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A fresh take on backup schedule strategy

By AiRE IntelligentFiler, STORViX

Every sysadmin knows that the classic way to set up a backup strategy is to schedule different types of copies (e.g. full, incremental differential) at specific times of the day, week and month. The purpose of this is to create a regular loop of daily, weekly and monthly backups according to the desired RPO and RTO and depending on the criticality and the time required to produce a copy of the data.

This is okay, but we believe that a much more dynamic and efficient approach could better meet modern backup needs. AiRE changes the point of view from a calendar-oriented strategy to a vision always starting from now. Starting from now allows you to set different backup frequencies for the last few hours, or minutes, rather than for 10-year old data or older.

In this scenario, we must stop referring to backup copies as “the last full”, “the month of July” or “Friday the 2nd”. Instead, we should think in terms of “the one from 10 minutes ago”, “the one 7 hours ago”, “the one 3 months ago”, and so on. All the copies are always from the perspective of “now”, and “the one 7 hours ago” changes every hour, so you don’t need to think about what time and date it was taken.

How is this possible?

The AiRE file system allows you to take instant snapshots of a file system. This snapshot needs no time to be taken – the snapshot is immediate, and the data is always in a consistent state within it. It’s always possible to copy snapshots in an incremental manner because each snapshot is always consistent and no consolidation is necessary as in a VMWare environment. Because each snapshot is always absolutely independent, you can delete any snapshot in the sequence without invalidating the remaining ones. Additionally, each snapshot that you keep only allocates storage space in the differential share of the data between it and any other snapshot of the same file system.

This feature is leveraged by AiRE IntelligentFiler’s Data Protection Engine (DPE) to implement a tier system in which you can define different tier periods, each with its own retention number. This allows you to decide how long each tier will last and the backup retention frequency within each tier.

For example, you may want to protect yourself from threats such as ransomware by setting up a tier for the last 4 hours in which you create one snapshot every 5 minutes (equal to 12 snapshots/hour), then a subsequent tier of 20 hours in which you retain only one snapshot every hour. This way, you’ll always have the ability to rollback your data to five, ten, fifteen minutes and so on up to 240 minutes ago, and then to 300, 360, 420 minutes and so on up to 24 hours ago.

In addition, you can define a third daily and a fourth weekly tier to round out your regular backup strategy. For example, you could retain one snapshot a day for 27 days, plus the 28th day made by the first two tiers, resulting in exactly four weeks, about one month. Then you could make one snapshot a week for 48 weeks, plus the four more weeks made by the first three tiers, resulting in about one year.

Finally, you can define a final long-term retention tier of one snapshot a year for the number of years you are interested in keeping your historical data (e.g. 15 years).

The image below shows how to set up this tier strategy in the AiRE graphical interface.

You can also copy snapshots to a backup target, even a remote target, or clone them on another file system. No matter how long they take to copy, the snapshots will never be modified after being taken, so you have all the time in the world to copy them while users continue working on the file system. In any case, there are several copy techniques to save time, including various levels of data compression and deduplication.

After completing the copy of the first snapshot, you can keep it updated with subsequent snapshots using differential copies. This ensures that the process will only copy the data effectively modified since the previous snapshot, saving a great amount of bandwidth and time.

For replicated data, the AiRE Data Protection Engine interface lets you choose either the same or a different tier and retention strategy than the one applied to the original data. For instance, you don’t need to keep as many recent snapshots as defined in tiers 0 and 1 shown above to avoid ransomware attacks: this is applied only to the live original data. On the other hand, it could be necessary to keep the historical data of the last tier for a longer range of time, or we would want to retain only monthly copies instead of the weekly ones, and so on.

Based on our experience, we strongly believe that this new approach is far better than the traditional one, especially once you become familiar with the principles underlying its operations. It has the potential to save on storage utilization and bandwidth while helping you keep just the right snapshots to ensure business continuity and protect you from ransomware. 

We are so convinced that this is the best way to go that we decided to implement it despite the initial difficulty the user could experience in understanding it. What do you think?

All the best,

Luca

The anatomy of the product stack

By AiRE IntelligentFiler, STORViX

When we talk to our customers and partners, we always seek to help them grasp why and how AiRE IntelligentFiler uses its software collection.

