Boots & Technology – CommvaultGO Review

When I heard Commvault had selected Nashville for its annual user conference, CommvaultGO, I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t attending.  I had some personal plans in Nashville that had to do with my other passion, music, but sadly I was leaving on the same day it was starting, Tuesday.  One way or another, I got an email from someone at Commvault asking if I could extend my trip and join them at the Opryland Hotel & Conference Center for the conference.  I was delighted to be part of the analyst community and especially a delegate with Tech Field Day.  I gladly accepted the invitation to participate.

This was my first time attending a CommvaultGO event and the very first event as The CTE Group.  Two firsts, followed by another first.  When I saw my friend, Stu Miniman with theCUBE, he asked if I would be his guest on the final segment of theCUBE and provide my perspective from an analyst viewpoint.  I was very happy to do so, and this made it three firsts for me.

Check out my interview here.The CUBE onsite at CommvaultGo

“GO” TIME!

From the time my boots hit the Opryland Hotel & Conference Center, it was game on!  I had a nice lunch with the Tech Field Day delegates hosted by Stephen Foskett followed by several hours of briefings on the upcoming announcements from Commvault.  After, we were given an exclusive tour of the show floor and the intentionality behind the design along with their “green initiative” which aligned with Gaylord’s green initiatives that they recently kicked off as well.  For example, all of the black drapes you normally see at these events were going to be donated to local schools and other entities in need of their theatre programs, etc.  The carpeting, over 42,000 square feet, will also be donated, basically, everything that was there would be donated and not end up in a landfill somewhere, which I thought was very impressive. I’m really glad they took the time to explain that to us and to give us insight into the reasons why they designed the show the way that they did.  The showroom floor was called “the village”, and with any village, you have a Main Street.  This was no different, the Main Street in the village was lined with park benches, greenery, and you could even take a break to play a game of corn hole if you’d like.  The vendor booths were quite accessible, making it easy to veer off Main Street to ask questions, get more information, etc.  All throughout, you would find Commvault intermingled among the vendor partners with their own kiosks, clearly showing off their commitment to integration and vendor support.  One of the things I thought was very clever, as they had all of the breakouts located within the village in what they called “theaters”.  The reason this was clever is it kept the attendees on the showroom floor and engaged throughout the day, it was all right there.  I was concerned that noise would be an issue, but once again they cleverly placed small speakers on the floor of the theaters to ensure the attendees could hear what was being presented and not the entire floor.

This was smartly executed and provided all of the sponsor’s maximum coverage during the event since all of the activities, besides the keynote, happened right in the village.  Quite frankly, it felt a bit nostalgic to me, with the vintage pickup trucks, automobiles, and meeting in the “town square” to get the lowdown on the happenings.  A+ Commvault, I think the intentionality behind that design worked splendidly!

The Announcements

Commvault has been very busy working up to their event, CommvaultGO. The long list of announcements is proof of that work.  Below is taken directly from one of the slides presented to us during our Tech Field Day briefing.

  • Commvault announces As a Service Portfolio for Commvault Complete Backup & Recovery to drive simplicity, ease of use, and cost savings for customers
  • Commvault Unveils New Appliances to extend the power of scale-out data management to enterprises, MSPs, and Remote Offices.
  • Commvault resets industry benchmark for software interaction in data management with the announcement of Commvault Command Center
  • Solving one of the CIO’s most pressing problems: Knowing what data they have across the enterprise with Commvault Activate
  • Commvault and Hewlett Packard Enterprise partner to bring seamless backup and recovery to the cloud.
  • Commvault and NetApp expand partnership to offer powerfully simple backup and recovery solutions from NetApp and NetApp channel partners
  • Rual Servicios Informaticos to manage complete ‘data lifecycles’ With Commvault HyperScale™ Technology

On top of that list, they also simplified the product packaging, pricing, and have made a concerted effort to focus on a channel partner only approach.

