Catalogic ECX, backup and "instant visibility"

Protecting data files through backup or mirroring procedures is an important, but mundane, part of enterprise IT life. Catalogic believes that its approach to this process could both make life easier for IT administrators and offer enterprises greater insight into its data and how it is being used.

Ed Walsh, CEO of Catalogic Software, and his colleague, Steve Kenniston, introduced me to the company and one of its products, ECX 2.0. One key point that I took away from the conversation was that there are many ways to protect key data files and one of the simplest is to simply keep multiple copies of them.

What is ECX?

Catalogic's ECX is a software platform designed to make it possible for IT storage administrators to make a complete catalog of data items and then create a set of automated procedures that copies this data on-site and/or off-site.

ECX then acts as a centralized catalog of files, snapshots, and SnapVault and SnapMirror data. This makes it easily possible to, in the company's words:

  • List, search and browse your data
  • Perform fast recovery, e-discovery as well as determine recovery SLAs (local or remote)
  • Ensure data isn’t in the wrong location and discover any data spillage or leakage
  • Create policy-based, automated workflows for storage operations

The company calls this "instant visibility."

ECX also offers a number of tools that make it possible to gather analytical data about all of the files and snapshots in the catalog to make it easier to meet agreed upon service levels. Snapshots can be made available across the organization's datacenters and also be stored in the datacenter of cloud service providers. This makes intelligent data management quite a bit easier for IT administration.

Walsh and Kenniston would go on to say that this increases the level and quality of control available to the business. Our conversation covered quite a number of different use cases for ECX and why it would be helpful to many enterprises.

The company is making a 30-day free trial available as well.

Snapshot analysis

In the past, complex backup and recovery software would be used to copy key pieces of data to disk or tape. This process could take a very long time and usually required that the organization adopt careful and sophisticated processes to make complete backups of important data items from time to time and make incremental backups that only included data that was changed since the last backup. This often meant that organizations had to maintain daily copies of incremental changes and weekly or monthly complete copies.

Copies had to be maintained on-premise in order to make it possible to recover when a file was accidentally deleted or corrupted by the failure of an application, storage device or a complete system. I've lived through disaster scenarios in which all of the daily copies were corrupted and current data couldn't be restored. The recovery process could only restore an ancient copy of the data. This required manual entry of data or recovery from application logs.

Furthermore, the backup procedures took quite a bit of time and often required that important applications be taken offline so that the backup could be complete and accurate. Storage vendors addressed this issue by making it possible for the storage systems to make snapshots of data without requiring that applications be taken offline.

Many enterprises have moved away from that approach and are now keeping two or more copies of the online files and have deployed software that detects changes and mirrors the changes to data files being maintained by other systems both on- and off-premise. The newest wrinkle to this approach is maintaining copies of important data items in the datacenter of a cloud service provider.

As one would expect, all of the manual and automatic processes that are used to keep track of all of these copies and making sure that needed data is always available can be a nightmare for storage administrators. Catalogic wants to prevent those nightmares and make it possible for organizations to maintain the copies using automated tools.

The company, at this point in time, only supports environments based upon the use of VMware ESX 4.1 or vSphere 4 or 5. Furthermore, the data must be stored using NetApp's Data ONTAP (versions 7.3.3+, 8.0.1+, Cloud ONTAP, or clustered ONTAP 8.2.x). This, of course, means that those who are not using those tools in their IT infrastructure will not find Catalogic's ECX useful or interesting.