Showing posts with label Quest Software. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quest Software. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Want a Data-Driven Culture? Start Sorting Out the BI and Big Data Myths Now

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on current misconceptions about big data and how organizations should best approach a big-data project.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Dell Software.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on debunking some major myths around big data. It used to be that data was the refuse of business applications, a necessary cleanup chore for audit and compliance sake.

But now, as analytics grow in importance for better running businesses and in knowing and predicting dynamic market trends and customer wants in real-time, data itself has become the killer application.

As the volumes and types of value data are brought to bear on business analytics, the means to manage and exploit that sea of data has changed rapidly, too. But that doesn't mean that the so-called big data is beyond the scale of mere business mortals or too costly or complex for mid-size companies to master.

So we're here to pose some questions -- many of them the stuff of myth -- and then find better answers to why making data and big data the progeny of innovative insight is critical for more companies.

To help identify and debunk the myths around big data so that you can enjoy the value of those analytics better, please join me in welcoming our guest, Darin Bartik, Executive Director of Products in the Information Management Group at Dell Software. Welcome, Darin. [Disclosure: Dell is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Darin Bartik: Thanks, Dana. Good to be with you.

Gardner: We seem to be at an elevated level of hype around big data. I guess a good thing about that is it’s a hot topic and it’s of more interest to more people nowadays, but we seem to have veered away from the practical and maybe even the impactful. Are people losing sight of the business value by getting lost in speeds and feeds and technical jargon? Is there some sort of a disconnect between the providers and consumers of big data?

Bartik: I'm sure we're going to get into a couple of different areas today, but you hit the nail on the head with the first question.  We are experiencing a disconnect between the technical side of big data and the business value of big data, and that’s happening because we’re digging too deeply into the technology.

With a term like big data, or any one of the trends that the information technology industry talks about so much, we tend to think about the technical side of it. But with analytics, with the whole conversation around big data, what we've been stressing with many of our customers is that it starts with a business discussion. It starts with the questions that you're trying to answer about the business; not the technology, the tools, or the architecture of solving those problems. It has to start with the business discussion.

That’s a pretty big flip. The traditional approach to business intelligence (BI) and reporting has been one of technology frameworks and a lot of things that were owned more by the IT group. This is part of the reason why a lot of the BI projects of the past struggled, because there was a disconnect between the business goals and the IT methods.

So you're right. There has been a disconnect, and that’s what I've been trying to talk a lot about with customers -- how to refocus on the business issues you need to think about, especially in the mid-market, where you maybe don’t have as many resources at hand. It can be pretty confusing.

Part of the hype cycle

The other thing you asked is, “Are vendors confusing people?" Without disparaging the vendors like us, or anyone else, that’s part of the problem of any hype cycle. Many people jumped on the bandwagon of big data. Just like everyone was talking cloud. Everyone was talking virtualization, bring your own device (BYOD), and so forth.

Everyone jumps on these big trends. So it's very confusing for customers, because there are many different ways to come at the problem. This is why I keep bringing people back to staying focused on what the real opportunity is. It’s a business opportunity, not a technical problem or a technical challenge that we start with.

Gardner: Right. We don’t want to lose the track of the ends because the means seem to be so daunting. We want to keep our focus on the ends and then find the means. Before we go into our myths, tell me a little bit, Darin, about your background and how you came to be at Dell.

Bartik: I've been a part of Dell Software since the acquisition of Quest Software. I was a part of that organization for close to 10 years. I've been in technology coming up on 20 years now. I spent a lot of time in enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain, and monitoring, performance management, and infrastructure management, especially on the Microsoft side of the world.

Most recently, as part of Quest, I was running the database management area -- a business very well-known for its products around Oracle, especially Toad, as well as our SQL Server management capabilities. We leveraged that expertise when we started to evolve into BI and analytics.

I started working with Hadoop back in 2008-2009, when it was still very foreign to most people. When Dell acquired Quest, I came in and had the opportunity to take over the Products Group in the ever-expanding world of information management. We're part of the Dell Software Group, which is a big piece of the strategy for Dell over all, and I'm excited to be here.
It’s not a size issue. It's really a trend that has happened as a result of digitizing so much more of the information that we all have already.

Gardner: Great. Even the name "big data" stirs up myths right from the get-go, with "big" being a very relative term. Should we only be concerned about this when we have more data than we can manage? What is the relative position of big data and what are some of the myths around the size issue?

Bartik: That’s the perfect one to start with. The first word in the definition is actually part of the problem. "Big." What does big mean? Is there a certain threshold of petabytes that you have to get to? Or, if you're dealing with petabytes, is it not a problem until you get to exabytes

It’s not a size issue. When I think about big data, it's really a trend that has happened as a result of digitizing so much more of the information that we all have already and that we all produce. Machine data, sensor data, all the social media activities, and mobile devices are all contributing to the proliferation of data.

It's added a lot more data to our universe, but the real opportunity is to look for small elements of small datasets and look for combinations and patterns within the data that help answer those business questions that I was referencing earlier.

It's not necessarily a scale issue. What is a scale issue is when you get into some of the more complicated analytical processes and you need a certain data volume to make it statistically relevant. But what customers first want to think about is the business problems that they have. Then, they have to think about the datasets that they need in order to address those problems.

Big-data challenge

That may not be huge data volumes. You mentioned mid-market earlier. When we think about some organizations moving from gigabytes to terabytes, or doubling data volumes, that’s a big data challenge in and of itself.

Analyzing big data won't necessarily contribute to your solving your business problems if you're not starting with the right questions. If you're just trying to store more data, that’s not really the problem that we have at hand. That’s something that we can all do quite well with current storage architectures and the evolving landscape of hardware that we have.

We all know that we have growing data, but the exact size, the exact threshold that we may cross, that’s not the relevant issue.

Gardner: I suppose this requires prioritization, which has to come from the business side of the house. As you point out, some statistically relevant data might be enough. If you can extrapolate and you have enough to do that, fine, but there might be other areas where you actually want to get every little bit of possible data or information relevant, because you don't know what you're looking for. They are the unknown unknowns. Perhaps there's some mythology about all data. It seems to me that what’s important is the right data to accomplish what it is the business wants.

Bartik: Absolutely. If your business challenge is an operational efficiency or a cost problem, where you have too much cost in the business and you're trying to pull out operational expense and not spend as much on capital expense, you can look at your operational data.
There's a lot of variability and prioritization that all starts with that business issue that you're trying to address.

Maybe manufacturers are able to do that and analyze all of the sensor, machine, manufacturing line, and operational data. That's a very different type of data and a very different type of approach than looking at it in terms of sales and marketing.

If you're a retailer looking for a new set of customers or new markets to enter in terms of geographies, you're going to want to look at maybe census data and buying-behavior data of the different geographies. Maybe you want datasets that are outside your organization entirely. You may not have the data in your hands today. You may have to pull it in from outside resources. So there's a lot of variability and prioritization that all starts with that business issue that you're trying to address.

Gardner: Perhaps it's better for the business to identify the important data, rather than the IT people saying it’s too big or that big means we need to do something different. It seems like a business term rather than a tech term at this point.

Bartik: I agree with you. The more we can focus on bringing business and IT to the table together to tackle this challenge, the better. And it does start with the executive management in the organization trying to think about things from that business perspective, rather than starting with the IT infrastructure management team. 

Gardner: What’s our second myth?

Bartik: I'd think about the idea of people and the skills needed to address this concept of big data. There is the term "data scientist" that has been thrown out all over the place lately. There’s a lot of discussion about how you need a data scientist to tackle big data. But “big data” isn't necessarily the way you should think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Instead, think about things in terms of being more data driven, and in terms of getting the data you need to address the business challenges that you have. That’s not always going to require the skills of a data scientist.

Data scientists rare

I suspect that a lot of organizations would be happy to hear something like that, because data scientists are very rare today, and they're very expensive, because they are rare. Only certain geographies and certain industries have groomed the true data scientist. That's a unique blend between a data engineer and someone like an applied scientist, who can think quite differently than just a traditional BI developer or BI programmer.

Don’t get stuck on thinking that, in order to take on a data-driven approach, you have to go out and hire a data scientist. There are other ways to tackle it. That’s where you're going to combine people who can do the programming around your information, around the data management principles, and the people who can ask and answer the open-minded business questions. It doesn’t all have to be encapsulated into that one magical person that’s known now as the data scientist.

Gardner: So rather than thinking we need to push the data and analytics and the ability to visualize and access this through a small keyhole, which would be those scientists, the PhDs, the white lab coats, perhaps there are better ways now to make those visualizations and allow people to craft their own questions against the datasets. That opens the door to more types of people being able to do more types of things. Does that sum it up a bit?

