We live in a time when customers expect services to be delivered non-stop, without interruption, 24x7x365. Need proof? Just look at the outrage this week stemming from RIM's 3+ day BlackBerry service/outage impairment. Yes, this was an unusually long and widespread disruption, but it seems like every week there is a new example of a service disruption whipping social networks and blogs into a frenzy, whether it's Bank of America, Target, or Amazon. I'm not criticizing those who use social media outlets to voice their dissatisfaction over service levels (I've even taken part in it, complaining on Twitter about Netflix streaming being down on a Friday night when I wanted to stream a movie), but pointing out that now more than ever infrastructure and operations professionals need to rethink how they deliver services to both their internal and external customers.
A recent RFP for consulting services regarding strategic platforms for SAP from a major European company which included, among other things, a request for historical and forecast data for all the relevant platforms broken down by region and a couple of other factors, got me thinking about the whole subject of the use and abuse of market share histories and forecasts.
The merry crew of I&O elves here at Forrester do a lot of consulting for companies all over the world on major strategic technology platform decisions – management software, DR and HA, server platforms for major applications, OS and data center migrations, etc. As you can imagine, these are serious decisions for the client companies, and we always approach these projects with an awareness of the fact that real people will make real decisions and spend real money based on our recommendations.
The client companies themselves usually approach these as serious diligences, and usually have very specific items they want us to consider, almost always very much centered on things that matter to them and are germane to their decision.
The one exception is market share history and forecasts for the relevant vendors under consideration. For some reason, some companies (my probably not statistically defensible impression is that it is primarily European and Japanese companies) think that there is some magic implied by these numbers. As you can probably guess from this elaborate lead-in, I have a very different take on their utility.
I've got backup on the brain. I guess this isn't an unusual occurrence for me, but it's also been bolstered by a week at Symantec Vision, a week at EMC World, as well as backup announcements about IBM's data protection hardware and CommVault's PC backup enhancements not to mention the flurry of cloud backup news this week from Trend Micro, CA Technologies, and Carbonite. All of this has gotten me thinking about the future of backup... we've come a long way from simple agent-based backup and recovery. Backup is just one piece in an ever-increasingly complicated puzzle we call continuity. If backup software vendors want to stay relevant they're going to need to offer a lot more than just backup in their "data protection" suites.
Over the past several months, I've been receiving a lot of questions about replication for continuity and recovery. One thing I've noticed, however, is that there is a lot of confusion around replication and its uses. To combat this, my colleague Stephanie Balaouras and I recently put out a research report called "The Past, Present, And Future Of Replication" where we outlined the different types of replication and their use cases. In addition to that, I thought it would be good to get some of the misconceptions about replication cleared up:
Myth: Replication is the same as high availability Reality: Replication can help to enable high availability and disaster recovery, but it is not a solution in and of itself. In the case of an outage, simply having another copy of the data at an alternate site isn't going to help if you don't have a failover strategy or solution. Some host-based replication products come with integrated failover and failback capabilities.
Myth: Replication is too expensive Reality: It's true that traditionally array-based replication has been expensive due to the fact that it requires like-to-like storage and additional licensing fees. However, two factors have mitigated this expense: 1) several storage vendors are no longer charging an extra licensing fee for replication; and 2) there are several alternatives to array-based replication that allow you to use heterogeneous storage and come at a significantly lower acquisition cost. Replication products fall into one of four categories (roughly from most to least expensive):