The very first presentation at Storage Field Day 7 was held by Catalogic about their ECX copy data management platform that allows you to manage, orchestrate and analyze your different copies of data. Catalogic claims that you can save up to 39% on costs by reducing the amount of redundant copies of data in your IT infrastructure, while simultaneously also making sure your data is no longer at risk of being under protected. Let’s see how they do that…
Catalogic ECX catalogs your data copies (snapshots for dev/test, DR, archive, backup, etc) in your existing data infrastructure. Currently it does that for NetApp filers and for the VMware hypervisor, but their roadmap and presentation show future support for many additional vendors such as EMC, IBM, Nimble Storage, HP and more…
On the plane I had an interesting discussion with Arjan about ECX which revolved around the thesis of “If you can’t keep track of how many copies you have, aren’t you using this product to mask bad management?”. Most of the environments I’ve worked in were pretty straightforward with two fundamental copies of the primary data: one for DR (i.e. mirroring) and one for restore in case of corruption/accidental deletion (i.e. backups). Additional snapshots on the VMware layer are an exception (usually created during patching and thus temporary) and monitored on the VMware layer itself.
It starts to get interesting when you leave that simple 2-3 copies landscape and start creating copies for development, testing, archiving or analytics. Some of these workloads may require lots of performance and the copy is thus perhaps made on a separate set of disks or even an entirely different system. And maybe you’re not the only individual or team creating these copies, but there are other teams creating copies as well. It’s easy to lose oversight and control in these cases and if you have to make those copies on a recurring schedule, you don’t want to do create them manually each time.
This is where the catalog function of ECX flows over into the orchestration feature that allows you to create snapshots and copies on the NetApp and VMware layers. Using ECX you can automate and schedule the creation of data copies. These copies can then be used for restores or to create for example a test/dev environment. Analyze functionality of ECX gives you visibility into which copies claim the most storage (i.e. cost the most money), the characteristics of your files (e.g. age & last accessed) and also which data is not protected (hopefully nothing).
ECX is installed quickly (15 minutes using an OVA template) and is completely agentless. Licensing is on a per controller basis (an array usually has redundant controllers so you need two licenses), which come in a small-medium-large configuration costing respectively $ 5-10-15k each.
My two cents
While I think the ECX software suite has limited use in simple environments that only employ one or two static copies (the classic DR + backup environments), it’s an entirely different ballgame if your environment employs many copies for dev, test, archive etc. For these environments Catalogic ECX may give you the added visibility and control over copy management that could really save you money.
One downside of ECX is that it currently only supports NetApp arrays and that the product GUI is also completely written towards NetApp systems: all terminology is NetApp based. Also ECX can catalog and create VMware snaps, but it currently cannot crack open the VMDKs and index the files in them. This currently limits the product to a pretty small subset of customers. Catalogic is however fully aware of this and their roadmap shows an abundance of vendors that will be supported in a future release of ECX.
Disclaimer: Even though GestaltIT paid for the flight, hotel and various other expenses, I was not compensated for my time and there is no requirement to blog or tweet about any of the presentations. Everything I post is of my own accord.