Bartik: I agree with that. There are varying degrees of tackling this problem. You can get into very sophisticated algorithms and computations for which a data scientist may be the one to do that heavy lifting. But for many organizations and customers that we talk to everyday, it’s something where they're taking on their first project and they are just starting to figure out how to address this opportunity.

For that, you can use a lot of the people that you have inside your organization, as well potentially consultants that can just help you break through some of the old barriers, such as thinking about intelligence, based strictly on a report and a structured dashboard format.
Often a combination of programming and some open-minded thinking, done with a  team-oriented approach, rather than that single keyhole person, is more than enough to accomplish your objectives.

That’s not the type of approach we want to take nowadays. So often a combination of programming and some open-minded thinking, done with a  team-oriented approach, rather than that single keyhole person, is more than enough to accomplish your objectives.

Gardner: It seems also that you're identifying confusion on the part of some to equate big data with BI and BI with big data. The data is a resource that the BI can use to offer certain values, but big data can be applied to doing a variety of other things. Perhaps we need to have a sub-debunking within this myth, and that is that big data and BI are different. How would you define them and separate them?

Bartik: That's a common myth. If you think about BI in its traditional, generic sense, it’s about gaining more intelligence about the business, which is still the primary benefit of the opportunity this trend of big data presents to us. Today, I think they're distinct, but over time, they will come together and become synonymous.

I equate it back to one of the more recent trends that came right before big data, cloud. In the beginning, most people thought cloud was the public-cloud concept. What’s turned out to be true is that it’s more of a private cloud or a hybrid cloud, where not everything moved from an on-premise traditional model, to a highly scalable, highly elastic public cloud. It’s very much a mix.

They've kind of come together. So while cloud and traditional data centers are the new infrastructure, it’s all still infrastructure. The same is true for big data and BI, where BI, in the general sense of how can we gain intelligence and make smarter decisions about our business, will include the concept of big data.

Better decisions

So while we'll be using new technologies, which would include Hadoop, predictive analytics, and other things that have been driven so much faster by the trend of big data, we’ll still be working back to that general purpose of making better decisions.

One of the reasons they're still different today is because we’re still breaking some of the traditional mythology and beliefs around BI -- that BI is all about standard reports and standard dashboards, driven by IT. But over time, as people think about business questions first, instead of thinking about standard reports and standard dashboards first, you’ll see that convergence.

Gardner: We probably need to start thinking about BI in terms of a wider audience, because all the studies I've seen don't show all that much confidence and satisfaction in the way BI delivers the analytics or the insights that people are looking for. So I suppose it's a work in progress when it comes to BI as well.

Bartik: Two points on that. There has been a lot of disappointment around BI projects in the past. They've taken too long, for one. They've never really been finished, which of course, is a problem. And for many of the business users who depend on the output of BI -- their reports, their dashboard, their access to data -- it hasn’t answered the questions in the way that they may want it to.

One of the things in front of us today is a way of thinking about it differently. Not only is there so much data, and so much opportunity now to look at that data in different ways, but there is also a requirement to look at it faster and to make decisions faster. So it really does break the old way of thinking.
People are trying to make decisions about moving the business forward, and they're being forced to do it faster.

Slowness is unacceptable. Standard reports don't come close to addressing the opportunity in front us, which is to ask a business question and answer it with the new way of thinking supported by pulling together different datasets. That’s fundamentally different from the way we used to do it.

People are trying to make decisions about moving the business forward, and they're being forced to do it faster. Historical reporting just doesn't cut it. It’s not enough. They need something that’s much closer to real time. It’s more important to think about open-ended questions, rather than just say, "What revenue did I make last month, and what products made that up?" There are new opportunities to go beyond that.

Gardner: I suppose it also requires more discipline in keeping your eye on the ends, rather than getting lost in the means. That also is a segue to our next myth, which is, if I have the technology to do big data, then I'm doing big data, and therefore I'm done.

Bartik: Just last week, I was meeting with a customer and they said, "Okay, we have our Hadoop cluster set up and we've loaded about 10 terabytes of sample data into this Hadoop cluster. So we've started our big data project."

When I hear something like that, I always ask, "What question are you trying to answer? Why did you load that data in there? Why did you start with Hadoop? Why did you do all this?" People are starting with the technology first too often. They're not starting with the questions and the business problems first.

Not the endgame

You said as far as making sure that you keep your eye on the endgame, the endgame is not to spin up a new technology, or to try a new tool. Hadoop has been one of those things where people have started to use that and they think that they're off and running on a big-data project. It can be part of it, but it isn't where you want to start, and it isn’t the endgame.

The endgame is solving the business problem that you're out there trying to address. It’s either lowering costs inside the business, or it’s finding a new market, figuring out why this customer set loves our products and why some other customer set doesn’t. Answering those questions is the endgame, not starting a new technology initiative.

Gardner: When it comes to these technology issues, do you also find, Darin, that there is a lack of creativity as to where the data and information resides or exists and thinking not so much about being able to run it, but rather acquire it? Is there a dissonance between the data I have and the data I need. How are people addressing that?

Bartik: There is and there isn’t. When we look at the data that we have, that’s oftentimes a great way to start a project like this, because you can get going faster and it’s data that you understand. But if you think that you have to get data from outside the organization, or you have to get new datasets in order to answer the question that’s in front of us, then, again, you're going in with a predisposition to a myth.

You can start with data that you already have. You just may not have been looking at the data that you already have in the way that’s required to answer the question in front of you. Or you may not have been looking at it all. You may have just been storing it, but not doing anything with it.
Storing data doesn’t help you answer questions. Analyzing it does.

Storing data doesn’t help you answer questions. Analyzing it does. It seems kind of simple, but so many people think that big data is a storage problem. I would argue it's not about the storage. It’s like backup and recovery. Backing up data is not that important, until you need to recover it. Recovery is really the game changing thing.

Gardner: It’s interesting that with these myths, people have tended, over the years, without having the resources at hand,  to shoot from the hip and second-guess. People who are good at that and businesses that have been successful have depended on some luck and intuition. In order to take advantage of big data, which should lead you to not having to make educated guesses, but to have really clear evidence, you can apply the same principle. It's more how you get big data in place, than how you would use the fruits of big data.

It seems like a cultural shift we have to make. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Let’s get the right information and find out where the data takes us.

Bartik: You've hit on one of the biggest things that’s in front of us over the next three to five years -- the cultural shift that the big data concept introduces.

We looked at traditional BI as more of an IT function, where we were reporting back to the business. The business told us exactly what they wanted, and we tried to give that to them from the IT side of the fence.

Data-driven organization

But being successful today is less about intuition and more about being a data-driven organization, and, for that to happen, I can't stress this one enough, you need executives who are ready to make decisions based on data, even if the data may be counter intuitive to what their gut says and what their 25 years of experience have told them.

They're in a position of being an executive primarily because they have a lot of experience and have had a lot of success. But many of our markets are changing so frequently and so fast, because of new customer patterns and behaviors, because of new ways of customers interacting with us via different devices. Just think of the different ways that the markets are changing. So much of that historical precedence no longer really matters. You have to look at the data that’s in front of us.

Because things are moving so much faster now, new markets are being penetrated and new regions are open to us. We're so much more of a global economy. Things move so much faster than they used to. If you're depending on gut feeling, you'll be wrong more often than you'll be right. You do have to depend on as much of a data-driven decision as you can. The only way to do that is to rethink the way you're using data.

Historical reports that tell you what happened 30 days ago don't help you make a decision about what's coming out next month, given that your competition just introduced a new product today. It's just a different mindset. So that cultural shift of being data-driven and going out and using data to answer questions, rather than using data to support your gut feeling, is a very big shift that many organizations are going to have to adapt to.

Executives who get that and drive it down into the organization, those are the executives and the teams that will succeed with big data initiatives, as opposed to those that have to do it from the bottom up.
It's fair to say that big data is not just a trend; it's a reality. And it's an opportunity for most organizations that want to take advantage of it.

Gardner: Listening to you Darin, I can tell one thing that isn’t a product of hype is just how important this all is. Getting big data right, doing that cultural shift, recognizing trends based on the evidence and in real-time as much as possible is really fundamental to how well many businesses will succeed or not.

So it's not hype to say that big data is going to be a part of your future and it's important. Let's move towards how you would start to implement or change or rethink things, so that you can not fall prey to these myths, but actually take advantage of the technologies, the reduction in costs for many of the infrastructures, and perhaps extend and exploit BI and big data problems.

Bartik: It's fair to say that big data is not just a trend; it's a reality. And it's an opportunity for most organizations that want to take advantage of it. It will be a part of your future. It's either going to be part of your future, or it's going to be a part of your competition’s future, and you're going to be struggling as a result of not taking advantage of it.

