Enterprise DPaaS Powered by Cobalt Iron and IBM

by | Feb 11, 2020

Organizations today face many challenges when it comes to their approach to backup and recovery of their mission-critical distributed workloads. These challenges seem endless, and legacy solutions in place today can barely keep up. The struggle is real, and IT leaders spend evenings wondering if their backups are completing and more importantly can they meet […]

Organizations today face many challenges when it comes to their approach to backup and recovery of their mission-critical distributed workloads. These challenges seem endless, and legacy solutions in
place today can barely keep up. The struggle is real, and IT leaders spend evenings wondering if their backups are completing and more importantly can they meet their recovery time objectives (RTO). In
this post, I will dig further into these challenges and layers to explain how Data Protection as a Service (DPaaS) powered by Cobalt Iron (CI) and IBM provides the necessary mitigation of these
Let’s first peel back the onion and take a deeper dive into the challenges. Many organizations struggle with their current legacy environment for many reasons:

  • Multiple Legacy Environments to administer
  • Loss of SME expertise/difficult to manage
  • Data Protection requirements are constantly changing
  • Expensive to scale and maintain
  • Failed RTO and RPO
  • Cyber Security is not native to the existing product
  • Support of Cloud technologies

Of course, there are additional challenges, but these are the primary ones that we hear about from our customer base. It is also worthwhile to consider that data protection is the largest application running in the data center and is often an afterthought in most IT budgets.
So today we are talking about on-prem, legacy silo-ed environments when we really need to consider an end-to-end solution that addresses the current struggles, as well as the Backup Data Transformation Journey.

So how does Cobalt Iron’s Compass powered by IBM’s Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize address these challenges?


Cobalt Iron Compass software delivers a completely new experience and business outcome for enterprise backup. Some of the characteristics of that new backup experience include:

  1. Compass automates 80-90% of backup operations and backup infrastructure management tasks.
  2. Compass applies analytics-based optimization, keeping all software current (OS, Compass software, storage firmware levels, etc.) and continually applying best practices for workload protection, backup tooling, infrastructure, and operations.
  3. By design, Compass implements deep layers of data security, authentication control, data airgap and immutability, and containment.
  4. Compass delivers enterprise backup in an aaS model.
  5. Compass provides a single, unified experience for orchestration of backup infrastructure and operations across on-premises data centers, remote offices, and public clouds.
  6. Compass reduces the TCO of enterprise backup through operational automation, extreme infrastructure optimization, data reduction, and licensing efficiencies. With Compass, customers pay for an enterprise backup outcome (i.e., it’s a solution more than a product).

Compass fully leverages the functionality, reliability, scalability, performance, and cost efficiencies of IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize technologies. Compass allows the power of IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize to be experienced without the complexities. For example, Compass users never have to log into an IBM Spectrum Protect server nor need to manage IBM Storwize technologies. By being plugged into the Compass platform, IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize are completely managed, configured, maintained (including software currency), monitored, and continually optimized with best practices.


IBM Spectrum Protect is the main backup technologies plugged into the Compass platform. Compass completely transforms the customer experience with IBM Spectrum Protect. It automates and optimizes IBM Spectrum Protect and delivers it as-a-Service (aaS). Some of the value that Compass brings to the IBM Spectrum Protect technology include:

  • IBM Spectrum Protect capabilities (plus much more) are delivered aaS from both technology and licensing perspectives. Unlike most BaaS offerings in the market, Compass provides on-premises as well as remote, global, cloud, and multi-cloud deployments that can handle huge legacy application workloads as well as cloud and other workloads. The power, performance, and scalability of IBM Spectrum Protect allow Compass to deliver unmatched service levels for any workload, but in an aaS model.
  • Automation of most infrastructure and operational tasks associated with IBM Spectrum Protect
    • The customer NEVER logs into an IBM Spectrum Protect server ever again!
    • The automated currency of operating system software on the IBM Spectrum Protect server environment.
    • The automated currency of IBM Spectrum Protect server and client software which is always kept at the latest validated release levels.
    • Automation of configuration, maintenance, monitoring, best practices tuning, defect identification and remediation, etc.
    • Automation of all backup, replication, data migration, scheduling, policy, maintenance, and other IBM Spectrum Protect operations. Restore continues to be an operation managed directly by the customer.
  • Monitoring, analysis, reporting, and optimization of capacity, performance, and health of IBM Spectrum Protect servers – IBM Spectrum Protect servers are monitored and tuned constantly by Compass analytics
  • A single, unified management experience for all workloads (legacy IBM Spectrum Protect workloads in addition to workloads IBM Spectrum Protect doesn’t support such as IBMi, cloud snapshots, etc.), wherever they are.
  • Deeper layers of security on top of base IBM Spectrum Protect capabilities.
    • Compass makes IBM Spectrum Protect servers air gapped and contained by design. Data replication provides an additional layer of air gap control.
    • Ransomware readiness, responsiveness, and recovery.
    • IBM Spectrum Protect deduplication, compression, and encryption are all used. In addition, Compass locks down its accelerators (which include an IBM Spectrum Protect server) with additional authentication controls such that there is no access possible to IBM Spectrum Protect or the underlying Operating System it runs on.
    • Device and other encryption and immutability capabilities are managed by Compass.
    • Compass provides end-to-end auditing and compliance reporting.
  • Support for IBMi workloads through the Compass VTL feature that directly supports BRMS, SAVESYS, and other IBMi utilities.
  • Mature delivery of IBM Spectrum Protect technology in multi-cloud environments. This includes deployment and management of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud architectures, automation of cloud backup operations, and analysis of cloud deployments for performance and cost efficiencies.
    A variety of cloud use cases are supported including:

