Clearing Up Your Cloud (y) Crystal Ball

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A colleague of mine recently mentioned that an increasing number of her conversations with customers included discussions on how to optimize and increase the efficiency of their data protection environments.  I faked a yawn since we engage in these conversations every day, but she wasn’t done with her story.

In this case, their concerns included the growing diversity of data protection options, along with multi-site and multi-user solutions, their growing interest in cloud models and the number of stakeholders.  As her backstory neared the end, she asked me the question I now expected:  where did I think MANAGEMENT of data protection is going.  I thought this was a great question.

If we look at what’s been occurring in the industry, the first thing we see is that crucial IT workloads are rapidly shifting from on-premise to cloud-based.  Increasingly, this equates to a hybrid cloud model including private cloud and on-premise components, along with a public cloud component.  We love this model:  Greater flexibility; More IT deployment options;  And, hopefully, lower costs.ThinkstockPhotos-467248618

With cloud IT environments we’re talking about cloud-based services, and orchestration between the private and public components.  Existing best-of-breed data protection management solutions support diverse, heterogeneous on-premise and private cloud environments, and offer role-based access for multiple users, though the IT Administrator is often the power user.  However, effectively managing hybrid cloud-based services requires taking management to the next level.    

Today’s real-time businesses require real-time visibility into operational status.  This insight can be leveraged to optimize infrastructure, and automate standard processes.  We have that today, again, for on-premise and private cloud.   But, what if you had the ability to combine on-premise and hybrid cloud prediction models?  Or access to benchmark analyses?  What about anomaly detection?

These capabilities can provide the insight and intelligence we need into the increasing speed of change of IT environments.  The technical details an administrator needs to do their job won’t help marketing or human resources, and a general service level attainment status report offers little value to someone responsible for guaranteeing the service levels.

So the question becomes, without a magic wand and a crystal ball, how can IT administrators AND stakeholders predict and plan for the future of their respective businesses? ThinkstockPhotos-487540571

Luckily, access to and use of cloud IT opens the door for a WIDE RANGE OF STAKEHOLDERS to view and manage IT environment health, status, service levels, recoverability, etc.  The reason?  In a cloud model, any number of organization divisions, departments, and even individuals may be paying for specific IT capabilities.  In return for payment for consumption-based services, they expect THEIR data to be protected wherever it is and whatever happens.  The process of actually protecting the data behind the scenes is straightforward.  Greater value comes from the ability to analyze and gain insight from the data that’s most important to YOU.

Yes, that’s right.  It’s all about YOU, and YOUR role, and YOUR needs.  It’s about your persona and providing a personalized (read: customized) experience to help YOU do YOUR job better, easier, faster, smarter, etc.

This doesn’t have to be a huge technical leap for IT vendors either.  The services engine behind the data protection solution, including configuration, operations, policy management, audit, analytics, reporting and so on, can be a single entity.  And it doesn’t matter to the user in any case.  It’s the interface and management controls that are important.  Just make the UI available from anywhere, anytime and provide a common, self-service experience for all stakeholders.
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Is this a reasonable expectation for a data protection management solution?  You bet it is!

My wife works in the mental health medical field.  As with all healthcare facilities, her company works with a wide variety of patients’ personal information, which must be properly protected based on HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines.  As a power user of their Electronic Health Records (EHR) software, she has the ability to set up new clinician access, run audit reports, build policies, etc.  Her employees have the ability to adjust their individual schedules, check patient records they’ve entered, know the best time to run reports, and so on in a more limited capacity.  In both cases, my wife and her employees don’t really care HOW the patient data is protected and backed up and is guaranteed to be recoverable if an incident were to occur.  They just care that it IS PROTECTED.  Their respective portals offer management controls based on their role.  But in all cases they have access to the information they need, whenever they need it, and wherever they are.

Cal-Israel Credit Cards Ltd offers another example of personalized management of data protection services.  In this case, every stakeholder, from their managers to their systems administrators, as Re’em Hazan, Data Protection and DRP Manager for Cal-Israel says, “gets exactly, and only, what he or she needs”.  For a deeper dive, watch how to create data protection services so stakeholders can manage service levels.

So, is everything associated with management of data protection services completely unified and “persona-fied” across on-premise, private and hybrid clouds?  No.  Not yet.  But we’re getting closer.

In any case, the colleague that asked for my thoughts about the future of data protection management was satisfied with my answer.  For now, anyway.  She went away with two thoughts as we shift toward the cloud:  management will become increasingly unified and simplified.  I’ll tell her about the automation component the next time she asks.

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