The first step that I would recommend -- I've said it a few times already, but I don't think it can't be said too often -- is pick a project that's going to address a business issue that you've been unable to address in the past.

What are the questions that you need to ask and answer about your business that will really move you forward?" Not just, "What data do we want to look at?" That's not the question.

What business issue?

The question is what business issue do we have in front of us that will take us forward the fastest? Is it reducing costs? Is it penetrating a new regional market? Is it penetrating a new vertical industry, or evolving into a new customer set?

These are the kind of questions we need to ask and the dialogue that we need to have. Then let's take the next step, which is getting data and thinking about the team to analyze  it and the technologies to deploy. But that's the first step – deciding what we want to do as a business.

That sets you up for that cultural shift as well. If you start at the technology layer, if you start at the level of let's deploy Hadoop or some type of new technology that may be relevant to the equation, you're starting backwards. Many people do it, because it's easier to do that than it is to start an executive conversation and to start down the path of changing some cultural behavior. But it doesn’t necessarily set you up for success.

Gardner: It sounds as if you know you're going on a road trip and you get yourself a Ferrari, but you haven't really decided where you're going to go yet, so you didn’t know that you actually needed a Ferrari.

Bartik: Yeah. And it's not easy to get a tent inside a Ferrari. So you have to decide where you're going first. It's a very good analogy.
Get smart by going to your peers and going to your industry influencer groups and learning more about how to approach this.

Gardner: What are some of the other ways when it comes to the landscape out there? There are vendors who claim to have it all, everything you need for this sort of thing. It strikes me that this is more of an early period and that you would want to look at a best-of-breed approach or an ecosystem approach.

So are there any words of wisdom in terms of how to think about the assets, tools, approaches, platforms, what have you, or not to limit yourself in a certain way?

Bartik: There are countless vendors that are talking about big data and offering different technology approaches today. Based on the type of questions that you're trying to answer, whether it's more of an operational issue, a sales market issue, HR, or something else, there are going to be different directions that you can go in, in terms of the approaches and the technologies used.

I encourage the executives, both on the line-of-business side as well as the IT side, to go to some of the events that are the "un-conferences," where we talk about the big-data approach and the technologies. Go to the other events in your industry where they're talking about this and learn what your peers are doing. Learn from some of the mistakes that they've been making or some of the successes that they've been having.

There's a lot of success happening around this trend. Some people certainly are falling into the pitfalls, but get smart by going to your peers and going to your industry influencer groups and learning more about how to approach this.

Technical approaches

There are technical approaches that you can take. There are different ways of storing your data. There are different ways of computing and processing your data. Then, of course, there are different analytical approaches that get more to the open-ended investigation of data. There are many tools and many products out there that can help you do that.

Dell has certainly gone down this road and is investing quite heavily in this area, with both structured and unstructured data analysis, as well as the storage of that data. We're happy to engage in those conversations as well, but there are a lot of resources out there that really help companies understand and figure out how to attack this problem.

Gardner: In the past, with many of the technology shifts, we've seen a tension and a need for decision around best-of-breed versus black box, or open versus entirely turnkey, and I'm sure that's going to continue for some time.

But one of the easier ways or best ways to understand how to approach some of those issues is through some examples. Do we have any use cases or examples that you're aware of, of actual organizations that have had some of these problems? What have they put in place, and what has worked for them?
There are a lot of resources out there that really help companies understand and figure out how to attack this problem.

Bartik: I'll give you a couple of examples from two very different types of organizations, neither of which are huge organizations. The first one is a retail organization, Guess Jeans. The business issue they were tackling was, “How do we get more sales in our retail stores? How do we get each individual that's coming into our store to purchase more?”

We sat down and started thinking about the problem. We asked what data would we need to understand what’s happening? We needed data that helps us understand the buyer’s behavior once they come into the store. We don't need data about what they are doing outside the store necessarily, so let's look specifically at behaviors that take place once they get into the store.

We helped them capture and analyze video monitoring information. Basically it followed each of the people in the store and geospatial locations inside the store, based on their behavior. We tracked that data and then we compared against questions like did they buy, what did they buy, and how much did they buy. We were able to help them determine that if you get the customer into a dressing room, you're going to be about 50 percent more likely to close transactions with them.

So rather than trying to give incentives to come into the store or give discounts once they get into the store, they moved towards helping the store clerks, the people who ran the store and interacted with the customers, focus on getting those customers into a dressing room. That itself is a very different answer than what they might have thought of at first. It seems easy after you think about it, but it really did make a significant business impact for them in rather short order.

Now, they're also thinking about other business challenges that they have and other ways of analyzing data and other datasets, based on different business challenges, but that’s one example.

Another example is on the higher education side. In universities, one of the biggest challenges is having students drop out or reduce their class load. The fewer classes they take, or if they dropout entirely, it obviously goes right to the top and bottom line of the organization, because it reduces tuition, as well as the other extraneous expenses that students incur at the university.

Finding indicators

The University of Kentucky went on an effort to reduce students dropping out of classes or dropping entirely out of school. They looked at a series of datasets, such as demographic data, class data, the grades that they were receiving, what their attendance rates were, and so forth. They analyzed many different data points to determine the indicators of a future drop out.

Now, just raising the student retention rate by one percent would in turn mean about $1 million of top-line revenue to the university. So this was pretty important. And in the end, they were able to narrow it down to a couple of variables that strongly indicated which students were at risk, such that they could then proactively intervene with those students to help them succeed.

The key is that they started with a very specific problem. They started it from the university's core mission: to make sure that the students stayed in school and got the best education, and that's what they are trying to do with their initiative. It turned out well for them.

These were very different organizations or business types, in two very different verticals, and again, neither are huge organizations that have seas of data. But what they did are much more manageable and much more tangible examples  many of us can kind of apply to our own businesses.

Gardner: Those really demonstrate how asking the right questions is so important.
What we have today is a set of capabilities that help customers take more of a data-type agnostic view and a vendor agnostic view to the way they're approaching data and managing data.

Darin, we're almost out of time, but I did want to see if we could develop a little bit more insight into the Dell Software road map. Are there some directions that you can discuss that would indicate how organizations can better approach these problems and develop some of these innovative insights in business?

Bartik: A couple of things. We've been in the business of data management, database management, and managing the infrastructure around data for well over a decade. Dell has assembled a group of companies, as well as a lot of organic development, based on their expertise in the data center for years. What we have today is a set of capabilities that help customers take more of a data-type agnostic view and a vendor agnostic view to the way they're approaching data and managing data.

You may have 15 tools around BI. You may have tools to look at your Oracle data, maybe new sets of unstructured data, and so forth. And you have different infrastructure environments set up to house that data and manage it. But the problem is that it's not helping you bring the data together and cross boundaries across data types and vendor toolset types, and that's the challenge that we're trying to help address.

We've introduced tools to help bring data together from any database, regardless of where it may be sitting, whether it's a data warehouse, a traditional database, a new type of database such as Hadoop, or some other type of unstructured data store.

We want to bring that data together and then analyze it. Whether you're looking at more of a traditional structured-data approach and you're exploring data and visualizing datasets that many people may be working with, or doing some of the more advanced things around unstructured data and looking for patterns, we’re focused on giving you the ability to pull data from anywhere.

Using new technologies

We're investing very heavily, Dana, into the Hadoop framework to help customers do a couple of key things. One is helping the people that own data today, the database administrators, data analysts, the people that are the stewards of data inside of IT, advance their skills to start using some of these new technologies, including Hadoop.

It's been something that we have done for a very long time, making your C players B players, and your B players A players. We want to continue to do that, leverage their existing experience with structured data, and move them over into the unstructured data world as well.

The other thing is that we're helping customers manage data in a much more pragmatic way. So if they are starting to use data that is in the cloud, via or Taleo, but they also have data on-prem sitting in traditional data stores, how do we integrate that data without completely changing their infrastructure requirements? With capabilities that Dell Software has today, we can help integrate data no matter where it sits and then analyze it based on that business problem.

We help customers approach it more from a pragmatic view, where you're  taking a stepwise approach. We don't expect customers to pull out their entire BI and data-management infrastructure and rewrite it from scratch on day one. That's not practical. It's not something we would recommend. Take a stepwise approach. Maybe change the way you're integrating data. Change the way you're storing data. Change, in some perspective, the way you're analyzing data between IT and the business, and have those teams collaborate.
But you don't have to do it all at one time. Take that stepwise approach.

But you don't have to do it all at one time. Take that stepwise approach. Tackle it from the business problems that you're trying to address, not just the new technologies we have in front of us.

There's much more to come from Dell in the information management space. It will be very interesting for us and  for our customers to tackle this problem together. We're excited to make it happen.

