With ExaGrid’s Tiered Backup Storage, each appliance in the system brings with it not only disk, but also memory, bandwidth, and processing power – all the elements needed to maintain high backup performance.
ExaGrid understands that both backup and restore performance are crucial to backups, but that long-term storage costs for longer retention is crucial as well. Data deduplication is required, but how you implement it changes everything in backup.
Data deduplication reduces the amount of storage required and also the amount of bandwidth for replication; however, if not implemented correctly, it will dramatically slow down backups, slow down restores and VM boots, and the backup window will grow as data grows. This is due to the fact that data deduplication is highly compute intensive; you don’t want to perform deduplication during the backup window and you also don’t want to restore or boot from a pool of deduplicated data.
ExaGrid’s Tiered Backup Storage provides the fastest backup and restore performance with a disk-cache Landing Zone. In addition, ExaGrid provides a tiered long-term retention deduplicated data repository with the best level of data deduplication.
The combination of a disk-cache Landing Zone tiered to a long-term retention repository with deduplicated data provides 6X the backup performance and up to 20X the restore and VM boot performance over traditional inline deduplication appliances. ExaGrid’s Tiered Backup Storage with a disk-cache Landing Zone lands backups straight to disk without any inline deduplication processing. Backups are fast and the backup window is short. Deduplication and offsite replication occur in parallel with the backups and never impede the backup process as they are always second order priority. ExaGrid calls this “Adaptive Deduplication.”
Since backups write directly to the Landing Zone, the most recent backups are in their full, undeduplicated form ready for any request. Local restores, instant VM recoveries, audit copies, tape copies, and all other requests do not require rehydration and are as fast as disk. As an example, instant VM recoveries occur in seconds to minutes versus hours for the inline deduplication approaches that store only deduplicated data that has to be rehydrated for every request.
ExaGrid provides full appliances (processor, memory, bandwidth, and disk) in a scale-out system. As data grows, all resources are added, including additional Landing Zone, additional bandwidth, processor, and memory as well as disk capacity. The backup window stays fixed in length regardless of data growth, which eliminates expensive forklift upgrades. Unlike the inline, scale-up approach where you need to guess at which sized front-end controller is required, the ExaGrid approach allows you to simply pay as you grow by adding the appropriately sized appliances as your data grows. ExaGrid has various-sized appliance models, and any size or age appliance can be mixed and matched in a single system, which allows IT departments to buy compute and capacity as they need it. This evergreen approach also eliminates product obsolescence.
ExaGrid offers a series of various-sized backup storage appliance models that can be mixed and matched in a scale-out secondary storage for backup system.
Any size or age appliance can co-exist in the same system and can scale from a 6TB full backup to a 2.69PB full backup in a single system. The system is flexible since the proper size appliances can be added as data grows. This eliminates the need for up-front planning and allows customers to expand the ExaGrid system as their data grows.
The unique disk-cache Landing Zone allows for the fastest backups and the fastest restores, recoveries, and tape copies.
The unique scale-out approach, which includes full appliances in a scale-out system is the only solution that provides a fixed-length backup window regardless of data growth, negating the need for expensive forklift upgrades.
The ExaGrid Tiered Backup Storage system allows for replication to a second site for disaster recovery as well as the ability to allow multiple data centers to cross-protect between each other.
The ExaGrid approach allows you to simply pay as you grow by adding the appropriate sized appliances as data volumes increase. Any size appliance or any age appliance can be mixed and matched in a single system, which allows IT departments to buy compute and capacity as they need it. This evergreen approach also eliminates product obsolescence.
All appliances are managed by a single user interface.
ExaGrid looked at the first generation, traditional inline approaches to data deduplication and saw that all vendors had used block-level deduplication. This traditional method splits data into 4KB to 10KB groups of bytes called “blocks.”
The backup software, due to CPU limitations, uses 64KB to 128KB fixed-length blocks. The challenge is that for every 10TB of backup data, the tracking table – or “hash table” – is one billion blocks. The hash table grows so large that it needs to be housed in a single front-end controller with additional disk shelves, an approach referred to as “scale-up.” As a result, only capacity is added as data grows and since no additional bandwidth or processing resources are added, the backup window grows in length as data volumes increase. At some point, the backup window becomes too long and a new front-end controller is required, known as a “forklift upgrade.” This is disruptive and expensive.
ExaGrid also saw approaches that used byte-level deduplication. Although this method allows for system scalability, known as “scale-out,” it requires an understanding of the format of every backup application, which limits the list of supported backup applications.
An alternative approach is to use hyper-converged scale-out nodes with block-level deduplication. However, this approach is still burdened with the large hash table look-ups and, therefore, requires expensive flash storage to increase performance, which increases the price of the hardware.
ExaGrid has taken a more innovative path. ExaGrid uses zone-level deduplication, which breaks data into larger “zones” and then compares at the byte level. This approach allows for the best of all worlds. First, the tracking table is 1,000th the size of the block-level approach and allows for full appliances in a scale-out solution. As data grows, all resources are added: processor, memory, and bandwidth as well as disk. If data doubles, triples, quadruples, etc., then ExaGrid doubles, triples, and quadruples the processor, memory, bandwidth, and disk so that as data grows, the backup window stays at a fixed length. Second, the zone approach is backup application agnostic, allowing ExaGrid to support virtually any backup application. Lastly, ExaGrid’s approach does not maintain a very large, ever-growing hash table and, therefore, avoids the need for expensive flash to accelerate hash table look-ups. ExaGrid’s approach keeps the cost of the hardware low.
