In the first post in this series, I positioned that the world of IT is becoming more, not less, heterogeneous. In the second post, I talked a little bit about why. In this post, I try to answer the question “what do we do about it?”

There is a concept known as the “agile data center.” It’s pretty much how it sounds – it depends upon IT creating an infrastructure that is inherently nimble and responsive which can incorporate cutting-edge advances in software and hardware. In terms of backup, the agile data center means that you either have to be ready to deploy multiple point solutions for new cloud, virtualization, application, data, and system technologies or you have to choose a backup solution which is inherently inclusive of new technologies.

This is not how most backup companies get funded by the venture capital community. Most backup companies are founded in order to go after a single technology niche. Even much larger and successful “expansion stage” (this means that the company has achieved $5M to $10M in revenue and is beginning to expand on its previous base of revenue) venture capital-based backup companies have a tendency to focus on a niche.

In order to understand this, let’s talk about virtualization backup. There are two ways to backup virtual environments – at the HOS (Host Operating System) level and at the GOS (Guest Operating System) level. Two examples of this are the growing class of virtualization-only vendors and Dell AppAssure. This class of virtualization-only vendors are typically pure-play virtualization vendors – and they performs virtualization support at the HOS level for VMware and now, Hyper-V. Dell AppAssure started as a block-level Exchange backup vendor and expanded to become a Windows block-level backup vendor. Dell AppAssure protects VMs at the GOS level.

Which is better? Both have passionate advocates. It really boils down to the customer’s particular situation – its use case, as it were.

And that’s where the agile data center concept comes in. You can’t build agility solely based on predicting the future – because no one knows for sure what the future is. But what you can do is build agility based on adaptability, flexibility, and the ability of a backup architecture to be responsive.

That’s one reason that in all of these “wars” – from virtualization “wars” to block versus file “wars” to agent versus agentless “wars” – the answer in my opinion shouldn’t be “what is best?” – the answer should be like the kid that goes to Baskin Robbins (lots of flavors, right?) and when asked what flavor she wants answers “yes.” You want a flexible and modular architecture capable of handling backup at the GOS and HOS, capable of handling backup at the block and file level, capable of handling agents and agentless approaches to data protection, capable of handling disk and tape, capable of on-premise and cloud, and so on.

Would love to hear other opinions – please don’t hesitate to write and let me know what you think.