Gardner: Well, great. I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there. We've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast discussion on debunking some major myths around big data use and value. We've seen how big data is not necessarily limited by scale and that the issues around  it don't always have to supersede the end for your business goals.

We've also learned more about levels of automation and how Dell is going to be approaching the market. So I appreciate that. With that, we'll have to end it and thank our guest.

We've been here with Darin Bartik, Executive Director of Products in the Information Management Group at Dell Software. Thanks so much, Darin.

Bartik: Thank you, Dana, I appreciate it.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks also to our audience for joining and listening, and don't forget to come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Dell Software.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on current misconceptions about big data and how organizations should best approach a big-data project.  Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2013. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Strategies Needed to Ensure Simpler, More Efficient Data Protection for Complex Enterprise Environments

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on new solutions to solve the growing need for more reliable and less cumbersome data backups, despite increasingly data-intensive environments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Dana Gardner
Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on enterprise backup, why it’s broken, and how to fix it. We'll examine some major areas where the backup of enterprise information and data protection are fragmented, complex, and inefficient. And then, we'll delve into some new approaches that help simplify the data-protection process, keep costs in check, and improve recovery confidence.

Here to share insights on how data protection became such a mess and how new techniques are being adopted to gain comprehensive and standard control over the data lifecycle is John Maxwell, Vice President of Product Management for Data Protection at Quest Software, now part of Dell. [Disclosure: Quest Software is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Welcome back to the show, John.

John Maxwell: Hey, Dana. It’s great to be here.

Gardner: We're also here with George Crump, Founder and Lead Analyst at Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the storage market. Welcome, George.

George Crump: Thanks for having me.

Gardner: John, let’s start with you. How did we get here? Why has something seemingly as straightforward as backup become so fragmented and disorganized?

Maxwell: Dana, I think it’s a perfect storm, to use an overused cliché. If you look back 20 years ago, we had heterogeneous environments, but they were much simpler. There were NetWare and UNIX, and there was this new thing called Windows. Virtualization didn’t even really exist. We backed up data to tape, and a lot of data was in terabytes, not petabytes.

Flash forward to 2012, and there’s more heterogeneity than ever. You have stalwart databases like Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, but then you have new apps being built on MySQL. You now have virtualization, and, in fact, we're at the point this year where we're surpassing the 50 percent mark on the number of servers worldwide that are virtualized.
John Maxwell

Now we're even starting to see people running multiple hypervisors, so it’s not even just one virtualization platform anymore, either. So the environment has gotten bigger, much bigger than we ever thought it could or would. We have numerous customers today that have data measured in petabytes, and we have a lot more applications to deal with.

And last, but not least, we now have more data that’s deemed mission critical, and by mission critical, I mean data that has to be recovered in less than an hour. Surveys 10 years ago showed that in a typical IT environment, 10 percent of the data was mission critical. Today, surveys show that it’s 50 percent and more.

Gardner: George, did John leave anything out? From your perspective, why is it different now?

Crump: A couple of things. I would dovetail into what he just mentioned about mission criticality. There are definitely more platforms, and that’s a challenge, but the expectation of the user is just higher. The term I use for it is IT is getting "Facebooked."

High expectations

I've had many IT guys say to me, "One of the common responses I get from my users is, 'My Facebook account is never down.'" So there is this really high expectation on availability, returning data, and things of that nature that probably isn’t really fair, but it’s reality.

One of the reasons that more data is getting classified as mission critical is just that the expectation that everything will be around forever is much higher.

George Crump
The other thing that we forget sometimes is that the backup process, especially a network backup, probably unlike any other, stresses every single component in the infrastructure. You're pulling data off of a local storage device on a server, it’s going through that server CPU and memory, it’s going down a network card, down a network cable, to a switch, to another card, into some sort of storage device, be it disk or tape.

So there are 15 things that happen in a backup and all 15 things have to go flawlessly. If one thing is broken, the backup fails, and, of course, it’s the IT guy’s fault. It’s just a complex environment, and I don’t know of another process that pushes on all aspects of the environment in one fell swoop like backup does.

Gardner: So the stakes are higher, the expectations are higher, the scale and volume and heterogeneity are all increased. What does this mean, John, for those that are tasked with managing this, or trying to get a handle on it as a process, rather than a technology-by-technology approach, really looking at this at that life cycle? Has this now gone from being a technical problem to a management or process problem?

Maxwell: It's both, because there are two issues here. One, you expect today's storage administrator, or sysadmin, to be a database administrator (DBA), a VMware administrator, a UNIX sysadmin, and a Windows admin. That’s a lot of responsibility, but that’s the fact.

A lot of people think that they are going to have as deep level of knowledge on how to recover a Windows server as they would an Oracle database. That’s just not the case, and it's the same thing from a product perspective, from a technology perspective.
Is there really such thing as a backup product, the Swiss Army knife, that does the best of everything? Probably not.

Is there really such thing as a backup product, the Swiss Army knife, that does the best of everything? Probably not, because being the best of everything means different things to different accounts. It means one thing for the small to medium-size business (SMB), and it could mean something altogether different for the enterprise.

We've now gotten into a situation where we have the typical IT environment using multiple backup products that, in most cases, have nothing in common. They have a lot of hands in the pot trying to manage data protection and restore data, and it has become a tangled mess.

Gardner: Before we dive a little bit deeper into some of these major areas, I'd like to just visit another issue that’s very top of mind for many organizations, and that’s security, compliance, and business continuity types of issues, risk mitigation issues. George Crump, how important is that to consider, when you look at taking more of a comprehensive or a holistic view of this backup and data-protection issue?

Disclosure laws

Crump: It's a really critical issue, and there are two ramifications. Probably the one that strikes fear in the heart of every CEO on the planet is all the disclosure laws that exist now that say that, when you lose a customer’s data, you have to let him know. Unfortunately, probably the only effective way to do that is to let everybody know.

I'm sure everybody listening to this podcast has gotten more than one letter already this year saying their Social Security number has been exposed, things like that. I can think of three or four I've already gotten this year.

So there is the downside of legally having to admit you made a mistake, and then there is the legal requirements of retaining information in case of a lawsuit. The traditional thing was that if I got a discovery motion filed against me, I needed to be able to pull this information back, and that was one motivator. But the bigger motivator is having to disclose that we did lose data.

And there's a new one coming in. We're hearing about big data, analytics, and things like that. All of that is based on being able to access old information in some form, pull it back from something, and be able to analyze it.

That is leading many, many organizations to not delete anything. If you don't delete anything, how do you store it? A disk-only type of solution forever, as an example, is a pretty expensive solution. I know disk has gotten a lot cheaper, but forever, that’s a really long time to keep the lights on, so to speak.
We need to step back, take inventory of what we've got, and choose the right solution to solve the problem at hand, whether you're an SMB or an enterprise.

Gardner: Let's look at this a bit more from the problem-solution perspective. John, you've gotten a little bit into this notion that we have multiple platforms, we have operating systems, hypervisors, application types, even appliances. What's the problem here and how do we start to develop a solution approach to it?

Maxwell: The problem is we need to step back, take inventory of what we've got, and choose the right solution to solve the problem at hand, whether you're an SMB or an enterprise.

But the biggest thing we have to address is, with the amount and complexity of the data, how can we make sysadmins, storage administrators, and DBAs productive, and how can we get them all on the same page? Why do each one of these roles in IT have to use different products?

George and I were talking earlier. One of the things that he brought up was that in a lot of companies, data is getting backed up over and over by the DBA, the VMware administrator, and the storage administrator, which is really inefficient. We have to look at a holistic approach, and that may not be one-size-fits-all. It may be choosing the right solutions, yet providing a centered means for administration, reporting, monitoring, etc.

Gardner: George, you've been around for a while in this business, as have I, and there is a little bit of a déjà vu here, where we're bringing a system-of-record approach to a set of disparate technologies that were, at one time, best of breed and necessary, but are increasingly part of a more solution or process benefit.

So we understand the maturation process, but is there anything different and specific about backup that makes this even harder to move from that point solution, best of breed mentality, into more of a comprehensive process standardization approach?

Demands and requirements

Crump: It really ties into what John said. Every line of business is going to have its own demands and requirements. To expect not even a backup administrator, but an Oracle administrator that’s managing an Oracle database for a line of business, to understand the nuances of that business and how they want to keep things is a lot to ask.

To tie into what John said, when backup is broken, the default survival mechanism is to throw everything out, buy the latest enterprise solution, put the stake in the ground, and force everybody to centralize on that one item. That works to a degree, but in every project we've been involved with, there are always three or four exceptions. That means it really didn’t work. You didn't really centralize.