In summary, block-level deduplication drives a scale-up architecture that only adds disk as data grows, or with a scale-out node approach requires expensive flash storage to perform large hash table look-ups. Both approaches slow down backups and/or increase cost. ExaGrid’s zone-level deduplication includes full server appliances in a scale-out hyper-converged solution without large hash table look-ups, which results in the fastest backup and restore performance at the lowest price. ExaGrid’s approach also supports a wide range of backup application support. This zone-level approach provides the best of all worlds: ExaGrid can work with any backup application and can easily scale, resulting in a fixed-length backup window regardless of data growth.
ExaGrid continues to innovate to fix backup…forever!
Ransomware attacks are on the rise, becoming disruptive and potentially very costly to businesses. No matter how meticulously an organization follows best practices to protect valuable data, the attackers seem to stay one step ahead. They maliciously encrypt primary data, take control of the backup application and delete the backup data.
Protection from ransomware is a primary concern for organizations today. ExaGrid offers a unique approach to ensure that attackers cannot compromise the backup data, allowing organizations to be confident that they can restore the affected primary storage and avoid paying ugly ransoms.
The challenge is how to protect the backup data from being deleted while at the same time allowing for backup retention to be purged when retention points are hit. If you retention lock all of the data, you cannot delete the retention points and the storage costs become untenable. If you allow retention points to be deleted to save storage, you leave the system open for hackers to delete all data. ExaGrid’s unique approach is called Retention Time-Lock. It prevents the hackers from deleting the backups and allows for retention points to be purged. The result is a strong data protection and recovery solution at a very low additional cost of ExaGrid storage.
ExaGrid is Tiered Backup Storage with a front-end disk-cache Landing Zone and separate Retention Tier containing all retention data. Backups are written directly to the “network-facing” ExaGrid disk-cache Landing Zone for fast backup performance. The most recent backups are kept in their full undeduplicated form for fast restores.
Once the data is committed to the Landing Zone, it is tiered into a “non-network-facing” long-term retention repository where the data is adaptively deduplicated and stored as deduplicated data objects to reduce the storage costs of long-term retention data. As data is tiered to the Retention Tier, it is deduplicated and stored in a series of objects and metadata. As with other object storage systems, the ExaGrid system objects and metadata are never changed or modified which makes them immutable, allowing only for the creation of new objects or deletion of old objects when retention is reached. The backups in the retention tier can be any number of days, weeks, months, or years that is required. There are no limits to the number versions or length of time backups can be kept. Many organizations keep 12 weeklies, 36 monthlies, and 7 yearlies, or even sometimes, retention” forever”.
ExaGrid’s Retention Time-Lock for Ransomware Recovery is in addition to the long term-retention of backup data and utilizes 3 distinct functions:
ExaGrid’s approach to ransomware allows organizations to set up a time lock period that delays the processing of any delete requests in the Retention Tier as that tier is not network facing and not accessible to hackers. The combination of a non-network facing tier, a delayed deletion for a period of time and immutable objects that cannot be changed or modified are the elements of the ExaGrid Retention Time-Lock solution. For example, if the time lock period for the Retention Tier is set to 10 days, then when delete requests are sent to the ExaGrid from a backup application that has been compromised, or from a hacked CIFS, or other communications protocols, the entire long-term retention data (weeks/months/years) is all intact. This provides organizations days and week to identify that they have an issue and restore.
Data is time-locked for up to 30 days against any deletion. This is separate and distinct from the long-term retention storage that could be kept for years. The data in the Landing Zone will be deleted or encrypted, however, the Retention Tier data is not deleted upon an external request for the configured period of time – it is time-locked for up to 30 days against any deletion. When a ransomware attack is identified, simply put the ExaGrid system into a new recover mode and then restore any and all backup data to primary storage.
The solution provides a retention lock, but only for an adjustable period of time as it delays the deletes. ExaGrid chose not to implement Retention Time-Lock forever because the cost of the storage would be unmanageable. With the ExaGrid approach, all that is needed is up to an additional 10% more repository storage to hold the delay for the deletes. ExaGrid allows the delay of deletes from 1 day to 30 days.
Data is deleted in the ExaGrid disk-cache Landing Zone via the backup application or by hacking the communication protocol. Since the Retention Tier data has a delayed delete time lock, the objects are still intact and available to restore. When the ransomware event is detected, simply put the ExaGrid in a new recover mode and restore. You have as much time to detect the ransomware attack as the time lock was set for on the ExaGrid. If you had the time lock set for 10 days, then you have 10 days to detect the ransomware attack (during which time all backup retention is protected) to put the ExaGrid system in the new recover mode for restoring data.
Data is encrypted in the ExaGrid Disk-cache Landing Zone or is encrypted on the primary storage and backed up to ExaGrid such that ExaGrid has encrypted data in the Landing Zone and deduplicates it into the Retention Tier. The data in the Landing Zone is encrypted. However, all previously deduplicated data objects never change (immutable), so they are never impacted by the newly arrived encrypted data. ExaGrid has all previous backups before the ransomware attack that can be restored immediately. In addition to being able to recover from the most recent deduplicated backup, the system still retains all the backup data according to the retention requirements.