Dark Data Dreams

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Victor_Tongdee

Back up and forget. It is how most companies treat their backup data, which is seen as a compliance and security issue. 

Unlike live production data, this data lives in the lower tiers of data management platforms. Some reside in tapes and other air gapped devices only to see the light of day when a regulator issues a directive or a data breach occurs. 

It is the reason many consider this dark data as a cost center. And never really took notice of its hidden potential.

Then AI became pervasive. 

To create the right AI models, companies needed their algorithms to ingest enormous volumes of data. But not just any data. Historic data offered the most value as they allowed algorithms to learn and create models that closely approximated human-like decisions in split seconds. 

Backup data is rich in historic data. But because they sit on low-end, cheaper and slower disks and tapes, it becomes cumbersome to manage. 

War against mass data fragmentation

One company looking to help companies to access this data quickly and easily is Cohesity. 

William Ho, Cohesity’s vice president for Asia Pacific and Japan, sees AI as one key motivator for companies to re-look at their dark data.

“Traditionally, people call it the dark data because they don't see the data. They just see back up as an insurance policy,” says Ho.

With the demand in AI becoming more urgent — especially as COVID-19 hampers human-based decisions — companies are bringing back their dark data into the light to drive AI and RPA initiatives. 

Yet many are stored in silos. “For most legacy technologies, when you store data and max out your capacity, you have to buy another system,” says Ho. This results in data stored in various locations, which he calls as “mass data fragmentation.”

“So every system is pretty much a silo and there's a lot of redundancy and waste of space. Not to mention that it is really difficult to search and retrieve the data,” he adds. 

Cohesity offers a different approach. It looks to bring the disparate data like a giant “hyperconverged drive” with Google-like search functionalities. And it is no coincidence that its chief executive officer, Dr. Mohit Aron, was the lead developer of the Google File System and the cofounder and chief technology officer of Nutanix, a pioneer of hyperconverged instructure. 

Australia-based Quantium understood the benefits. The data science and AI firm wanted a hyperconverged solution to eliminate the need for hardware or software, integrate with future archival solutions, simplify management of its over 6PB of data, and reduce its many silos. 

“We realized that we had spent a great amount of time trying to build a solution that needed to rely on numerous magical pieces of a puzzle that we were trying to fit into a perfect world,” says Craig Taylor, the firm’s IT director. “This scenario was not reality, and that was where Cohesity came in and provided an all-in-one platform that not only resolved our current pain points, but scaled for future requirements.”

Data dexterity and security

Another reason for managing dark data better is digital transformation and the migration to the cloud. As companies look to cloud-enable their operations for agility and scalability, they need to migrate their on-premises data. 

Ho points out that legacy storage systems were not designed with clouds in mind. “So, the ability to move data between clouds, between the cloud and on premises and control them is not there,” says Ho. 

Cohesity simplifies it. Its scale-out design embodies the concept of clustering by using shared file systems. It allows administrators to add or remove capacity across nodes and not be “handcuffed” to physical disks and legacy systems. 

Dark data is also facing a tsunami of threats — specifically from ransomware. 

The reason is simple. An efficient backup system can nullify most ransomware attacks. So, hackers are now going after backup data before their ransomware campaigns, often corrupting them or locking them up with encryption. It forces victims to pay since they have no data to restore from. 

This is where Cohesity is looking to help. It offers a standalone backup system that can also be integrated with Veeam and Commvault offers built-in anti-ransomware features. They include an immutable file system, DataLock policies and support for multi factor authentication.

For Wendy's, the offering helped to unravel the complexity in backup and recovery, slowing down recovery times. Cohesity helped to reduce the backup windows from 12 hours to two while improving protection with auto-protect features. 

“Cohesity’s instant mass restore has eliminated roadblocks we had with previous legacy infrastructure, and this has transformed operations at Wendy’s,” says Don Murawski, manager for servers and storage at Wendy’s.  

Beyond dark data 

Cohesity is not done yet on dark data. 

Early this year, it announced a new ROBO (remote office/branch office) solution. It combines Cohesity software with certified servers from Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), addressing a gap in the market made wider with the remote working measures in response to COVID-19. 

The company also released what it claims as the “industry’s first mobile application”, called Cohesity Helios. It allows IT administrators to monitor the Cohesity infrastructure and get alerts on potential ransomware threats via a mobile app.

Cohesity is now looking beyond just dark data. Ho sees the next step is to “really drive the transformation backup to cover all applications and support data growth.”  

As Customers’ Choice for large enterprises in the Gartner Peer Insights ‘Voice of the Customer’ Report for Data Center Backup and Recovery Solutions, it seems to be on the right track.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Victor_Tongdee