Then there are covert operations of backups happening, where people are backing up data and not telling anybody, because they still don't trust the enterprise application. Eventually, something new comes out. The most immediate example is virtualization, which spawned the birth of several different virtualized specific applications. So bringing all that back in again becomes very difficult.

I agree with John. What you need to do is give the users the tools they want. Users are too sophisticated now for you to say, "This is where we are going to back it up and you've got to live with it." They're just not going to put up with that anymore. It won't work.

So give them the tools that they want. Centralize the process, but not the actual software. I think that's really the way to go.

Gardner: So we recognize that one size fits all probably isn’t going to apply here. We're going to have multiple point solutions. That means integration at some level or multiple levels. That brings us to our next major topic. How do we integrate well without compounding the complexity and the problems set? John?
We’re keenly interested in leveraging those technologies for the DBAs and sysadmins in ways that make their lives easier and make sure they are more productive.

Maxwell: We've been working on this now for almost two years here at Quest, and now at Dell, and we are launching in November, something called NetVault XA. “XA” stands for Extended Architecture. We have a portfolio of very rich products that span the SMBs and the enterprise, with focus on virtual backup, heterogeneous backup, instantaneous snapshots and deep application recovery, and we’re keenly interested in leveraging those technologies for the DBAs and sysadmins in ways that make their lives easier and make sure they are more productive.

NetVault XA solves some really big issues. First of all, it unifies the user experience across products, and by user, I mean the sysadmin, the DBA, and the storage administrator, across products. The initial release of NetVault XA will support both our vRanger and NetVault Backup, as well as our NetVault SmartDisk product, and next year, we'll be adding even more of our products under NetVault XA as well.

So now we've provided a common means of administration. We have one UI. You don’t have to learn something different. Everyone can work on the same product, yet based on your login ID, you will have access to different things, whether it's data or capabilities, such as restoring an Oracle or SQL Server database, or restoring a virtual machine (VM).

That's a common UI. A lot of vendors right now have a lot of solutions, but they look like they're from three, four, or five different companies. We want to provide a singular user experience, but that's just really the icing on the cake with NetVault XA.

If we go down a little deeper into NetVault XA, once it’s is installed, learning alongside vRanger, NetVault, or both, it's going to self identify that vRanger or NetVault environment, and it's going to allow you to manage it the way that you have already set about from that ability.

New approach

We're really delivering a new approach here, one we think is going to be unique in the industry. That's the ability to logically group data and applications within lines of business.

You gave an example earlier of Oracle. Oracle is not an application. Oracle is a platform for applications, and sometimes applications span databases, file systems, and multiple servers. You need to be looking at that from a holistic level, meaning what makes up application A, what makes up application B, C, D, etc.?

Then, what are the service levels for those applications? How mission critical are they? Are they in that 50 percent of data that we've seen from surveys, or are they data that we restored from a week ago? It wouldn’t matter, but then, again, it's having one tool that everyone can use. So you now have a whole different user experience and you're taking up a whole different approach to data protection.

Gardner: This is really interesting. I've seen a demo of this and I was very impressed. One of the things that jumped out at me was the fact that you're not just throwing a GUI overlay on a variety of products and calling it integration.

There really seems to be a drilling down into these technologies and surfacing information to such a degree that it strikes me as similar to what IT service management (ITSM) did for managing IT systems at a higher level. We're now bringing that to a discrete portion backup and recovery. Does that sound about right, George, or did I overstate it?
We're really delivering a new approach here, one we think is going to be unique in the industry. That's the ability to logically group data and applications within lines of business.

Crump: No, that's dead-on. The benefits of that type of architecture are going to be substantial. Imagine if you are the vRanger programmer, when all this started. Instead of having to write half of the backend, you could just plug into a framework that already existed and then focus most of your attention on the particular application or environment that you are going to protect.

You can be releasing the equivalent of vRanger 6 on vRanger 1, because you wouldn’t have to go write this backend that already existed. Also, if you think about it, you end up with a much more reliable software product, because now you're building on a library class that will have been well tested and proven.

Say you want to implement deduplication in a new version of the product or a new product. Instead of having to rewrite your own deduplication engine, just leverage the engine that's already there.

Gardner: John, it sounds a little bit like we're getting the best of both worlds, that is to say the ability to support a lot of point solutions, allowing the tools that the particular overseer of that technology wants to use, but bringing this now into the realm of policy.

It's something you can apply rules to, that you can bring into concert with other IT management approaches or tasks, and then gain better visibility into what is actually going on and then tweak. So amplify for me why this is standardization, but not at the cost of losing that Swiss Army knife approach to the right tool for the right problem?

One common means

Maxwell: First of all, by having one common means, whether you're a DBA, a sysadmin, a VMware administrator, or a storage administrator, this way you are all on the same page. You can have people all buying into one way of doing things, so we don't have this data being backed up two or three times.

But the other thing that you get, and this is a big issue now, is protecting multiple sites. When we talk about multiple sites, people sometimes say, "You mean multiple data centers. What about all those remote office branch offices?" That right now is a big issue that we see customers running into.

The beauty of NetVault XA is I can now have various solutions implemented, whether it's vRanger running remotely or NetVault in a branch office, and I can be managing it. I can manage all aspects of it to make sure that those backups are running properly, or make sure replication is working properly. It could be halfway around the country or halfway around the world, and this way we have consistency.

Speaking of reporting, as you said earlier, what about a dashboard for management? One of our early users of NetVault XA is a large multinational company with 18 data centers and 250,000 servers. They have had to dedicate people to write service-level reports for their backups. Now, with NetVault XA, they can literally give their IT management, meaning their CIO and their CTOs, login IDs to NetVault XA, and they can see a dashboard that’s been color coded.

It can say, "Well, everything is green, so everything is protected," whether it's the Linux servers, Oracle databases, Exchange email, whatever the case. So by being able to reduce that level of complexity into a single pane of glass -- I know it's a cliché, but it really is -- it's really very powerful for large organizations and small.
I can manage all aspects of it to make sure that those backups are running properly, or make sure replication is working properly.

Even if you have two or three locations and you're only 500 employees, wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to look at your backups, your replicas, and your snapshots, whether they're in the data center or in branch offices, and whether you're a sysadmin, DBA, storage administrator, to be using one common interface and one common set of rules to all basically all get on the same plane?

Gardner: Let's revisit the issue that George was talking about, eDiscovery, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks, because with Murphy’s Law rampant, that's going to be the thing that somebody is going to do eDiscovery on. It seems to me you're gaining some confidence, some sense of guarantees, that whatever service-level agreements (SLAs) and compliance regulatory issues are there, you can start to check these off and gain some automated assurance.

Help me better understand John why the NetVault XA has, for lack of a better word, some sort of a confidence benefit to it?

Maxwell: Well, the thing is that not only have we built things into NetVault XA, where it's going to do auto discovery of how you have vRanger and NetVault set up and other products down the road, but it's going to give you some visibility into your environment, like how many VMs are out there? Are all those VMs getting protected?

I was just at VMworld Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, and VMware has made it incredibly simple now to provision VMs and the associated storage. You've got people powering up and powering down VMs at will. How do you know that you're protecting them?

Dispersed operations

Also at an event this week in Europe, I ran into a user in an emerging country in Eastern Europe, and they have over 1,000 servers, most of which are not being protected. It's a very dispersed operation, and people can implement servers here and there, and they don't know what half the stuff is.

So it's having a means to take an inventory and ensure that the servers are being maintained, that everything is being protected, because next to your employees, your data is the most important asset that you have.

Data is everywhere now. It’s in mobile devices. It certainly could be in cloud-based apps. That's one of the things that we didn’t talk about. At Quest we use seven software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based applications, meaning they're big parts, whether it's or our helpdesk systems, or even Office 365. This is mission-critical corporate data that doesn’t run in our own data center. How am I protecting that? Am I even cognizant of it?

The cloud has made things even more interesting, just as virtualization has made it more interesting over the past couple of years. With NetVault XA, we give you that one single pane of glass with which you can report, analyze, and manage all of your data.

Gardner: Do we have any instances where we have had users, beta customers perhaps, putting this to use, and do we have any metrics of success? What are they getting from it? It's great to have confidence, it's great to have a single view, but are they reducing expenses? Do they have a real measurement of how their complexity has been reduced? What are the tangibles, John?
Now, this person can focus on ensuring that operating systems are maintained, working with end users.

Maxwell: Well, one of the tangibles is the example of the customer that has 18 data centers, because they have a finite-sized group that manage the backups. That team is not going to grow. So if they have to have two or three people in that team just working on writing reports, going out and looking manually at data, and creating their own custom reports, that's not a good use of their time.

