The requirements around Data Protection are changing and companies like Commvault are evolving to meet the needs of customers in an increasingly hybrid, multi-cloud IT environment. Commvault held its annual customer event November 6-8 in Washington D.C. and unveiled a number of initiatives and partnerships around their evolution to a Data Management company. Over 2,000 attendees had access to 150 presentations from Commvault employees, customers, solution and channel partners and industry experts. Top themes and key takeaways from the event are summarized in this Industry Update.
A key message from several Commvault executives is that the company is evolving from a Data Protection company to a Data Management company, or in one executive’s words a “Data Company.” The objective is to help customers determine what data they have, the value of that data and how to get the most out of it. In addition to products and solutions, Commvault is developing best practices for data management, building a team of data experts and offering managed services to assist customers together with Commvault ecosystem partners.
Data analytics are driving the shift to a data-centric view of IT. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving enterprise business decisions based on data. The Data Platform at the core of the Commvault suite is designed to deliver the integrated capabilities – enhanced index, built-in analytics, data portability, deduplication – that allow customers to know what data they have, where it is, who owns it and who has access to it. On top of this information sits a workflow-based UI that was developed with Commvault, its partners and customers, and designed to provide a consolidated data protection and data management experience.
Not only are hybrid IT environments the new reality, it is understood that there will be multiple cloud vendors within each IT environment. Commvault partnerships with leading cloud providers have been in the news recently and many were highlighted at the GO event, including keynotes from Google Cloud executive Adam Massey on their new partnership with Commvault and Cisco executive Cynthia Johnson on the reality of multi-cloud environments.
Governance and compliance are high priorities for many companies worldwide. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the latest and was the subject of multiple presentations due to its impending deadline and stiff fines for noncompliance. Commvault’s GDPR Compliance Analyzer leverages the analytical capabilities of the Data Platform to identify and manage data privacy risks, locating Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in file systems and on end user systems.
One message heard throughout the event is that Cyber Attacks are a matter of when, not if in today’s IT environment. Cybercrime was identified as the number 2 issue Commvault customers now face. Commvault estimates it costs $3M-$7M to fix a ransom attack if a company is not prepared to deal with the implications. Multiple presentations from Commvault and their ecosystem partners highlighted solutions to mitigate cybercrime, including ransomware for both servers and endpoints.
Commvault HyperScale combines a scale-out, clustered architecture with Commvault’s enterprise backup and recovery software to create a turnkey solution for data protection and secondary storage. The HyperScale software stack includes Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Virtualization and Red Hat Gluster FS, plus Windows Server 2016 running on a VM to support the Commvault software. It’s available as a Commvault-branded hardware appliance, as a software solution that can be deployed as a reference architecture on certified server platforms from Dell EMC, HPE and others, or as an appliance solution from Cisco, called ScaleProtect.
Commvault’s HyperScale appliance consists of the HyperScale software stack installed on 1U x86 server nodes (manufactured by Fujitsu), with four hard drives and two SSDs, an 800GB SAS SSD for the operating system and a 2TB NVMe flash drive for the dedupe database.
Clusters start with 3 nodes and scale by adding groups of 3 more nodes. HyperScale runs a 4+2 erasure coding scheme (using Gluster FS) across all 12 drives in each 3-node cluster, so it can sustain the loss of two drives or a single node without losing data.
The hardware appliance solution is designed for SMB and mid-market companies, for the most part, providing the many of the same benefits that HCIs did for the server virtualization market. Commvault is selling HyperScale on a subscription basis only. After three years customers can get a hardware refresh at no additional cost. Commvault expects the reference architecture, or the ScaleProtect solution, to be more appealing for larger companies.
In addition to the reference architecture, Cisco also sells a turnkey HyperScale appliance that runs on UCS servers. The 2U C240 M5 rack server supports 12 drives and the 4U S3260 storage server supports 48 drives. In 3-node clusters with 10TB HDDs, these two ScaleProtect models provide roughly 250TB or 1PB of usable storage capacity.
Commvault is well positioned to help their customers become what they are calling “data custodians”, not just data protectors, with an established ecosystem of products and partners to achieve their goals. Much of the current and future capabilities depend on the core functionality of Commvault’s Data Platform and Evaluator Group is looking to understand its architecture and roadmap in more detail.
Event attendees seemed pleased with their Commvault solutions both from the use cases presented and through informal conversations with Evaluator Group during the event. Multiple customers had personal examples relating to CEO Bob Hammer’s comment that Commvault development teams have addressed over 1500 customer requests since last year’s GO conference.
Some potential customers still view Commvault as primarily a backup solution. And for many, the new data management messaging may be difficult to absorb, especially when they’re focused on basic data protection challenges. This is where the HyperScale solutions may be a fit.
Hyperconverged infrastructures (HCIs) have enjoyed fairly widespread adoption, especially in the SMB and mid-market. It’s logical to assume these same companies would be interested in applying the benefits of scale-out and software-defined technologies to data protection and improved data management. HyperScale provides this in an enterprise solution from an established vendor. And, those in Commvault’s installed base can add HyperScale when the hardware refresh cycle is up.
HyperScale may also be an attractive solution to backup storage appliances like Data Domain, one that provides source-side deduplication to reduce network traffic and WAN bandwidth. On the other hand, this may be as appealing to companies looking for a data protection solution that’s less complex or one that’s written for a virtual server environment.
Selling a hardware solution does run counter to Commvault’s long-standing claim of being hardware agnostic and puts them into more direct competition with their traditional partners. However, the decision to offer HyperScale as a software only solution and to line up multiple OEMs should alleviate some of this friction.
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