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Democratizing Data Management

Lately, I’ve written a lot about data-management for unstructured data and more in general, about the relationship between data management and secondary storage. While recently attending Storage Field Day 18, I received confirmation on what is coming in the near future for date management technologies. Simplification and democratization of data management will be key for end-user adoption and success.

Data Management, A Sort of Buzz Word

Unfortunately, the term ‘data management’ is becoming a buzz word among vendors, especially when it comes to data protection vendors. Some backup vendors are replacing Data Protection with the term Data Management when describing their services in marketing material. Although it’s becoming their main message, when you ask them to elaborate on the data management aspects they are challenged to articulate how their services align with the terminology.

Yes, there are exceptions. Some vendors have very clear roadmaps. But, as it often happens in this industry, it seems many of vendors are counting their chickens before they’re hatched.

What Does “Democratizing Data Management” Mean?

Despite the vendors still refining their services and messaging, I saw a few exceptions and providers with very clear roadmaps at  SFD18.

The exception is Cohesity. I have long been confident they’re heading in the right direction with their strategy and product, and I have noted the promise of the Cohesity Analytics Workbench; a tool that has a great, but only theoretical, potential. In a new step forward announced at SFD18, Cohesity’s system can now run full-fledged applications, and the analytics workbench will soon become a thing of the past.

As I said, the Analytics Workbench was a great idea but the name of this tool tells the real story. Workbench means a lot of work and this is why, even if it’s exciting, it can’t be broadly adopted. It is powerful, based on Hadoop, but you need to know how to use it and how to write applications. I’m sure it has been used, but the reality is that for the traditional enterprise this is only cool on paper. And finding somebody that can write and maintain a big data application is not at all easy! Especially if there is no direct business return from it.

Standard apps that run on Cohesity’s platform are a totally different thing. Easy to use, deployed and managed transparently by the platform itself and, above all, ready to prove their value in a matter of minutes. The app catalog, or marketplace, doesn’t have many solutions yet, but some of them come from Cohesity partners like Splunk or Imanis Data for example.

Without going into the technical details (videos of the sessions are available also on youtube), let’s say that Cohesity demonstrated how quickly an app can be deployed and used, and all without being a data scientist or a developer. You just take a snapshot, run the app against a copy of your data, get the result, act accordingly. And it can be automated! Think about virus scanning, ransomware protection, log analytics, or advanced DB management (and I’m not using my imagination here because these are already available!).

Now the challenge for Cohesity is to involve more partners and to build a solid ecosystem. I recommended they release all the components to the open source community and try to standardize these apps for all vendors, making the catalog really big… but I know this is pure wishful thinking at the moment.

The idea of giving the average user this kind of power is amazing and NetApp is on the same wavelength, showing a pretty exciting potential roadmap. At SFD18 they presented an interesting solution which allows using standard replication tools (SnapMirror, for those familiar with NetApp’s portfolio) to make copies of data on the cloud. The product is still very immature but the potential is huge. In fact, alongside the standard use cases for remote replication, without needing a second NetApp appliance in this case, there are other possibilities ready to be exploited and leveraged to augment the value of data stored in these systems (and on the cloud).

In short, if you don’t want to watch the video embedded above, they provide a management tool (a GUI  to simplify a bit) that runs on your Amazon account and can use SnapMirror to copy data directly to Amazon AWS and convert it in objects stored in an S3 bucket. Files and metadata are accessible and searchable, but this is only the first step. During the session, they demonstrate a custom application that can access a copy of that data and do operations on it and any enabled user on that platform could do the same. More or less we are talking about a standard S3 bucket, available on Amazon, that you can use as a data set for any application. Unfortunately, as was for Cohesity with its Analytics Workbench, only pre-packaged and easy-to-use applications will unleash the full potential of this solution when it comes to day-to-day data management.

What is the Benefit?

Making data easily accessible and re-usable by a large number of individuals in your organization is the real benefit here. They could run different applications, each one of them for different reasons, and get insights needed to improve productivity, security, privacy and so on.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about a sort of revolution here. We are not there yet of course, but we are finally seeing how data can be effectively reused without having a Ph.D. in computer sciences, being proficient in MapReduce and Java, or any other programming language!

Yes, as I said, we’re not there yet, but neither are we very far from achieving this goal now, and I’m sure that Cohesity and Netapp’s initiatives will soon be followed by others.

Closing the Circle

Cohesity and NetApp are executing their respective strategies superbly. On one side, you have NetApp becoming more and more cloud-ish and more data- than storage-centric while, on the other you have Cohesity pushing aggressively on its secondary storage vision with products and solutions that are absolutely spot on.

In the next weeks, I’ll be spending some time analyzing what went on during their sessions as well as other moments I spent with them recently.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you… so stay tuned!

Originally posted on Juku.it

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