Now, those people can do things that they should be doing, which is going out and making sure that data is being protected, going out and testing disaster recovery (DR) plans, and so forth. Some people were tasked with jobs that aren’t very much fun, and that’s now all been automated.

Now they can get down to brass tacks, which is ensuring that, for an enterprise with a quarter million servers, everything is protected and it's protected the way that people think they are going to be protected, meaning the service levels they have in place can be met.

We also have to remember that NetVault XA brings many benefits to our Ranger customer base as well. We have accounts with maybe one home office and maybe two or three remote labs or remote sales offices. We've talked to a couple of vRanger customers who now implement vRanger remotely. In these shops, there is no storage administrator. It's the sysadmin, the VMware administrator, or the Windows administrator. So they didn’t have the luxury like the big accounts to have people do that.

Now, this person can focus on ensuring that operating systems are maintained, working with end users. A lot of the tasks they were previously forced to do took up a lot of their time. Now, with NetVault XA, they can very quickly look at everything, give that health check that everything is okay, and control multiple locations of vRanger from one central console.

Mobile devices

Gardner: Just to be clear John, this console is something you can view as a web interface, and I'm assuming therefore also through mobile devices. I'm going to guess that at some point, there will perhaps be even a more native application for some of the prominent mobile platforms.

Maxwell: It’s funny that you mentioned that. This is an HTML5-based application. So it's very new, very fresh, and very graphical. If you look at the UI, it was designed with tablets and laptops in mind. It's gotten to where you can do controls with your thumbs, assuming you're running this on a tablet.

In-house, and with early support customers, you can log into this remotely via laptops, or tablet computing. We even have some people using them on mobile phones, even though we're not quite there yet. I'm talking about the form factor of how the screens light up, but we will definitely be going that way. So a sysadmin or storage administrator can have at their fingertips the status of what’s going on in the data-protection environment.

What's nice is because this is a thin client, a web UI, you can define user IDs not only for the sysadmins and DBAs and storage administrators, but like I said earlier, IT management.

So if your boss, or your boss’ boss, wants to dial in and see the health of things, how much data you’re protecting, how much data is being replicated, what data is being protected up in the cloud, which is on-prem, all of that sort of stuff, they can now have a dashboard approach to seeing it all. That’s going to make everyone more productive, and it's going to give them a better sense that this data is being protected, and they can sleep at night.
If you don’t have a way to manage and see all of your data protection assets, it's really just a lot of talk.

Gardner: George, we spoke earlier about these natural waves of maturation that have occurred throughout the history of IT. As you look at the landscape for data protection, backup, or storage, how impactful is this in that general maturation process? Is Quest, with its NetVault XA, taking a baby step here, or is this something that gets us a bit more into a fuller, mature outcome, when it comes to the process of data lifecycle?

Crump: Actually, it does two things. Number one, from the process perspective, it allows there to actually be a process. It's nice to talk about backup process and have a process for protection and a process to recover, but if you don’t have a way to manage and see all of your data protection assets, it's really just a lot of talk.

You can't run a process like we are talking about in today’s data center with virtualization and things like that off of an Excel spreadsheet. It's just not going to work. It's nowhere near dynamic enough. So number one, it enables the fact of having a conversation about process.

Number two, it brings flexibility. Because the only other way you could have had that conversation about process, as I said before, would be to throw everything out, pick one application, and suffer the consequences, which would be not ideal support for every single platform.

To sum it up, it's really an enabler to creating a real data-protection process or workflow.

Gardner: Okay. We're going to have to wrap it up pretty soon, but we've mentioned mobile access, and cloud. I wonder if there's anything else coming down the trend pike, if you will, that will make this even more important.

The economy

I come back to our economy. We're still not growing as fast as many people would like, and therefore companies are not just able to grow their top line. They have to look to increase their bottom line through efficiency and deduplication, finding redundancy, cutting down on storage, cutting down energy cost, simplifying, or centralizing data centers into a larger but more efficient and therefore fewer facilities, etc.

Is there anything here, and I will open this up to both John and George, that we can look to in the future that strikes some of these issues around efficiency and productivity, or perhaps there are other trends that will make having a process approach to a data lifecycle and backup and recovery even more important?

Maxwell: Dana, you hit on something that's really near and dear to my heart, which is data deduplication. We have a very broad strategy. We offer our own software-based dedupe. We support every major hardware based dedupe appliance out there, and we're now adding support for Dell’s DR Series, DR4000 dedupe appliances. But we're still very much committed to tape, and we're building initiatives based on storing data in the cloud and backing up, replicating, failover, and so forth.

One of the things that we built into NetVault XA that's separate from the policy management and online monitoring is that we now have historical data. This is going to give you the ability to do some capacity management and capacity planning and see what the utilization is.

How much storage are your backups taking? What's the most optimum number of generations? Where are you keeping that data? Is some data being kept too long? Is some data not being kept long enough?
For every ounce of flexibility, it feels like we have added two ounces of complexity, and it's something we just can't afford to deal with.

By offering a broad strategy that says we support a plethora of backup targets, whether it's tape, special-purpose backup appliances, software-based dedupe, or even the cloud, we're giving customers flexibility, because they have unique needs and they have different needs, based on service levels or budgets. We want to make them flexible, because, going back to our original discussion, one size doesn’t fit all.

Gardner: I think we can sum that up as just being more intelligent, being more empowered, and having the visibility into your data. Anything else, George, that we should consider as we think about the future, when it comes to these issues on backup and recovery and data integrity?

Crump: Just to tie in with what John said, we need flexibility that doesn’t add complexity. Almost everything we've done so far in the environment up to now, has added flexibility, but also, for every ounce of flexibility, it feels like we have added two ounces of complexity, and it's something we just can't afford to deal with. So that's really the key thing.

Looking forward, at least on the horizon, I don't see a big shift, something like virtualization that we need to be overly concerned with. What I do see is the virtual environment becoming more and more challenging, as we stack more and more VMs on it. The amount of I/O and the amount of data protection process that will surround every host is going to continue to increase. So the time is now to really get the bull by the horns and institute a process that will scale with the business long-term.

Gardner: Well, great. We've been enjoying a conversation, and you have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on new approaches that help simplify the data-protection process and help keep cost in check, while also improving recovery confidence. We've seen how solving data protection complexity and availability can greatly help enterprises gain a comprehensive and standardized control approach to their data and that data’s lifecycle.

So I would like to thank our guests, John Maxwell, Vice President of Product Management for Data Protection at Quest. Thanks, John.

Maxwell: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And also George Crump, Lead Analyst at Storage Switzerland. Thank you, George.

Crump: Thanks for having me.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks to you, our audience, for listening, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on new solutions to solve the growing need for more reliable and less cumbersome data backups, despite increasingly data-intensive environments. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For Dell’s Quest Software, BYOD Puts Users First and with IT’s Blessing

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how Quest Software, a Dell company, leverages BYOD and VDI interanally to improve user productivity, application support, and security.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Dana Gardner
Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the growing acceptance of bring your own device (BYOD) at enterprises. We will examine why the users’ personal use, ownership and maintenance of the computing and mobile devices of their choosing is making more sense for more organizations. We'll learn about how and why through the example of a company, Quest Software, that has begun supporting BYOD -- even with the full blessing of IT.

We'll see how this has had benefits far beyond just the users’ sense of empowerment, in terms of meaningful IT advancements in centralized applications, control and support, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) use, better disaster recovery (DR) practices, better data protection and more.

Here to share insights into how BYOD can work well at Quest Software, and even into their new corporate owner Dell, we are joined by Carol Fawcett, the CIO of Dell Software and the former long-term CIO of Quest Software. Welcome, Carol. [Disclosure: Quest Software is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Carol Fawcett: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Good to have you with us. I'm really intrigued with this BYOD thing. Just a year or two ago, people were saying, "What?" and scratching their heads, saying, "Are you kidding? You're going to let your users choose their device?" But as this has been put into place and some of the implications have been thought through, it seems to be an interesting possible benefit set.

So let me start with where you began. What were the challenges, or what were the forces or trends at work, too, that got you all at Dell Software involved with BYOD?

Fawcett: Great question, Dana. I don’t think that we actually started down the path of a BYOD project, because as many listening will know, this started years ago. We started a project where we said we wanted to enable our users to access applications and data on a select set of devices, which for us started with the obvious, the iPad. Then came the Android smartphones, and the list continued on.

Carol Fawcett
This list will continue to grow as time goes on and new devices are brought in. The good news is that there are product offerings now in the marketplace that are helping with that demand and helping IT departments everywhere.

So instead of looking at it as BYOD, it’s now turned into a BYO-x phenomena that the C-level started. And as everyone in an organization saw them bringing different devices into meetings, of course, they all wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Slowly but surely, the wave began, and that's how we got where we are today.

