The ‘Journey to Redefine’ Hinges on Metadata

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EMC World 2014 marks the beginning of a new journey to redefine business with IT, and at the heart of this redefinition is metadata… yes, you read it right… metadata.

Metadata — the information about your infrastructure, applications and content — will enable IT to unlock the intelligence that connects IT to the business.

By collecting, analyzing, and taking action on the metadata, IT will enable hybrid cloud mobility, analytics-driven automation, and public cloud data management. This is huge not only for your business but also for your data protection teams who are uniquely positioned to be the masters of the metadata, which will connect them to the business in ways they’ve likely never imagined.

In our EMC World keynote session, Guy and I chatted about the waves of the “redefinition” journey and customers Sub-Zero Group, Wells Fargo, and Nielsen joined me on stage (in a very informal Q&A setting) to share how they’re riding these waves to better their businesses.

These three companies are at very different stages of their journeys, but for each, how they leverage metadata will be key to their future… Let me explain.

Connecting IT to the Business

Metadata is the future of data protection. Metadata enables people to connect user information through the core applications to the infrastructure.

There are three categories of metadata:

  • Infrastructure metadata. Each element of the infrastructure generates vast amounts of data describing their status and behavior.
  • Application metadata. Data generated by applications describing their state and relationship to other applications.
  • Content metadata. User content is accompanied by information like the data owner, those who have permission to access data, and keyword tags about the data.

Together, the three types of metadata enable three key new workflows: hybrid cloud mobility, analytics-driven automation, and cloud-centric data management.

Hybrid Cloud Mobility

IT needs to put right data in the right place to run the business.

You may need applications to run on different locations in your private cloud or public cloud. That mobility may be for data availability, disaster recovery, application performance, expanded workloads, or a myriad of other reasons. Regardless, IT needs to dynamically leverage resources rather than compromising agility and capital efficiency by spending time and money deploying new infrastructure.

To create a viable hybrid cloud, you need infrastructure metadata. Moving workloads demands knowing where you can move, what mechanisms are available to do the movement, and what secondary effects the move will have (e.g., on your protection copies, security policies, etc.). In other words, a functional hybrid cloud requires analyzing and acting upon infrastructure metadata.

Mobility isn’t just about spinning up storage objects or a single database in an alternate location. Mobility demands that the entire business application continue to run. This means IT needs to understand, track, and ensure that each component of the business application fits together, even as modules migrate. Application metadata enables IT to track those relationships and dependencies.

Mobility is the lifeblood of the hybrid cloud, but it only works if you have expertise in infrastructure and application metadata.

Analytics-Driven Automation

Big data and cloud intersect at metadata, where they can drive infrastructure automation. Environments are changing so quickly and becoming so complex that customers can no longer simply operate on instinct alone.

Future Direction_2

Infrastructure metadata can provide visibility and insight into a customer’s environment. Most customers have invested in multiple analytics tools. They struggle, however, to realize the value from those investments. First, the amount of metadata is so vast that they end up with an ocean of information. Second, the customers that can analyze the data end up deluged with reports, dashboards, and charts. The problem? They have data and they have reports, but they cannot take action.

The Internet of Things is just that — a vast ecosystem of devices that are willing to share TBs of information with whomever will listen. Like the early Internet, it is noisy, frustrating, and isolating. We need the Internet of Things to connect to one another and to build a Social Network of Machines. With these connections, we can drive action.

Let’s bring it down to a specific use case:

Customers often ask: Am I getting my money’s worth from my protection storage configuration (e.g., Is my dedupe rate, performance, or utilization high enough, etc.)? Should I rebalance my workload or upgrade my systems? Should I choose a different type of storage system?

Today, answering those questions feels like mixing experience with black magic. We can do better. Your Data Domain systems send us telemetry about how they’re doing. We create algorithms to detect which systems are in the REAL WORLD sweet spot and which are outliers. Then, we can recommend the actions to move into the sweet spot. By using analytics, we deliver this value today.

That’s analytics-driven automation – using big data analytics to take action.

Cloud-Centric Data Management

Some applications will be born in the cloud, live in the cloud, and die in the cloud. Why? Businesses love the agility of the infrastructure and platform service. However, as with any new technology consumption model, there’s a lot of chaos underneath. And, with their metadata, protection administrators can help preserve the business.

  • First, the protection team must ensure that the business gets what it expects out of the cloud provider. That means pulling in the infrastructure metadata to validate performance, security, data protection and availability. Public cloud providers will differentiate themselves by offering the per-tenant metadata necessary to prove that their customers get what they pay for. Trust, but verify.
  • Second, as businesses deploy more critical applications to the cloud, they will need enhanced application protection options. This means that protection copies will need to move within a cloud, across clouds, and potentially back on-premise. In other words, the work for hybrid cloud mobility is a requirement for public cloud data management.
  • Third, customers will need to search for data across their entire application space. Just as it means searching across active and protection copies, it also means searching across private and public clouds. They could try to run multiple searches across each different part of the infrastructure and stitch together the results, but that approach is both complex and error-prone. They would likely only do such a search in the direst of legal or compliance circumstances. They would never leverage the information for deeper business insight. To truly unlock the potential of the metadata, one needs a single source of truth – a metadata lake – to search across all of your information.

Applications will move to the public cloud. The protection team can extend their offerings to ensure that the business’s investment is maximized, data is safe, and all metadata is available for search and analytics.

Amped Up and Ready to Take the Lead

We’ve never been more excited about the journey we’re on together. We’re amped up because the heart of the future is data protection.

The future of data protection is metadata. The backup team has been collecting much of this data for years, and now the data protection team will analyze it and drive action.

Not only does it open new opportunities for the business – enabling hybrid cloud mobility, analytics driven automation, and cloud-centric data management – but it also creates new opportunities for backup and protection administrators to bring new value to the business.

Let’s do this!

Stephen Manley

About the Author: Stephen Manley