Two things really stood out for me, their Recovery Readiness Report, and Commvault Activate. Since we are all about Recovery at The CTE Group, I was very intrigued by the readiness report.  I should note that they did wow me with Commvault Complete Backup & Recovery.  It is basically everything you’d ever need, it is all there. That’s good, it tells me they are focusing on the customer and making it easy for the customer to do business with them.

It’s all about Recovery

The Recovery Readiness Report is the lens into your ability to recover in the face of a disaster.  When it comes to disaster recovery you either have it all together and life is good, or you are banking on hope as your strategy to recover when the stuff hits the fan.  Well, what makes this report nice is it lets you drill into your backup operation to estimate the effectiveness of your recovery.

This report displays the Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Actual RPO (RPA), Recovery Time Objective (RTO), and the estimated Actual RTO (RTA) for each client computer in all CommCell environments. It accomplishes this by using the previous backup meta-data to calculate your effectiveness. So, when you first run this report the default is based on the most recent backup jobs run.  If those results aren’t acceptable, then you can dial back your RPO based on days HH:MM:SS.  I like the report, I think it adds some value, but I would like to see what they will do in future iterations of this report.  During the demo I received, I noticed it seemed to be a little cumbersome getting here, and there was no way (per the person giving me the demo) to create a printable or email report or export this to an audit-able document. I do believe it would benefit the customer to have a way to create a step by step recovery plan from their data protection tool.  I think this is a good step, but I think there is a lot more they can do and I’m waiting to see what is next, but this is a good feature nonetheless.

GO GO – ACTIVATE

I couldn’t resist.  Every time I heard them mention, Commvault Activate, I heard my son’s voice when he was about 4 years old saying “Power Rangers, Actibate”.

All joking aside, this was probably one of the most interesting announcements I have heard in a long time.  First of all, Commvault has always been a platform system, in other words, you could do a lot but you had to do it with the entire platform, or license the features for the platform.  Nothing wrong with that, most solutions are the same, but something they announced at this event broke the mold.  Commvault Activate is a standalone solution.  Why is that important?  Well, before I get into that analysis, let me pull some quotes from Commvault’s release.

— Powerful indexing, analysis and reporting in Commvault Activate™ delivers insights that enable enterprises to know data location, type, and profile —

— With Commvault Activate and its portfolio of applications, enterprises can better act on their data to lower on-premises and cloud storage expenses, accelerate eDiscovery projects and streamline GDPR and other data privacy compliance — 

— Customers can now gain value from Commvault solutions independent of backup and recovery, while also having a fully-integrated data management approach —

Commvault says its powerful innovation is as a result of the quest to improve business outcomes with data-driven insights and actions.  They used that word, outcome, quite a bit throughout the event.  I’ll say more about that in The CTE Summation.

Commvault goes on to say that “customers will be able to merge the knowledge and analysis of their data with actionable use cases. With this ability to know their data, customers will increase their potential to “activate” their data for significant returns across areas like improved business decision-making, lowered data storage costs, compliance readiness, risk, and other customer critical use cases. The innovation in Commvault Activate solves one of the most vexing challenges facing CIOs today: gaining a complete picture of their data environments.”

They are calling the “powerful open, dynamic index” a 4D index, as it is poised to embrace AI (artificial intelligence) methods that “enrich the data context, meaning and understanding across data sources regardless of location or data type.”

Enterprises can gain insights about their data across all environments, whether managed by third-party tools, managed with Commvault tools, or not under management at all.

While this is a standalone product, it can be used with Commvault CompleteBackup & Recovery to blend it into the indexed collection of backup and archive instances providing a fully virtualized data landscape perspective.

You don’t know what you don’t know

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – Peter Drucker

Wouldn’t it be nice to really know your data?  To really build a structure, a foundation for excellence in data management?  Well, it appears Activate is a tool to help you do just that, put your arms around your ever-growing data sets across all the silos and gain measurable insights that help create actionable plans for your management strategy.  One of the most daunting tasks in IT is data classification, nobody wants to do, everybody knows it needs to be done, and so it sits, and festers.  Year over year it seems our line of sight to our data seems to fade into the deep fog of “do more with less” and we forget about how valuable it could be to our business.  Over twenty years ago I made a statement from stage during a presentation, “in my opinion the meta-data is more important than the data in some respects.”  As a leader in the data protection world, that caught people off guard.  “How could you say that meta-data was more important than the data?”, said my employer.  Well, 20 years later, we are finding how meta-data and contextual data are so important, especially around GDPR and its close cousins that will soon raise their hands.  Knowing your data and how it should be treated, that’s called compliance and ignorance of this fact is not a defense.  Organizations need to put their arms around this subject and quick.

