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Bechtle interview with iTernity CEO Ralf Steinemann

Managing data growth: What can companies do?

What impact will exponential data growth have on work in IT departments? As data volumes increase, the complexity of IT infrastructures will increase, and with it the workload. So what are the crucial developments of the next few years and how can companies respond to them? Ralf Steinemann, Managing Director of iTernity, talks about this in an interview with Sebastian Bux, Team Leader Presales Hybrid IT & HPE Product Management at Bechtle.

Sebastian Bux: iTernity has been a partner of Bechtle for many years, so I am particularly pleased to welcome you for this interview.


Ralf Steinemann: Thank you very much for the invitation.

Bux: Mr. Steinemann, you have been working in the field of data archiving for over 16 years. Where do you personally see the greatest challenges for IT in the coming years?


Steinemann: Growth of unstructured data is the biggest challenge. According to IDC, global data growth will reach 175 Zettabyte by 2025. These are unimaginable amounts of data. The majority is cold, unstructured data, which is often sensitive and must be protected accordingly. Here, one must not forget the backup data, which contains copies of all sensitive content of the companies.

 

The BSI, for example, confirmed in its latest annual report that the quality of cyberattacks continues to increase and that ransomware attacks currently pose the greatest threat to corporate IT.

Bux: What role does the shortage of skilled workers in the IT industry play here?


Steinemann: The shortage of skilled workers is a massive problem which will continue to worsen. According to a study by Bitkom, this has increased by 51% between 2018 and 2019.


Since this is not expected to improve in the short or medium term, we need to address these challenges with technology and focus on automation and autonomy of systems. Specifically, as many everyday IT tasks as possible should be automated and not require the attention of administrators. In this way, the scarce human resource can be used in the best possible way for important and more creative activities - by the way, this is also more fun. Simplification and digitalization of processes must also accompany this, of course.

Bux: How are your customers reacting to data growth?


Steinemann: Our customers are focusing on using storage systems for their primary purpose and keeping all their options open in the future.

 

No one knows where the journey of data will go in ten years. Are we all in the cloud? Are there new technologies or requirements which we don't know about today?

 

There will certainly be these, and also regulatory issues will still cause us some headaches. Just think of the DSGVO issue. For this reason, our customers rely on software-based solutions to keep open any flexibility.


This flexibility also pays off for our customers through our partnership with Bechtle and HPE. We can ideally meet our customers' requirements with the right hardware platform from the HPE portfolio, iTernity's software products, and Bechtle's local presence.

Bux: How do your software solutions help to counter the increasing data growth?


Steinemann: Our systems are fundamentally designed for enormous data growth and offer our customers a very high degree of flexibility. We see archiving as our DNA and have made it our mission to manage our customers' data in a future-proof way.


We have to keep in mind that not every customer already has hundreds of terabytes to manage. It may only be a few terabytes at the beginning. However, with the expected data growth and increasing digitalization, even customers with smaller data volumes face major challenges. For this reason, our products can also be used from a low data volume and thus enable an early start to future-proof data storage.


iTernity offers two different software products for data storage. We distinguish between - firstly - a middleware which perfectly integrates into existing infrastructures and complements them with the topic of archiving. This is our iCAS product, which is ideal for customers who have already made a strategic decision in favor of an IT infrastructure.


And our second solution, iCAS FS, is a standalone autonomous platform which houses all of the customer's archive and backup data. This scale-out solution provides a cloud service in the customer's own data center, so to speak, as iTernity takes over the monitoring and administrative tasks for the customer. We also talk about “cloud experience on-premises”.


Both products meet all regulatory requirements for archiving systems, such as GoBD, DSGVO, Basel III, etc., but take a different approach - which brings benefits according to the customer's requirements.

Bux: How can companies save on storage costs for large amounts of data?


Steinemann: You should generally use technologies according to their strengths. For example, a primary storage system, such as a commercially available all-flash array, is very expensive archive storage.


The requirements from the business perspective always define the requirements for the technology. In practice, however, systems are often misused because they simply have free capacity or are available quickly. However, this soon takes its revenge.


Our products are all optimized for archiving and secondary storage, and offer a significantly more attractive total cost of ownership than comparable competing systems.

For example, our middleware iCAS beats classic competitor systems by 50% in a TCO analysis. Our iCAS FS platform has been proven to beat public cloud providers by more than 53% in terms of TCO. In addition, we reduce the time-to-manage by a factor of 10, i.e. the time which has to be spent on management and administration.

Bux: You have already mentioned the topic of the public cloud. What approach do your solutions take?


Steinemann: Software offers the greatest flexibility and thus provides the best possible future security for our customers. Our software products can be operated locally in customers' data centers, hybrid with partial local and partial remote data storage, or offered completely as a service. Here we can use both public cloud and private cloud infrastructures. A smooth transition from an existing architecture to a new one is possible at any time.

Bux: What do you do differently than other manufacturers and why should companies rely on your solution?


Steinemann: We are focused on bringing our customers' data securely into the future. That is our strength. Our solutions have already been used successfully by more than 1,200 customers in all industries for many years. As a German software manufacturer, data protection is not a necessary evil for us, but part of our DNA.

Bux: What added value to customers does collaboration with your partners offer?


Steinemann: You can only be successful in the long term as part of a team. It is important to combine strengths and achieve the optimum in the interest of the customer. Our team of iTernity, HPE, and Bechtle is pursuing this goal very consistently. We provide the archive expertise with our software, HPE supplies the wide range of hardware platforms, and Bechtle is available as a direct contact on site, integrating everything seamlessly into the customer's IT landscape.

Ideally, a company can prepare for an attack so that it does not happen at all. How can you effectively protect yourself against ransomware attacks?

 

Seyfarth: First of all, a security concept must be developed which makes sense as a whole. It needs understandable guidelines which are lived in the daily work. The gut feeling of the employees must be strengthened and trained again and again. Prevention is the best measure, but of course this isn’t a one hundred percent guarantee.

 

When we talk about technology, network separation, and a clean data backup concept are important. With this, I mean cascaded data storage when the company’s data is critical. A media break can slow down or stop the spread of ransomware. We have to ensure that ransomware can’t access the backup of our data. This way the encryption of live data hits us less hard.

 

Of course, data backup only helps to a limited extent if the attacker was able to copy unencrypted business data. Unfortunately, this is increasingly the case today.

Bux: Mr. Steinemann, thank you very much for the interview and your time.

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