Table of Contents
Cloud and edge computing have changed the way enterprises do IT. To best meet business and user needs, many enterprises are embracing hybrid cloud solutions, with multi-cloud around the corner. Data is now created, stored, and consumed everywhere, on several types of devices concurrently, and at any time of the day. At the same time, machine-generated data is growing dramatically faster than human-generated data. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg: data quantity and diversity are just two of many aspects to consider when evaluating a new data protection solution. Challenges now faced by enterprises include:
- Exponential data growth: Machine-generated data is taking the lion’s share now. Backup and restore processes change accordingly. For example, it is very unlikely that it will be necessary to retrieve single files accidentally deleted.
- Disparate data types: Structured and unstructured data created by traditional applications are now joined by containers and SaaS data, metadata, and blobs. This new complex type of data is usually self-consistent, capable of reproducing the entire applications or recreating the state of a cloud service if necessary.
- Pressing SLAs: Digital transformation initiatives embraced by all organizations transformed every process, and now it is becoming harder and harder to stop any part of the infrastructure or having a long RTO (recovery time objective) or RPO (recovery point objective). Instant and continuous backups, as well as fast recovery speeds, are mandatory for an ever-growing number of applications.
- Data dispersion and consolidation: Data is now created, stored, and consumed on mobile devices, PCs, data centers, and many other places. In order to build effective data protection instrumental in creating a data management strategy, it is necessary to consolidate backup repositories in a single physical or virtual domain.
- New threats: Traditional risks and threats, such as natural disasters or human errors are now joined by cyberattacks like ransomware, which are even more dangerous and harder to detect.
- Regulatory compliance: There is a growing number of demanding regulations (like GDPR or CCPA) that require strong data protection and tools able to search and find information quickly or remove/mask them properly when retrieved, as in the case of the right to be forgotten.
- Data management and reusability: Backups can either be considered a liability or be transformed into an asset for the organization. By indexing data and making it searchable, the data’s real value is revealed, making it reusable for other users or applications across the entire organization.
For these reasons, data protection operations are very difficult and more critical than in the past.
A Key Criteria report analyzes the most important features of a technology category to understand how it impacts an enterprise and its IT organization. Features are grouped into three categories:
- Table Stakes
- Key Criteria
- Critical Features: Impact Analysis
- Near-term game-changing technology
The goal is to help organizations assess capabilities and build a mid-to-long-term infrastructure strategy. In a mature technology, the solutions are divided into three target market categories: enterprise, high-performance, and specialized solutions. In a mature market, these differ in their characteristics and how they can be integrated with existing infrastructures. That said, the assessment is more dependent on the specific user’s needs and not solely on the organization’s vertical.
Table stakes are system characteristics and features that are important when choosing the right solution. They include architectural choices that depend on the size of the organization, their requirements, the expected growth over time, and the types of workloads. Table stakes are mature and the implementation of these features will not add any business advantage nor significantly change the TCO or ROI of the infrastructure.
Key Criteria features really differentiate one solution from another. Depending on real user needs, they have a positive impact on one or more of the metrics mentioned. Therefore, implementation details are essential to understanding the benefits relative to the infrastructure, processes, or business. Following table stakes and key criteria, aspects like architectural design and implementation regain importance and need to be analyzed in great detail. In some cases, the features described in the Key Criteria section are the core solution, and the rest of the system is designed around them. This could be an important benefit for organizations that see them as a real practical advantage, but it also poses some risks in the long term. In fact, over time, the differentiation introduced by a feature becomes less relevant and falls into the “table stakes” group, while new system capabilities introduce new benefits or address new needs, with a positive impact on the metrics like efficiency, manageability, flexibility and so on.
Key Criteria brings several benefits to organizations of all sizes with different business needs. It is organized to give the reader a brief description of the specific functionality or technology, its benefits in general terms, and what to expect from a good implementation. In order to give a complete picture, we also include examples of the most interesting implementation currently available in the market.
Critical Impact of Features on the Metrics
Technology, functionality, and architecture designs that have demonstrated their value are adopted by other vendors, become a standard, and lose their status as a differentiator. Initially, the implementation of these key criteria was crucial for delivering real value, perhaps with some trade-offs. The most important metrics for the evaluation of a technology solution include:
- Manageability and ease of use
- Partner ecosystem
This section provides the impact individual features have on the metrics at the moment of report publication. Each feature is scored from one to five, with a score of five having the most impact on an enterprise. This is not absolute and should always be verified with the organization’s requirements and use case. Strategic decisions can then be based on the impact each metric can have on the infrastructure, system management, and IT processes already in place with particular emphasis on ROI and TCO.
Near-term Game-changing Technology
In this report section, we analyze the most interesting technologies on the horizon over the next 12 to 18 months. Some are already present in some form but usually as part of niche products or for addressing very specific use cases. In either case, at this stage, the implementations available are not mature enough to be grouped in key criteria. Yet when implemented correctly and efficiently, this technology can really make a difference to the metrics.
Over time, game-changing features become key criteria, and the cycle repeats. Therefore, to get the best ROI, it is important to check what vendors are offering today and what they plan to release in the near future.