Last month (September 2019), Commvault announced the intention to acquire Hedvig for $225 million. Initially, it wasn’t clear why an enterprise data protection company would want to purchase a software-defined storage start-up for such a large amount of money.
It’s becoming clear, as we dig into the detail of Commvault’s intentions on data management (rather than just data protection), how the combination of Commvault products like Activate could integrate very tightly with Hedvig and offer a greater value-add than the two platforms alone.
For those not familiar, Hedvig is a software-defined storage company that has developed a single scale-out platform supporting block, object and file protocols on the same infrastructure. The Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform (DSP) enables customers to consolidate their data into a single solution, irrespective of the access method required.
The SDS market is a challenging environment to sell into. Customers like appliance-based products that make installation and management easy. Although SDS may offer lower acquisition costs, it’s possible that maintenance and management require additional skills the enterprise doesn’t want to invest in, even if the overall cost may be lower than a traditional solution.
Ultimately, it’s easy for vendors to engage into a race to the bottom on simple metrics like $/GB, so companies like Hedvig need to build in value-add to their platforms, typically around application and O/S support.
Commvault is a long-time player in the enterprise market and a clear leader in data protection. This was recently ratified with the release of Gartner’s latest MQ on Datacentre Backup and Recovery that shows Commvault ahead of every other company in the MQ evaluation.
However, the data protection market is evolving and new start-ups are offering arguably easier and “leaner” products than Commvault Complete. I use quotes around “leaner” because fewer features doesn’t always mean better product, but depending on the business, may be easier to implement than a fully-featured platform.
Commvault wants to move into data management and 12 months ago announced Activate, an e-discovery, data optimisation and search tool for customers to understand both primary data on storage platforms and secondary data protected by Commvault.
Data Management is quite a loaded term these days, but the evolution of any data management company needs to move from producing more efficient storage asset management to actually working on the content of data. Activate already offers features that, for example, allow customers to detect sensitive data like that containing PII (personally identifiable information).
The interesting feature of any of the discovery solutions on the market (including Activate) is that they are reactive in nature. These tools use metadata and other attributes of data to find content that, for example, is out of compliance with company policies.
One of the biggest challenges of reactivity is the post-processing involved in identifying data of potential interest. What if we could invert this process and make data discovery proactive?
Imagine a scenario where an e-discovery job highlights data for legal use, but at the same time contains PII. Activate includes a feature to allow documents to be exported with redaction in place, so recipients of the data can see the content of a document but not be able to identify the individual.
If the file system storing the data was able to determine access rights to a document (e.g. access all data including PII versus access data with PII redacted) and enforce that access directly, then content could be proactively protected and either redacted or non-redacted content displayed to the appropriate user – in real-time. There would be no need to export a document in order to obfuscate content.
This is where the combination of Hedvig and Commvault could be very beneficial. We can imagine a scenario where Activate determines the policies to be applied to any data in a file share on the Hedvig platform. As data is created and stored on that file share, PII rules get applied automatically, based on user access privileges. The Hedvig platform could both identify PII data as it is created and control access at the same time.
This is a simple example of where Commvault and Hedvig integration could offer more than two standalone products. Another could be to deliver more efficient backup and restore of data stored in Hedvig DSP and to make data more easily available for test/dev environments, with automated data obfuscation. The list of ideas is endless.
Data Management becomes a feature of Hedvig DSP that is determined by policies set within Activate. Commvault can then choose to expose some of these APIs to 3rd party partners as they wish.
The Architect’s View
It’s early days, but I see the ability to integrate more tightly between these two platforms as the key to adding more value to either platform alone. Implementing effective data management will mean having a close coupling between primary and secondary storage platforms, with tools like Activate to set the policies that apply to both.
This joined-up approach may be essential for unstructured storage and data protection vendors to continue to innovate in this competitive market.
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Disclaimer: Chris was invited to Commvault GO 2019, with Commvault and GestaltIT covering flights and accommodation. There is no requirement to blog or produce any content from the event and no content is reviewed before publication.