After many phone calls, presentations and meetings, one day, we came across the expression “the anatomy of our product stack”. We think this gets across perfectly what we want to communicate when presenting our product.

Welcome to AiRE IntelligentFiler 101 – The anatomy of the product stack.

AiRE IntelligentFiler is a complete and integrated system where both hardware and software have been designed and engineered for a specific unique purpose. Simply and generically, we can define it as a computer data storage server or, as we call it more generally, a filer.

For more clarity, here is a brief definition of the term filer: “A storage filer is a file server designed and programmed for high-volume data storage, backup, and archiving. Storage filers are also known as network attached storage (NAS) filers, storage file servers, or storage area network (SAN) filers.”

AiRE IntelligentFiler natively integrates concurrent support for both types of storage (NAS and SAN) in a single unified system.

AiRE’s role is almost like the heart of any IntelligentFiler, and regardless of the hardware configuration or the type of data service configured, it will provide the same user experience across the entire product line. AiRE has been designed as two major subsystems: 

  1. CORE, an enhanced UNIX kernel 
  2. OE, a next-generation runtime operating environment with a power user-oriented CLI and a modern sleek UI.

One of the things that makes AiRE IntelligentFiler unique is that it is cloud-connected. Among other operations, AiRE is the entity responsible for establishing and maintaining the uplink communication with its brain, CloudSight.

CloudSight is a part of our software stack running in the cloud and is responsible for collecting and processing behaviour data of each filer’s dataset provisioned from AiRE. CloudSight has a collection of software engines performing various types of analysis aiming to extract relevant information that helps the system improve specific configuration points.

CloudSight is one of the building blocks of Merlin, our Unified Operations Center software, which is directly available online for all our customers and partners under the name MY STORViX web portal.

Last but not least is SmartCARE, our chef’s secret sauce. SmartCARE is our innovative customer care program. The SmartCARE software interacts with CloudSight and AiRE IntelligentFiler to deliver proactive remote assistance. 

SmartCARE is always backed by a team of specialists that monitor operations and proactively provide assistance when needed as configuration specialists, problem solvers or even trusted co-pilots for remote management operations.

Stay tuned for part two where we will deep dive into AiRE building block features.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about our products and would love to receive any questions or suggestions you might have.

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change

By AiRE IntelligentFiler, STORViX

It’s no secret that great products are the ones you fall in love with.

We simply believe that you should love what you do, because passion is what shapes true innovation.

As a team of truly passionate craftsman, we have worked hard to ensure that our love of storage arrays will shine through all of our products.

STORViX’s aim is to radically change how companies approach data storage management in the new IT era. Our goal is to develop the path to a truly cognitive storage array that will make a real difference in addressing the challenges that this new era will bring.

We believe it is time for a breakthrough in computer data storage where artificial intelligence transparently assists and takes control over critical operations. This would allow IT to stay focused on what really matters in their everyday business operations instead of spending precious time on tedious and repetitive system administration tasks. 

The question is not what AI is – it’s how AI will help us achieve more with less. This is exactly what basically all companies are challenged to do in order to survive and prosper in the new IT era.

To fulfill our vision, we started brainstorming what a new kind of storage array would be like in the next IT era. After intense engineering efforts from a spectacular team of passionate people, we are bringing to life our product, AiRE IntelligentFiler.

As every form of intelligence has a heart and a brain in nature, IntelligentFiler has AiRE and CloudSight, its perfect companions. The heart, AiRE, is an AI-driven operating environment. The brain, CloudSight, is a cloud-connected processing engine designed for analytics and unified management.

In a rapidly changing environment where every resource should be efficient, there is no more time to waste. Especially with the increasing demands of the new IT era to ensure consolidation in terms of both energy impact and resource optimization, immediate response times and fast configuration. Therefore, it is clear that having an intelligent solution that can adapt to change will make all the difference. 

AiRE IntelligentFiler is designed to be the perfect companion with which to face the challenges of the new IT era. 

We would like to thank all of our customers and partners that have joined in the effort to fulfill our vision. The path to innovation is a long journey. Let’s keep advancing together. 

 

All the best,

Luca