    • Storing data to the cloud.
    • DR in the cloud and performing DR in the cloud.
    • Backing up cloud workloads.
  • IBM Spectrum Protect is continually maintained by Compass and Cobalt Iron.
    • Health monitoring and predictive failure analysis of IBM Spectrum Protect and environment is constantly performed.
    • Problem determination.
    • Problem remediation.
    • Defect (PMR) management and resolution with IBM as needed.
    • Installing server and/or client software updates as needed.


IBM Storwize storage systems managed by Compass are:

  • Software-managed by Compass – controller software levels are maintained and upgraded.
  • Setup and configured by Compass – storage array setup and operation configuration settings are set for optimal characteristics.
  • Monitored by Compass – the performance characteristics for controllers, drive channels, drives, and interfaces are recorded by Compass.
  • Tuned by Compass – as workloads change over time, the settings of the storage array are changed by Compass to maintain optimal operations.
  • Capacity monitored by Compass – overall storage utilization, consumption, and changes are monitored by Compass and reported for proper management and invest timelines.
  • Allocated and assigned by Compass – the storage systems’ configurations for storage blocks and file system management are maintained by the service.
  • Encryption managed by Compass – encryption management for key usage and multiple encryption contexts per storage subsystem is all managed by Compass.

IBM Storwize storage managed by Compass is automatically and continually monitored and managed by the service. Storage and operational metrics are continuously collected, monitored, and analyzed including:

  • Asset information – tracking of customer hardware and software infrastructure resources for cost accounting, auditability, and operational optimization.
  • License management – continual views of license conformance maintains constant audit-ready status.
  • Health indicators and error codes – devices, components, software, and operations are monitored for status and health to maintain uninterrupted service.
  • Performance metrics – numerous latencies, throughput, read and write Input/Output Operations per Second (IOPs), and other metrics provide a continuous view of the operational performance of the service.
  • Capacity utilizations – continual tracking of free and utilized resources with historic and predictive analytics on capacity trending.

IBM Storwize firmware software is installed and updated by Compass so that customers never touch this complex part of managing storage subsystems. Storage systems hardware issues are monitored and tracked to resolution for storage managed by Compass. This includes:

  • Both predictive failure analysis and complete component failures.
  • Problem determination.
  • Problem remediation.
  • Defect management and resolution with IBM, as needed.
  • Coordinating hardware component replacements, as needed.
  • Installing software, firmware, and microcode updates, as needed.


Since 2001, The ATS Group has been the trusted advisor for innovative and reliable data protection solutions. Our solution portfolio covers the full spectrum of client needs, ranging from health checks, upgrades, and managed services, to complete solutions utilizing Cobalt Iron Compass which includes Disaster Recovery options.
Our talented and highly skilled team of architects and administrators possesses the real-world experience and knowledge needed to be differentiators in data protection. Additionally, we take the time to ask the right questions, understand our clients’ RTO and RPO requirements, and bring our collaborative style to each and every client engagement.
With all of the pieces together, the ATS Group can meet and exceed all of our customers’ current data protection challenges and position them to meet the backup data transformations currently seen in the industry. As someone who has architected, implemented, and administered many data protection environments, I have always firmly believed that IBM ADSM/TSM/Spectrum Protect was by far the most powerful and scalable enterprise solution in the marketplace. However, despite its power and effectiveness, it was not easy to manage. With the Cobalt Iron DPaaS solution, that is no longer a concern. It is clear to me why Cobalt Iron would harness the proven built-in capabilities and track record of IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize.
We have already seen our customers look favorably upon this solution. In particular, we currently have a global client who moved away from IBM Spectrum Protect many years ago (for the reasons discussed in this document) in favor of a NetBackup solution.
When it came time for them to renew their NetBackup support, they reached out to us for a next-gen backup solution. We pitched our DPaaS solution powered by CI and IBM, and are now in the process of sweeping the floor with NetBackup in 11 locations worldwide. Keep in mind that this customer previously had a bad taste in their mouth with IBM Spectrum Protect and when we told them that IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Storwize is what powered our solution, they didn’t have any issues because all of the reasons for their original distaste of IBM Spectrum Protect were no longer issues. This is critical for reclaiming footprints previously lost.
As organizations transition to more aaS models, and with the rich features of a CI/IBM data protection solution, I see great opportunities to clear the floor of expensive data domain environments and also maintain and grow the IBM Spectrum Protect footprint.

Bottom Line: Our expert Data Protection Solutions and Services are what help clients sleep at night because we get things done right!


Related Articles