Gardner: This is interesting. There is a sort of direction from the user side, which is to say, they probably like the choice and they had some personal preferences, or they've been able to be more productive in their personal lives using certain technologies.

Then there has also been this direction from the enterprise, which is to say, they like the idea of centralizing, controlling apps and data. And then delivering those out to devices (like with VDI) can be a way of encouraging this control. It’s almost like a confluence of two forces -- VDI and BYOD -- that make a whole greater than the sum of the parts. And we don’t see that very often in IT.

Pull it together

Fawcett: It’s one where you have to pull the needs and the demands of an IT organization together with what the users want to go to, and that’s just what we're seeing out there everywhere in the industry. You definitely have to pull it together, try to satisfy the IT governance and the policies that we set up, and balance that against what the users are saying: "I have to have this in order to get my job done."

Gardner: As we learn more about how you've done this there, let’s also explain to our listeners that Dell recently acquired Quest Software, and you were at Quest before that. So tell me a little bit about how the confluence of these two companies also comes to bear on this issue of BYOD?

Fawcett: Absolutely. Let’s start with Quest Software. Where our sweet spot was, and still is, was that we are the IT management software provider that offers a broad selection of software solutions to simplify and solve the most common -- and most challenging -- IT problems for all areas of an IT environment -- from infrastructure, to applications, front-end to back-end, physical or virtual, or even out in the cloud, for that matter.

Dell was looking for a company whose tools could and would complement and expand their own software product offerings in the four strategic areas that they were focused on, which Quest obviously aligned with. Those were systems management, security, business intelligence (BI) and applications.

So you can really see why the partnership between Quest and Dell is such a great partnership and offers so much to the industry.
It's about individuals that are using different devices accessing a set of applications inside your data center or under your control.

Gardner: Let’s go back to how this came about and learn some lessons from your example, sort of a use case perspective, on BYOD use. If I were a CIO at another firm and I wanted to learn something from your experience about moving to the support of multiple devices, what’s something that you might offer in terms of what to think about early on, or some 20/20 hindsight insights that you have?

Fawcett: As you approach the subject you have to really level-set with the team that this is not about devices that an individual will want to use, but instead it's about individuals that are using different devices accessing a set of applications inside your data center or under your control.

This individual, obviously, should have only one set of access rights across all the environments, based on what that person's role is within the company. The different devices that they use should really be an afterthought. Regardless of the device, their access rights need to remain consistent.

If I'm on a desktop, a laptop, or I bring in a tablet, or if I'm using my phone to get email, it shouldn't matter. I should have that same, consistent UI and the same, consistent security rights to get where I need to go to do my job.

Don't get me wrong -- and we know this; we hear it at every conference we go to -- IT will struggle with the management of the many devices, no doubt. The only thing I can really suggest there is something we did.

Different devices

We took that gigantic list that's out there and we said, "Where are we going to offer different devices?" We're going to pick maybe 10 or 20 different devices, the most common ones that people are bringing in, to support going forward, with the hope that you will be able to satisfy about 80 percent of the employed population.

It does, however, all go to the user experience. You have to keep coming back to that, making sure they have the ability to get to the right data and the right applications, with the correct security rights for their job.

Gardner: It sounds as if some of the basic principles and benefits of VDI come to play here. That is to say, the provisioning, the control, the access management. So there is, I guess, a fortuitous intersection of where VDI was entering into more and more organizations -- particularly those that want to control for security or regulatory purposes or intellectual property (IP) control, that sort of thing -- with this idea of multiple devices, multiple panes of glass, full mobility.

Did that play a role there, too? Were you already going down a VDI track or trajectory and this helped you get to BYOD quicker and better?

Fawcett: We started down the VDI path. In fact, many companies did years ago, when we started to do more with offshore resources. We wanted to have offshore resources, we wanted to give them desktops, but we wanted to make sure they were secure. That was the first introduction of where VDI makes a lot of sense, where you want to secure data, have folks doing coding, but knowing they can’t take code with them. That’s the way it started.
We are a technology company, so some of our policies may be more relaxed than the policies of companies outside our realm.

But then you start to find other use cases for VDI that really start to benefit the rest of the user community. VDI is one of those things that started a while back and now has slowly grown into this BYOD solution.

Gardner: Did you know how much BYOD was going on there? How did you find out and how would it become something you could control?

Fawcett: That’s the question of the hour. I'd love to be able to say that we knew exactly how many people were bringing in what kinds of devices, but the reality is, we are a technology company, so some of our policies may be more relaxed than the policies of companies outside our realm.

For example, in a bank or in the government, you can pretty much lock down an environment, and every employee coming in knows it's going to be locked down because of who they are and who they work for.

Our organization is made up of technologists located around the world. You know some of them are looking for ways around the fences. It’s just built into their nature. It's almost like a competition for them, "Can I figure this out?" Now add in the remote and traveling users and you can see how this expands the challenge as time goes on.

Story of adoption

Gardner: Let’s hear a little bit about the story of adoption. You decided that this Pandora's box was already open, no going back. BYOD is apparently here to stay, and we've had some head start with VDI models and processes. Tell me how this panned out and what were some of the major problems that you found that you needed to solve.

Fawcett: As I mentioned before, for us, it was not about the devices. We tried to turn that around, and it was kind of handy, because the whole consumerization of IT started to come into the industry more and more. So we started to piggyback on that.

Think about it. A device is simply a means of accessing the apps and the data. Our vision instead turned into trying to figure out a way to provide employees with a world-class overall user experience, from beginning to end, encouraging the culture of openness and innovation.

In the end, our goal is to offer our end-users that ability to use a flexible set of tools and toolsets with a familiar interface that allows for secure access anywhere, anytime. We want them to be comfortable with those tools, as this will make them obviously more productive at doing their jobs.

Gardner: Back to that interface issue. There is also this intersection of technology, with HTML5 being prominent. Did you have to make some choices about native support for apps across some of these major platforms and popular devices? Or did you say, "Let’s try to come out with the technological approach that can suit more than going native, try to do write once and deploy anywhere or be consumed anywhere?" How did that kind of pan out?
The good news is that these applications are staying up with the industry and we're serving them up.

Fawcett: We pretty much have a standard set of packaged applications. So it wasn't like we were going to start rewriting any of those applications, or even the front-end. The good news is that these applications are staying up with the industry and we're serving them up, so multiple device types can access the data and still provide that consistent UI to the end-user.

But you still have to go back too and ask what makes sense. What kind of device makes sense, for example, in an AP data entry department? Do you really think you are ever going to see -- and maybe one day, who knows, we will -- but do you ever think you will see a data entry clerk using a tablet to do rapid data entry? Probably not. They're pretty tied to the 10-key. They like the feel of the keyboard itself.

So you kind of sit back. What everyone is beginning to accept is that there are different devices for different types of roles inside an organization. That's pretty much the path that we've continued down as well.

At Quest, we have some wonderful tools that help us understand this environment and help us recognize who is bringing in devices and how they're being used. We're getting a better sense of what's in our environment so that we can start answering these.

Gardner: Let's look at this through the lens of IT. You decided that you're going to support BYOD with the blessing of IT. What does this get for you? Are there some additional benefits other than empowering the end-user or giving them choice? What’s there for you in terms of better support for your centralized operations, applications, data, and then some of those backup and support functions that we all should be doing regularly?

Regular backups

Fawcett: One thing that really helps out IT is the thing you just mentioned, which is making sure that laptops are being backed up on a regular basis. We know today, and I'm sure many of us on this podcast are thinking, "How many of us actually back up our laptops on a regular basis?"

Those who do it are saying, "Well, doesn’t everyone do that?" But you could guess that inside of a large organization, probably the majority are not responsible enough to do it, because it’s just not in the forefront of their minds.

When you talk about VDI and having a desktop in the data center, it's a guaranteed thing, because it's in the data center. Everything in the data center is backed up. That's one real positive -- making sure that the data is secured. Obviously, when it comes to DR, we could quickly recover an environment. So that's a great thing for IT. And I think that, in general, the end-users would love that as well, as they get into this world more often.

Gardner: Looking a little bit to the future, more organizations are adopting software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for non-core business type applications. We're seeing more interest in cloud, consuming applications from a public cloud environment or the hybrid environment, whether it's public or private. Is there something about your support of applications as centralized to multiple devices that will enable you to exploit SaaS, cloud and hybrid services to a greater extent?

Fawcett: Most definitely. It goes back to the tools that you're using to assess, manage, and govern and then support the end-users. IT has to make sure they have those tools in order to make sure they're supporting the end-users regardless of where their data lives.
It's a given that inside your data center you have virtualized as much as possible.

