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Data Lifecycle Management from Cradle to Grave with NetApp BlueXP Cloud Services

Data presents both opportunities and challenges for modern businesses. Notably, data storage emerges as one of the largest cost drivers for cloud workloads, one that demands substantial financial investment and considerable amounts of time and effort to manage and keep secure.

To address these challenges, enterprises can optimize how data is stored over time based on its relevance and importance to reap long-term benefits. The key is mastering the data lifecycle.

In this article, we discuss the entire data lifecycle from the cradle to the grave, what those phases mean for enterprises, and the NetApp solutions that can help to simplify the complexities of storing and safeguarding data sets at every stage of the data lifecycle.

Read on below, or jump down using the links to the sections that cover:

What Is the Data Lifecycle?

The data lifecycle signifies the sequential phases a piece of data traverses from inception or acquisition to retirement or disposal. Instead of being a mere theoretical construct, the data lifecycle presents a hands-on framework shaping your business performance, regulatory adherence, and resource allocation.

To help illustrate these stages, let’s look at the example of a large-scale healthcare enterprise that generates a vast amount of data every day—patient records, clinical trial results, imaging data, and even insurance claims. Vast in volume and diverse in nature, this data isn’t just a static repository of information but has a life of its own.

Stages of the Data Lifecycle

  • Data migration and/or generation: The journey of the data lifecycle begins here. Think of a patient's medical history being generated at the first appointment or existing health records transferred into a new hospital information system.

  • Data storage and management: Following its creation or migration, the data requires storage and efficient management. In the case of a healthcare enterprise, it may mean leveraging HIPAA-compliant, enterprise-grade databases and scalable data management solutions capable of handling petabytes of information.

  • Data replication (for DR secondary copy): An identical copy of the data is then replicated to a secondary site as a part of disaster recovery (DR) plan, ensuring business continuity. If a disaster strikes one data center, the operations can resume using the replicated data at another site.

  • Data backup: Regular backups form the safety net, preserving the integrity of data against accidental loss or corruption. Imagine a ransomware attack or a system glitch causing patient data to become inaccessible—a backup can restore lost information and help activate services quickly.

  • Data archive: As the relevance of data decreases or is less frequently accessed, it is archived—a regulatory requirement in the healthcare industry, but one that is similar in many other verticals. Older medical records that aren't actively used need to be moved to a cost-effective, long-term archival storage repository.

  • Data disposal: Secure and compliant disposal marks the end of data's lifecycle. Whether it's to comply with rules similar to GDPR's “right to be forgotten” or to eliminate sensitive but outdated records, data disposal must be executed securely and in line with regulatory norms.

What Are the Three Goals of Data Lifecycle Management?

The three main objectives of data lifecycle management are:

  • Data accessibility: Providing immediate data availability for business functions and strategic decision-making.

  • Security and compliance: Upholding data protection against breaches and complying with relevant industry regulations for data handling, retention, and disposal.

  • Storage optimization: Streamlining data storage throughout its lifecycle—provisioning, backup, archiving—for cost-efficiency.

The question that then arises is clear: How can you tackle the complexities of managing this rapidly expanding data landscape? More specifically, how can you minimize costs and maintain performance benchmarks while driving your enterprise services?

To meet these challenges head-on, a well-orchestrated, enterprise-grade data lifecycle strategy is needed. This is where NetApp can provide specialized solutions that offer the capabilities to simplify your data estate operations.

Cradle-to-Grave Data Lifecycle Management with NetApp Cloud Services

The era of traditional data storage and backup is fading. Leveraging modern technologies, NetApp is forging ahead with forward-thinking solutions that are uniquely designed to address every stage of the data lifecycle.

Data Capture

Data capture is the foundational stage of the data lifecycle, where raw data is accumulated from various sources.

Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP and the other ONTAP-based managed services—Cloud Volumes ONTAP, Azure NetApp Files, and Cloud Volumes Service for GCP—facilitate the creation of enterprise-grade storage volumes where the data resides. This ability to deploy mission-critical storage in the cloud, leveraging native cloud infrastructure, provides security, resilience, high availability, and optimal cost-performance.

In the case of data migration, once you have those volumes set up, you need a way to get the data to them. There are several NetApp tools to facilitate such operations. SnapMirror® data replication can replicate data between different ONTAP-based environments. Cloud Sync can copy and sync data between any storage repository, even non-NetApp repositories, to ONTAP-based storage in the cloud.

Data Storage

Imagine being able to manage your data storage the same way across different cloud environments. NetApp BlueXP allows data to move effortlessly between on-premises and cloud environments, providing a hybrid cloud data management solution that is both powerful and flexible.

But what does this mean for enterprises?

