Data protection has featured heavily on the blog over the past few months. Solutions are moving on from the traditional self-build of the last 15 years to more targeted software and appliances. Another company doing something different with data protection is HYCU, formerly Comtrade Software. The company recently rebranded and released version 3.0 of their data protection product that has been specifically written for hyper-converged environments. Who are HYCU and what does their software do?
HYCU (The Company)
Comtrade Software was part of the Comtrade Group, originally a Serbian company founded as a hardware distributor in 1990, now with a US base. The company rebranded at the beginning of April 2018, becoming HYCU (pronounced high-koo). HYCU now operates independently from the Comtrade Group, although the main shareholder of HYCU continues to be Comtrade. As a company I’d never heard of, the Comtrade Group actually has 20 years of experience in software, focused on data protection and monitoring solutions.
HYCU (The Product)
HYCU, the product, is a backup solution deployed purely as software. It was written specifically for Nutanix HCI environments, with release 3.0 now supporting both AHV and ESX hypervisors. As such the company claims a number of firsts, in addition to being purpose-built for Nutanix. These include application auto-discovery, the first agent-less application backup for Nutanix, the only platform to deliver VM-Stun free ESX backups on Nutanix and the only scalable backup solution for Nutanix AFS (Acropolis File System).
HYCU makes some bold claims about support for HCI, but why should hyper-converged infrastructure need a bespoke backup solution? I’ll cover the detail in a longer post, but essentially, HCI platforms have collapsed storage and compute together into the same platform. Nutanix, for example, runs storage in an instance called the CVM, which is deployed across every node in a cluster. Because of this, the data path for backup has changed and is now entirely delivered through the HCI software. Compare this to the days when we used to deploy agents on each VM. Hypervisors now provide APIs that allow backup applications to extract changed data more effectively than running host-based agents.
The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant puts Nutanix out in front as the leader in HCI, both in their vision and ability to execute. IDC’s Converged Systems tracker puts Nutanix in second place behind Dell for HCI. Without a doubt, Nutanix is a big player in this market. Nutanix has always had a focus on moving away from the VMware vSphere Hypervisor. The company developed Acropolis as an alternative to vSphere and AHV as an alternative to ESX. With release 5.0 of the Acropolis Operating System, Nutanix introduced version 3 REST APIs that include the ability to do changed block tracking (changed region tracking in Nutanix terms). This means incremental backups can be taken directly from the hypervisor.
Nutanix & HYCU
As I mentioned earlier, the HYCU product is a software-only offering. It runs as a virtual machine on the HCI infrastructure, although backed up data is expected to be written to a separate backup target (like an NFS share). HYCU is deployable through Nutanix CALM, which means being able to orchestrate and configure backup as a marketplace application. This is a very different approach to how we’ve seen backup implemented in the past, with dedicated teams and infrastructure.
The Architect’s View
The migration to Cloud is all about consuming resources as a service. Shouldn’t data protection be a service too? Druva is an example of one company going all-in on Cloud to deliver that service experience. What about being able to build out backup as a marketplace offering? Veritas CloudPoint can do this to an extent. HYCU could offer on-demand backup even more efficiently.
I’ve been messing about with deploying HYCU in my test Nutanix CE cluster and will have a post or two on this in the coming weeks. One area I’m exploring is how easy it would be to build out backup on-demand to accompany a new project. Not only do the developers get their instances, they also get a data protection environment too. I like the idea that self-service could build out both the VMs and the data protection environment for short-term projects. The backup data can then sit there until or if it is required some time in the future.
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Disclaimer: HYCU, Inc is a client of Brookend Ltd.