Certainly, the cloud and the SaaS environments are adding extra buzz in the industry. We're very interested in how to capitalize on that. How do we make sure that we're looking at elastic computing, and where can it benefit us? Everybody is scrambling to understand this new technology trend better and how it can help an IT organization.

But it does go back to the tools that an IT organization has in order to match those three things that we should always be doing, which is assessing what the users and the environment need, managing it, making sure it's secure, and then making sure again that we're able to support those end-users to their fullest and the way they expect to be supported.

Gardner: My thinking just a couple of years ago was that BYOD was going to be the exception, not the rule. You would support some sort of a fringe category or two of your workers with this capability, perhaps those out on the road, more often than not.

But now, as I hear you, it sounds that the direction that most IT is going to go in, hybrid services, delivering and consumption and management, and a more centralized control over data, IP, and management of apps and delivering desktops themselves as services, are all going to be making BYOD, or at least the blocking and tackling that you would need to do anyway, something that comes together in such a way that this might become more the norm than the exception. Do you think that’s what’s happening?

Fawcett: Absolutely. It's like when virtualization was first there. There was a wave of “how much could you virtualize inside your data center?” Fast forward, and now it's a given. It's a given that inside your data center you have virtualized as much as possible, so that you can ensure that your data center is being used the most it can be and the most efficiently.

The way it's going to be

This is the same way this is going to be. Just talk to your kids. Try to find a child walking down the street and isn't texting or who doesn't have a tablet and can probably manage it better than their parents.

I'm not talking about just young children but generations to come. I'm talking about the kids who are coming in now, in their 20s and 30s. it's a given that they want to use whatever device they choose in the corporate world, just like they do at home. It's a right. It's no longer considered a luxury.

From that view, it will be up with the internal IT teams to ensure they have the access to everything they need, with the right security in place to protect them, as well as protect the company. That's why when you think about some of the tools that we've been using here, you really want to make sure you bring in some of those tools, so that you can, in fact, assess, manage and support the end-users to the best of their ability, for not only the end-user, but also for the company.

Gardner: To that point about tools, I assume that you all drink your own champagne.

Fawcett: Absolutely.

Gardner: Was there anything in particular in the Quest Software portfolio that you think gave you an on-ramp, perhaps a better return on investment (ROI), and even overall better control and management, as you move toward this BYOD, support of many panes of glass, centralized IT management direction?

Fawcett: Absolutely. Yes, we are drinking the champagne, and it all goes back to the beginning, where you asked me, how I knew how much BYOD was actually in our environment? That's where we started using one of the first phenomenal tools that we have, which is called MessageStats. This is a great tool that reaches out and helps us track the trending within the organization at a macro and micro level. We know which devices and OS versions are being used, by whom, and at what time.
It provided a critical insight as to which virtual desktop technologies provide the best fit for each user, based on their needs.

In fact, I asked my team just recently, when we first started talking, "Can you pull a list on all the devices that I use, that are registered to me?" So I saw my own list of the devices and I was shocked to see how they actually are tracked, right down to the level of when was the first time I ever connected the device to the network, last successful sync, last policy update, what kind of device was it.

It was so granular, and quite frankly, it was so very Big Brother-like, it kind of scared me. But again, you can't make a solution for what you don't understand. So assessing with MessageStats is the only way to go.

Then once we understood it, we said, "Now that the process is moving, let's figure out what type of device is right for what type of user." And this is where we turned to vWorkspace, which enabled us to determine which of the users and scenarios are best suited for the virtual desktops in the data center.

In addition, it provided a critical insight as to which virtual desktop technologies provide the best fit for each user, based on their needs. So vWorkspace allows us to not only put a desktop in the data center, but it lets us do things like application streaming and publishing. It really enables us to have that broad spectrum of functionality with just that one tool.

Once we were up and running, we stepped into the management and governance aspect of the project. This can probably be one of the most problematic areas, when you think about the pure nature of BYOD. Multiple devices for a given user, each acting very differently, and if not managed, could destroy any governance policy put in place.

Understanding the individual

This is where we truly must raise the issue up from the device to the individual, understanding that role of that person and understanding what security rights, regardless of the device they need to have in place. And this is where Quest’s One Identity Management came into play.

It gave the IT team the ability to rely on one point of control for an individual and all their devices. This is the product we count on to pass the audits, and most importantly, to ensure that our employees have that right level of access needed to get their job done.

The final key point on this is that it takes IT out of the mix and automates that very cumbersome process of provisioning, moving employees amongst departments, and then finally de-provisioning, when that employee leaves.

This is a very powerful product that makes it so that in our environment, once an employee is entered into the HR system, through automation, it automatically provisions them, gives them the rights to applications, sets them up inside of those applications -- all without IT involved in that process. So no more passing help-desk tickets.

One other piece that I wanted to touch on is a product called Webthority that we have been using, not only for our internal users, but also during the M and A process. This is a great product, because it provides a portal for the employees to come into. Once again, it's secured via that same network log-on that they use when they walk in the door in the morning.

This is anywhere, any device. It's simply a portal. They come in, they use their network log on, and bam, they're shown all the applications that they have visibility into and access to. They can go in, without having to log on again, almost like a single sign-on effect, which allows them to access the applications via two-factor authentication as well. It's a great product that helps out in many ways.
Remember, the key to any IT success is through the happiness and satisfaction of the customers.

And then that final aspect of an environment is, of course, the support and monitoring. Remember, the key to any IT success is through the happiness and satisfaction of the customers. We recognize that supporting and monitoring their experience and performance is most important, especially when you talk about VDI, which is what you and I have been talking so much about.

Our job is to ensure that the end-users are getting the same type of performance that they would on a standalone PC or if their desktop was in the data center. Because without that consistently great performance, your end-users will fight giving up their desktops every time.

For this, we turned to monitoring that user experience with Foglight for Virtual Desktops. Being able to quickly determine which users are impacted by performance problems helps us to proactively take action for those users, before the users feel the pain.

Understanding the trends in the virtual environment -- how many people are connecting at any given time, what applications are they using, etc. -- helps us determine when we might need to add additional servers to that server farm, and to meet the load. Or we can even look at a desktop or an end-user and say, "You know what? I don't think these folks should be virtualized at all. Perhaps they should go back to being physical" -- for whatever reason.

Empirical data

You can't correct what you don't know and you need that empirical data to make an educated move. Foglight gives us that data, ensuring we are consistently improving the environment for the end-users. It's a great set of products that touch on all three phases of an environment or a team that's trying to solve this BYOD issue.

Gardner: It really strikes me too that this isn't really about devices, but it's about the data center, the tools, the management, the governance, all of which are probably things that are good IT best practices anyway. It almost sounds as if BYOD is forcing discipline, governance, automation; some of the basics of good, advanced and modern IT. Is that sort of what you are seeing, is BYOD a catalyst to better data-center management?

Fawcett: It can definitely be used that way, because it does all go back to how an individual in a given role gets access to the applications they need to get their job done. It shouldn't matter which device they are using. It's all about which application access they should have to get their job done.

Gardner: Of course when you put in the best practices, when you have the backups and you have the scheduling and the automation, this all will end up being an economic benefit as well, because you won't suffer terrible outages, you won't have issues of discovery for data when you need it and how you need it.

Of course, you can start to look at your total cost for your data center and tweak and manage for energy, facilities, capacity and utilization. It sounds as if not only is BYOD a catalyst for better data center practices, but it could be some significant means of reducing your total cost of operation.
It's all about containing the IT budget through best practices and automation.

Fawcett: Absolutely. We've always looked at containing IT budgets as a means to an end. When you sit back and think about it, the only way to do that is through simplification, standardization and automation.

If you don't have that last piece, that automation piece, and you're simply throwing heads to solve an issue, your IT expenses are going to go through the roof. And you're going to have unhappy customers in the end, because processes are going to be overcomplicated. It's all about containing the IT budget through best practices and automation.

Gardner: Well, great. I'm afraid we are about out of time. You've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast discussion on users’ personal use, ownership and even maintenance of their own computing and mobile devices, and how that's actually making more sense, for more organizations, for more reasons.

We have seen how this has benefits far beyond just the users’ sense of empowerment; we're seeing that there are benefits to IT advancements along the lines of centralized application support, data support, VDI implementations, better DR, data protection and even more.

We've been talking about how BYOD impacts organizations, in particular Quest Software, a Dell company, and we have been learning this from Carol Fawcett, the CIO at Dell Software. Thanks so much.

Fawcett: Thank you.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks also to you, our audience, for joining us. We hope you enjoyed this, and we hope too that you come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Quest Software.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how Quest Software, a Dell company, leverages BYOD and VDI interanally to improve user productivity, application support, and security. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.

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