Dell ransomware survey says customers want better data protection — data protection products updated accordingly

Dell has issued a data protection report saying customers are managing and protecting more data than ever, yet lack confidence in their data protection arrangements. In response it has added protection software and services including one that enables VMware VMs to be snapshotted without being stunned.

Dell’s 2021 Global Data Protection Index says business execs worry that existing data protection arrangements won’t meet future needs, and think that home working has increased data vulnerability. The survey also reveals — nice one this — the cost of data loss is 4x as high on average for organisations that work with multiple data protection vendors instead of one ($1.08 million compared to $287,000). Better to work with one then. Who might Dell’s report suggest? Hmmm …

Jeff Boudreau, President and General Manager, Infrastructure Solutions Group at Dell Technologies, offers a hint in a statement: “While ransomware attacks can be devastating for people and businesses, accepting defeat as a foregone conclusion is not the answer,” as Dell is the leading provider of data protection hardware and software.

Anyway, the two software advances both relate to the company’s PowerProtect appliances. Smart Scale is a management tool enabling up to 32 appliances to be managed as a single pool with up to three exabytes of logical capacity. Monitoring and managing a set of PowerProtect appliances is now easier. 

However, Dell is not saying that PowerProtect appliances are clustered (scale-out) or that deduplication can work across the pooled appliances. But we have been told: “Deduplication is still limited to a single appliance. However, the storage unit mobility across appliances in a pool, combined with analytics, will allow us in the future to co-locate backup datasets that have better dedupe affinity on the same appliance, thus improving overall dedupe efficiencies in a pool.”


Second, Transparent Snapshots have been added. These work on VMware virtual machines and are said to simplify and automate VM image-level backups, making them up to a claimed 5x faster and with up to 5x reduction in VM latency.

A spokesperson told us: “Previously, PowerProtect Data Manager used proxies in a given ESXi cluster to act as the Data Movers for the protection copies. A single proxy uses a minimum of four vCPUs and 8GB of RAM. Typically, multiple proxies will be deployed into a cluster based on the backup workload of the cluster (ie. the number of VMs that will need to be backed up, the size of the VMDKs, the duration of the backup window, etc.). Each of these proxies exists as a VM in the workload domain, thus those four vCPUs and 8GB of RAM, per proxy, comes from the resource pool that your other workloads share.”

So … now: “We use the Transparent Snapshots Data Mover (TSDM). TSDM is an extremely lightweight VMware signed VIB which is installed directly into each node in an ESXi cluster. Install footprint is a few megabytes, with a ‘max load’ footprint at 700MB. This releases a significant amount of workload domain resources back to the pool, which can now be used to run more of your application VMs. In addition, we made the TSDM management process transparent and automated. As your cluster scales up or down (in node count), PowerProtect Data Manager will automatically deploy new TSDM instances to new nodes, and clean up references to TSDM instances on removed nodes. Simple, clean, lightweight, and hassle free!”

And we were told: “The complete re-architecture of VM Image backups with Transparent Snapshots completely eliminates proxies of all types, replacing them with our lightweight TSDM module, embedded directly into each ESXi node, with autoscaling and zero-touch management.”

There are speed advantages to this approach. VM latency is the total round-trip time of a single disk I/O operation — the total time that an application needs to “wait” for a read or write operation to complete. With Transparent Snapshots, PowerProtect Data Manager 19.9 delivers up to 5x reduction in VM latency as compared to PowerProtect Data Manager with VADP. And there was a write latency reduction from 5ms response time with VADP to 0.97ms response time with Transparent Snapshots.

A Dell VMware slide deck from 2020 says transparent snapshotting takes place without disrupting VM execution (stunning) and making VMs unavailable.

A Dell video by Brian Reynolds, Senior Manager of Product Management, explains what’s going on:

The Dell Transparent Snapshot video.

Dell is also announcing a Managed Services for Cyber Recovery Solution in which Dell staff manage day-to-day cyber recovery vault operations and support recovery activities.

The 2021 Global Data Protection Index should be available here and a Dell blog provides background here.

PowerProtect Data Manager with Transparent Snapshots will be globally available this quarter, with no charge for customers with existing maintenance contracts. PowerProtect appliances with Smart Scale is in technology preview today and should be generally available in the first half of 2022. Dell Technologies’ Managed Services for Cyber Recovery Solutions are available globally today.