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Restoring DevOps to Infrastructure with Actifio

August 23rd, 2016

As Enterprises integrate DevOps into more of their development lifecycles they start to bump up against some of the practicalities of managing data. A major tenet of DevOps is being able to ship code quicker to give you that edge against your competitors. It may be fast to write code and a continuous integration pipeline and continuous deployment capability allows you to take that new code, test it and push it out to production in an automated and repeatable fashion.

DevOps and Data

Data however is often one of the speed bumps that causes all this fancy CI/CD to slow to a crawl. If your developers need to test their small change against a large chunk of data you need to somehow have access to this data. Creating copies of databases or files is usually slow and inefficient, a time consuming process that negates most of the speedy DevOps cleverness you’ve done for your code writing.

I’ve worked on numerous projects where a robocopy/rsync was run weekly over the weekend to refresh the 100s of GBs UAT and DEV environment from production data, taking in effect three copies of production. This could only run at the weekend due to the size of the transfer and the impact on the underlying storage and network. One solution had to have the database down during the copy which meant the production one couldn’t even be used for a few hours over the weekend while the copy happened. Put that in your DevOps pipeline and smoke it!

Some storage vendors are able to work around some of the speed problem by being able to mount snapshots but Actifio has a very interesting, slick and more comprehensive solution. Actifio presented at a recent Tech Field Day 11 event.

The DevOps capabilities of Actifio are part of a far bigger solution which they call Copy Data Virtualisation. I previewed the solution in my pre-event post: Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Actifio

Basically you can create multiple copies of data very quickly without creating as many physical copies of the data. These copies can be used for multiple things, backups, analytics, compliance, forensics, DR, migrations etc. as well as DevOps.

Actifio helps with your DevOps worklflow so you can mount a backup copy of your production data to multiple UAT/DEV instances without having to copy it first which dramatically speeds up the time the process takes and is far more space efficient. This presents you with opportunities you didn’t think you had including moving data between clouds.

Actifio and the Pipeline

Actifio can plug into your existing DevOps pipeline using the automation tools your developers are already using to manage infrastructure. This means your developers don’t need to log a call with your DBAs who logs a call with your storage team to mount the backup. Actifio has a demo using Ansible for just this called Actifio Virtual DB as a Service which allows your CI/CD pipeline using Ansible to call the Actifio solution to mount multiple copies either during app development, during when unit tests need to happen or even during production deployment.

Actifio also has the added benefit of being able to change the data on mount so it can mask certain fields in a database for example to remove credit card numbers or patient identifiers so your copy of your production data is anonymous which many industries require.

Not just for DevOps

Apart from mounting databases to development environments.  Actifio has a pretty slick solution for the rest of your data copies. The solution starts with being able to capture data and incrementally be able to keep this copy up to date, you can then manage this copy to restore it somewhere for recovery or clone it for another copy which can then be used by any number of uses. You can move data between clouds and there is even a version for service providers to be able to provide the functionality as a service.

Everything is globally deduped for space efficiency. This is all at the infrastructure level so your applications need some processes to connect to the data which is what the Ansible demo shows. I would expect Actifio in the future to further extend its partnerships to plug more seamlessly into other data services at the application layer in additional to working at the infrastructure layer. This would mean a compliance or journaling application for example would have direct access to see Actifio copies without having to invoke infrastructure mounting to access the data. Once you think of the possibilities, Actifio becomes very interesting.

Actifio was one of the stand-out presentations from Tech Field Day 11, they managed to paint a good picture of what their solution does as well as providing concrete, practical examples, one of their demos was exactly what I had hoped for in my preview post.

Here are all the Actifio videos from the presentation.

Actifio Welcome with Ash Ashutosh

Actifio Architecture Overview

Actifio Resiliency Director Overview and Demo

Actifio Global Manager Overview and SQL Server Demo

Actifio Global Manager Oracle and Ansible Demo

Actifio ReadyVault and Object Storage

Gestalt IT payed for travel, accommodation and things to eat and drink to attend Tech Field Day but didn’t pay a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anything.

Categories: Storage, Tech Field Day, TFD11 Tags: , ,
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