“Customers cannot manage what they don’t know they have – this is a growing and vexing challenge for all CIOs, a challenge that is holding back business innovation, compliance, and operations,” said Robert Hammer, Commvault’s Chairman, President, and CEO. “With data in the cloud, on-premises, stored virtually, on mobile devices and everywhere in between – and with data sitting out in business units and not under central management – public and private organizations are missing opportunities to add value, reduce cost, manage risk and simply run better. Now, for the first time, we are enabling organizations to look across their data sources, generate and centralize knowledge about their data, and be able to drive further analysis to assess and understand the value of the data in conjunction with the company’s business requirements. That gives customers the power to make the right decisions and drive action to better manage, use, and get value from their data – this is truly data management done differently.”

Commvault Activate maps and profiles data sources to enable enterprises to perform the following analysis centrally:

  • Identify redundant, obsolete, and other unnecessary data they have stored and backed up, immediately reducing their on-premises or cloud storage costs.
  • Assess data usage to move infrequently accessed data to less expensive storage, and frequently accessed data to high-performance storage – reducing costs and improving data availability and application performance.
  • Identify pockets of critical, valuable or sensitive data (such as personal data, intellectual property, and contracts), enabling them to move this data to storage in a specific country or geographic zones, and implement policies to better protect and secure this data, reducing risks associated with data privacy compliance and cybersecurity.
  • Identify the duplication patterns of files to determine the right strategies to better control this information and derive value from it.
  • Identify data ownership to improve data governance decision making and close gaps in data ownership, reducing data stewardship risks.
  • Assess data not yet protected by Commvault Complete Backup & Recovery, to help develop appropriate data protection strategies for this data.

The CTE Summation

The Recovery Readiness Report really is a nice feature and as someone who is known as “Mr. Recovery“, I do like the fact that you can drill into the RPO estimations to give you the insight you need for your ability to recover.  What I would love to see is the next step, and that is a proactive setting for a group of systems that would intelligently notify “someone_who_cares” should the desired RPO not meet the expected settings.  I know this is a new feature, but I believe this is in alignment with Commvault’s messaging around Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

So, why is it so interesting to me that Commvault Activate is a standalone product?  This gives Commvault an opportunity to address a different level of audience in the enterprise.  It also gives them a “footprint” in the enterprise where they may not have had one previously. From a competitive standpoint, this is brilliant, but that doesn’t necessarily give Commvault a leg up on the competition.  They still need to deliver on the value they talked about at the event.  Marketing and messaging is easy compared to delivering real business value.

I heard the word OUTCOME a lot during the conference.  We aim to help improve business outcomes.  That’s great, outcomes are great, but what I am looking for, and I think what the customers are looking for from Commvault is not about a general reference to “outcomes”, but rather a real view into the full equation and not just what is on the right of the equals sign.  I think the statement that “we help companies achieve better outcomes”, is another easier said than done statement.  It is what is on the left side of the equals sign that matters to me and I believe to the customers.  What I want to talk with Commvault about is what’s on the left side of the equals sign, what did the equation look like in order to achieve the OUTCOME on the right side of the equals sign? 

Outcomes happen, even accidental outcomes, but I want to learn about the intentional outcomes, the reason a customer chose Commvault over the competition, and if they were able to meet the desired outcome as a result.  That, to me, is the real meat of the message.  Let me add, though, if they continue to execute, and drive forth on the messaging they introduced at CommvaultGO in Nashville, they just may have a breakout moment in the market and begin to truly be viewed as a true data management company.  Commvault Activate could just be the catalyst to change this perception.

David Chapa, Founder, The CTE Group

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