In early June, Actifio hosted its two-day Data Driven event in Miami Beach for customers, partners and selected analysts that included the Evaluator Group. The event drew approximately 450 end users from a variety of industry segments. Partners included Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and IBM.
What was notable about this event that differentiated it from other vendor-sponsored events we’ve attended in the past was its customer and partner-centric orientation. All the keynotes, panels and technical sessions featured customers and partners. The message: An event for customers should be led by customers. The typical chest-thumping, “we’re the greatest” spectacles weren’t on display. Nor did this event feature major new product announcements. Rather, Data Driven was all about enterprise data management and Actifio use cases as seen from customers’ perspectives.
To see the progression of Actifio from start-up in 2010 to a customer base of 2,700 today, it is important to understand its core data management technology. The Actifio “engine” establishes a block storage-based “golden image” of data from which users can generate copies (see Figure 1 below). Copies are virtual rather than physical. By using virtualized copies for data protection and development/test for example, storage administrators using Actifio significantly reduce the amount of physical storage they would otherwise have to administer and pay for. Fifty percent reductions in managed enterprise storage capacity are common. In addition to data protection, customers have extended Actifio’s virtualized data copy technology into archival, analytics and cloud storage use cases.
We traditionally see that, when customers adopt a core storage technology that works, they find varied and creative ways to use it to solve problems in production environments. During the event, we interviewed a few customers in this regard. For example:
A large insurance provider generated database dumps for use by their application development and testing teams. The process could take weeks. Using Actifio, they now generate copies of a database on demand for use on premises and in their public cloud environment.
An energy services firm now provides analytics to their electric energy customers as a new service. Previously, these customers would have had to use and manage their own cloud services for this application. This new revenue-generating service was built on Actifio and came as a result of using the platform for data protection and cloud-based data consolidation.
The event drove home the point that the Actifio engine is now being used in creative and perhaps unexpected ways by its imaginative users who see its core technology as a problems solver and business enabler.
For Actifio, bringing a differentiated approach to enterprise backup and recovery operations vs the well-known, purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA) vendors was a starting point. A next logical step was to bridge on premises backup to the cloud and then expand the usability of the connection to hybrid cloud data archiving, DevOps and elastic application scaling, and analytics.
Our primary research into public cloud use cases shows a similar pattern going on with enterprise storage users who commonly build a “data bridge” between on premises IT and public cloud storage – AWS S3 being the most common public cloud storage destination – as a starting point to hybrid cloud instantiation. The initial use case for the data bridge is commonly the enhancement of existing data protection and disaster recovery processes. Once established and understood, users then typically layer other use cases on top of the data bridge such as DevOps, application migration and AI. Actifio will walk these pathways along with their customers.
We also see that Actifio anticipates the addition of services applied to data once in the cloud. While enterprise users are fast becoming more sophisticated with regard to hybrid cloud-based technologies such as multi-site replication and performance enhancement, they approach automating hybrid cloud storage processes more cautiously. This is an area Actifio believes it can add value. Actifio will also help users simplify the exposure of Actifio-managed data to public cloud-based data services.
The major cloud services providers (CSPs – AWS, Microsoft Azure, google Cloud Platform) often make the point to prospective enterprise users that that they can scale infrastructure and associated services at speed and scale that would be difficult if not impossible for even large enterprise IT organizations to match. But scaling infrastructure is only part of the challenge faced by enterprise IT today. Along with that must come the ability to scale one’s ability to protect and manage data. We consistently see enterprise cloud teams categorizing their approaches to public cloud usage. AWS storage services are most often used to enhance and expand data protection and disaster recovery operations while Microsoft Azure is a common destination for Office 365. Both are used side by side. Hybrid clouds are now multi-cloud environments. Enterprise data is increasingly distributed across multi-cloud architectures. It is the ability of each enterprise IT organization to secure, protect and manage this increasingly fractured data environment. Actifio’s enterprise customers have an opportunity to use its core technologies to scale the consolidated data environment in ways that no single CSP can currently offer.