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Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Actifio

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!


Actifio is a data management company and has a product which I believe could be of great use to Enterprises yet perhaps counter intuitively is a tough sell.

Actfio presented at Tech Field Day Day 4 way back at the end of 2010.

Companies waste vast amounts of time and storage space making multiple copies of things. Backups, DR, email/call journalling for compliance, stores for legal discovery, refreshing UAT DBs from production data, analytics, etc. If there was a way to store a single copy that could be leveraged for multiple uses that would be very powerful. Of course you need backup and DR in multiple locations so you will never get to only a single copy but being able to manage the copies easily, simply and cheaply is of real interest to companies.

Data Virtualisation

Actifio has a concept called “Data Virtualisation”. The term isn’t immediately obvious but the analogy is to virtualise data the same way as infrastructure, create an access layer between the actual stored data and how it is referenced which means the underlying data can be cloned/migrated/backed-up/moved and the application can still see the data via the virtualisation layer.

This sounds great but in practice can be very hard to achieve as traditionally data has so many different interfaces and formats in its lifecycle. Application data in a SQL database creates new files moved to a backup dump file and then to a tape means the copies of data can be in completely different formats. Never mind the additional copy in another legal discovery journal. You can’t point the application back directly to the tape or journal to view the old data, it has to be converted back through the chain to be usable. If Actifio can reduce this operational burden, that would be great. The challenge with virtualising data however is completely changing all existing procedures and processes which have well defined workflows built up over many years, a difficult challenge and a hard sell yet one that could reap huge rewards.

Companies are pretty bad at managing data and despite the obvious benefits of analytics its actually quite hard to have current data available to be analysed when you have so many point solutions and interfaces. Companies often build custom interfaces and manually create copies of data to do this. I’m interested in hearing from Actifio how they make this simpler with concrete examples. Sure you can rsync/robocopy and manually create copies and update interfaces but this is bespoke per application, how does the virtualisation layer look to the applications? I see Actifio is able to do this in the cloud as well so you can have a copy of your data in the cloud and access it there for analytics, sounds great.


The next thing that has me interested in the Actifio solution is the dev/test data management. Companies are slowly retooling themselves for a DevOps culture using Continous Delivery and Continuous Integration to speed up code delivery. However much of the data still sits in traditional databases like Oracle which are certainly not agile. You can release new code fairly quickly once you’ve developed your CI/CD tool chain but how do you integrate large data sets into this. Being able to take a copy of production data and use it for unit testing without affecting production is hugely valuable but what if you want to refresh the data once a day or hour, standard tools aren’t going to be very helpful. I’d love to see how Actifio actually integrates into a DevOps pipeline and provides that seamless developer interaction.

Actifio also has a Cloud Service Provider offering where SPs can offer to their customers advanced XaaS data management such as vaulting/retention as a service, DR as a service, DR testing as a service, backup as a service, cross region replication as a service. Interesting to see how this plays out with a secure multi-tenant approach and what it looks like from a customer point of view.

Actifio certainly has an interesting offering, what I would suggest is making the presentation interesting. I was critical of Commvault who presented during Virtualisation Field Day 6 as they spent far too much time gong through the boring backup portion rather than wowing the world with what they can do with all the data they have gathered. It seems Commvault and Actifio have similarities in some of what they do so I hope Acitfio think about the wow! Backups all do dedupe, restores, mounting for test etc. Please show us something more.

What I’d like to see

What I would love to see is concrete use cases demonstrated for how “virtualising data” is beneficial. How do apps access this virtualised layer? Show us how easy it is to make a copy to a cloud or service provider. Then show us how easy it is to spin up DR or run analytics on this copy, why not go all out and show how a separate analytics app running in another cloud can access this data which has been copied to say AWS. If they really want to show the future, show us AWS “serverless” Lambda functions working on seconds old data refreshed from an on-premises source!

I’d also love to see the DevOps CI/CD pipeline integrated with Actifio and see how quickly developers and even integration tools can run automated tests against copies of production data. Looking forward to hearing more.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Tech Field Day but isn’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

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  1. June 10th, 2016 at 05:00 | #1

    Hi Julian,

    Great post; you’ve hit on many important points related to the challenges of managing data in enterprise environments, Actifio, our use cases (e.g. TDM for DevOps) and work with Cloud & xSPs. I appreciate the input for our session. We’ll certainly address your questions and much of what you’d like to see.

    ‘See you in a few weeks.
    Dylan, Actifio

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