Want Immutable? Go Indelible!

Dec 31, 2021

One hot topic in IT right now, is the ability to quickly recover from a situation where important data has been deleted or corrupted.  This is particularly relevant with the ever-increasing amount of Ransomware and Cyber attacks that we are seeing.

Traditional backup technologies have often been unreliable, hard to manage and even harder to recover data from.  There have been discussions for the last 20 years around the concept that “tape is dead”.  Tape is not dead, and continues to be very much alive for two main reasons

1)      It’s very cost effective to store large amounts of data

2)      It is the best way of guaranteeing “air gap” between the production environment and the backup.

Over recent years many people have tried to kill tape backups, with varying amounts of success.  The big issue that has halted these attempts is the issue of “air gap”.  Up until now there has been no easy way to stop a bad actor who has obtained the right credentials from infiltrating the “connected” backup repository and corrupting or deleting the backup data.  Therefore tape has prevailed, as you cannot virtually corrupt something that is stored in a secure data vault.

The game has now changed with the notion of “Immutable” backups.  What is Immutability? I hear you ask.  The dictionary defines the term as the following: “the state of not changing, or being unable to be changed”.  So, when we apply this to backup data, at a high level it means that once the data is written to the immutable backup repository it cannot be changed, deleted or overwritten.  It can be read for recovery purposes though.  I am not going to enter into the technical detail on how immutability works (mainly because I don’t personally understand it), but there are many online repositories for the inquisitive technical brains to delve deeper into the technology.  But what we need to know for the purposes of this conversation is that data that has been set to be immutable cannot be changed by anyone, even including administrators and service providers, until the pre-defined period of immutability has expired.

We at Softsource vBridge have been investigating what Immutability could mean for our clients, particularly when combined with our expertise in the Veeam product suite, and our in country vBridge managed object storage arrays.  When we combine all these things, what we have come up with is our newest product offering, “Indelible”.  Indelible comes in two forms

1)      Indelible Backup – For a fully managed end to end backup solution

2)      Indelible Data – To be used as a scale out repository to give data immutability

Indelible Backup

Indelible Backup is a fully managed backup solution that consists of client configurable backups utilising Veeam backup and replication technology to an onsite SSD based backup repository that will be sized appropriately according to the client’s data requirements.  This gives our clients the ability to perform self-restores to their environments from the local repository, but the client does not have to worry about capex to purchase the repository, or the ongoing management and maintenance of the hardware and licensing.  The backed-up data is then copied to our in-country object storage arrays located in either Christchurch or Auckland.  It is at this layer where we apply “object lock”, which is the form of immutability that we are utilising in our environment.  Once the data has been locked, no one can change, corrupt or delete it, not even our team of engineers, until the client defined object lock period has expired.  This is how we can guarantee incorruptible fully air-gapped backups without the use of tape in the environment.

There are a couple of other key differences between Indelible backup and other standard managed backup solutions in the New Zealand market, which we believe set Indelible apart:

1)      Every backup is fully tested.  What we mean by this, is that not only is the success or failure of the completion of the backup notified, but the Indelible backup solution also actually tests each backup by booting the server in a network isolated bubble and ensuring that the server boots successfully and gives a “hearbeat” back to the Indelible management construct.  This ensures that if a server needs to be fully recovered then it is ready, and good to be booted from the backup.

2)      The other key point of difference with Indelible, is that we use Veeam technology to be able to perform “instant restores”.  What this means is that, because our backup hardware is all SSD based storage, we have the ability to stand up backed-up server in backup environment and present it back to the client environment instantly (it takes as long as the server takes to boot), once the server is booted and available to the client environment, we can then non-disruptively vMotion the server back into the normal production environment.  With Indelible there is no need to slowly restore servers back to the production environment from legacy slow spinning disk storage or even worse tape.  Recoverability from a single event can be instant.

Indelible Data

The concept of Indelible Data is a very simple one.   Indelible Data is a fully managed in-country hosted Object storage solution.  We have installed Cloudian Object arrays in both our Christchurch and Auckland Datacentre locations.  With Indelible Data, clients can use the Object Storage as a scale out data repository for data such as backups or large log files, clients can set “object lock” (or immutability) on the data as is required.  We have set a very competitive per Gb cost for this storage, and it should be noted that there are no additional charges apart from the per Gb / month cost, i.e. there are no egress or API call charges, which we have come to expect with Public Cloud Object Storage offerings.

In summary we believe Immutability for Data is a game changer in the backup and storage space, we have talked to our clients to understand their requirements in a modern backup and object storage solution and firmly believe that our Indelible products are unique and address the market requirement.  Don’t hesitate to give me or our Softsource vBridge account team a call to find out more.