data protection in 2017 to compete with Rubrik and Cohesity, in addition to traditional backup vendors. Commvault HyperScale is an integrated data protection system with the vendor's software installed and configured.

Actifio started out as a copy data management company, but has expanded to what it calls copy data virtualization, which includes secondary storage uses of data protection and DevOps.

The Asigra Converged Data Protection Appliance includes software and hardware.

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Recovery Manager Central provides converged snapshot, replication and backup services.

This was last updated in December 2017

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