Mobile backup infrastructure basics for cloud providers

Cloud providers need strong backup infrastructure to support mobile data, with distributed data centers and broad WAN connectivity.

Mobile data backup is becoming an increasingly crucial service for businesses with mobile employees.

Due to its flexible and readily available architecture, the cloud is the ideal home for mobile data backup. But adding cloud-based, device backup services isn't as simple as retooling traditional disaster recovery services and block storage. Cloud providers need the proper backup infrastructure in place to support mobile data backup for their business customers. They will also need to plan for the geographic challenges of supporting mobile users.

Mobile backup infrastructure starts with a strong outside network, internal hardware

Supporting mobile backup starts inside the data center on hardware and software. But the ability to move data quickly and easily between data centers also requires a strong network infrastructure.

Terremark Worldwide Inc., the cloud services subsidiary of Verizon, bases its portfolio of mobile storage options on object and block storage, as well as file-oriented storage -- like network-attached storage for enterprise users -- including federal customers.

"Mobile data backup can be based on any of these three storage options -- it just depends on how the provider wants to extract the application-level technical details from the users," said Norm Laudermilch, chief operating officer for Terremark's public sector.

Terremark stores its customer's mobile data on enterprise-grade storage arrays from EMC, NetApp and HP 3PAR, with routing and switching technology from Cisco, as well as load balancing and firewall technology from several vendors, including Cisco and Citrix, he said.

"These arrays are really expensive, but for Terremark, it's needed for our service-level agreements," he said. [Providers] can't build mobile backup services on cheap, off-the-shelf hardware and software. They won't be able to provide the high level of service their customers require."

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Outside of the data center, cloud providers need integration with local carriers and service providers in order to give their customers reliable network access to their data, regardless of their location.

"The biggest challenge with mobile device backup is because devices are on wireless networks, cloud providers must have good network and carrier connectivity," said Ashish Nadkarni, research director of storage systems for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

Terremark has over 160 carriers connected to its cloud and data center infrastructure. "Providers have to be able to connect their cloud infrastructure to as many networks as possible," Laudermilch said. "It doesn't matter where our users are in the world and what services they want to reach with their mobile device, they can do it from our cloud infrastructure because of that global network reach."

Distributed data centers boost mobile data backup support

When delivering backup and storage for mobile data, providers will need multiple data centers; no matter how strong network connectivity is, smaller providers with a single data center will struggle with latency when delivering cloud backup for mobile devices that are connecting to the network from great distances. For instance, users on the East Coast will suffer through latency if they are backing up data to a provider whose only data center is on the West Coast.

Users need local access to data at all times as they move around with their mobile devices, and cloud providers must have a highly distributed backup infrastructure capable of supporting mobile data on a country-wide or global level.

Acronis, a Woburn, Mass.-based backup and disaster recovery provider, offers its customers the option of backing up data to a secondary site -- the Acronis cloud. The cloud backup offering is an extension of the provider's traditional disaster recovery offering, built on storage area network technology that works on Acronis’ cloud backend software providing the SAN infrastructure for hosting customer data, said Alex Sukennik, senior director of Global Cloud Services for Acronis.

Not every provider will be able to afford multiple data centers or the internal networking hardware and software needed for mobile data backup. But cloud providers seeking to offer mobile device support should define their customer base -- whether it is limited to one country or more -- and focus on covering their customer base geographically, said Robert Amatruda, research director of data protection and recovery IDC.

"The answer might not be having multiple data centers all the time, but good connectivity from multiple carriers so that the Internet hops are minimal, wherever the user is located geographically," IDC's Nadkarni said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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