Firstly, it brings simplicity to data management. The unified architecture means there's no need to juggle different management tools for each storage protocol or environment. Secondly, it offers the kind of reliability and speed that businesses need to remain competitive in the modern digital landscape. Finally, by integrating with leading cloud providers, enterprises can unlock cost savings through efficiencies in storage usage, data transfer, and administrative costs.

Cold Data Tiering

NetApp understands the importance of managing dormant data without impacting cost. Several NetApp services offer intelligent data management that automates the process of transitioning infrequently accessed data to low-cost object storage tiers, including Cloud Tiering for on-premises ONTAP systems and data tiering for the cloud-based ONTAP services.

These efficient storage tiering capabilities not only reduce overall storage costs but also optimize the usage of high-performance storage for “hot” data that requires quick access. Data that is considered “cold” is automatically identified according to predefined periods of inactivity. The data identified as cold is then automatically tiered to a cloud object storage service where it can be stored cost-effectively.

More importantly, this transition is seamless and transparent to applications and users. When data that has been tiered off is accessed, it is automatically and swiftly returned to the performance tier, ensuring that your applications continue to run smoothly.

Tiering, which is policy based according to your specifications, also streamlines data management by removing the need for manual data classification and migration tasks, freeing up the IT team for more strategic initiatives.

Snapshot Copies

The efficacy of local snapshots in the face of unrecoverable data loss or regional downtime is often questionable. A robust data protection strategy should consider regional failover features and integrated backup solutions.

To address this, NetApp Snapshot™ technology can be used to create lightweight point-in-time copies of storage volumes. Unlike traditional snapshots, these are optimized not to duplicate the entire data source. Instead, they record the differences from the previous state, enabling rapid creation and efficient storage utilization.

NetApp Snapshot capabilities excel in managing data lifecycle through its retention features. These are governed by policies that oversee the entire snapshot lifecycle, from creation to stages such as SnapMirror DR, to BlueXP backup and recovery. This consistency simplifies data lifecycle management, making it more user-friendly.

Self-service capability is another significant feature. Users can independently access, manage, and restore from Snapshot copies, which helps storage admins enhance productivity.

Disaster Recovery (DR) Site

Whether you're running ONTAP on-premises or in the cloud, NetApp allows for quick and efficient disaster recovery solutions while significantly reducing costs associated with updates and data storage. The heart of the DR site's operational efficiency lies in NetApp’s SnapMirror data replication technology which provides ongoing, reliable, and efficient replication of data from the primary site to the DR site.

Maintaining a continually updated replica of your data, SnapMirror prepares your enterprise for a seamless recovery transition in the event of a primary site failure. The incremental update approach minimizes the network and storage load, making it a cost-effective solution for maintaining the currency and integrity of your replicated data.

SnapMirror helps enhance the cost-effectiveness of your DR copy by retaining all of the data’s existing storage efficiencies—that keeps the DR copy’s footprint optimized, limiting the amount of network traffic to sync the copy and the costs to store it. And since the DR data is considered "cold", ONTAP-based storage systems can tier the copy automatically to lower-cost object storage—ready to be reheated as soon as it’s needed—further reducing costs.

You can also tailor your primary storage availability level based on your specific needs. Cross-region replication helps protect your DR copy from being inaccessible in the case of a region failure. This flexibility helps establish secure and efficient disaster recovery storage environments anywhere across the hybrid multicloud ecosystem.

During a disruption, the system facilitates a seamless failover to the DR site and equally seamless failback to the primary site after recovery, ensuring operational continuity. The resynchronization process is self-healing in case of a transfer failure.


Initiating a backup either from the primary or DR site equips enterprises with a flexible and resilient data protection approach. This keeps critical information safeguarded regardless of where it's housed.

BlueXP backup and recovery is a fully managed service designed specifically for ONTAP data, on-premises or in the cloud. It provides seamless integration with your existing NetApp ecosystem, eliminating the added costs and workload that often accompany third-party technologies.

If you need to align with the 3-2-1 backup strategy, NetApp BlueXP’s backup and recovery makes that possible. Since it leverages object storage as the destination, that gives you an easy way to set up three replicas of your data, stored on two distinct types of media, with one version kept off site. These copies are retained cost-efficiently, either in the cloud or on-premises.

BlueXP backup and recovery's efficiency also lies in its built-for-ONTAP design and its capacity to back up data much faster than traditional backup systems. Upon creating a baseline copy, the process becomes increasingly swift and efficient, syncing only incremental changes. This method eliminates the requirement for a media gateway, which makes it possible to retain all of ONTAP’s storage efficiencies.

The backup data is also protected from intrusive attacks with the help of DataLock and built-in ransomware protection. DataLock leverages the cloud’s native immutability features to create WORM (Write Once Read Many) copies of your backups that are indelible and secure. The ransomware protection feature automatically and continuously monitors your backups for access attempts, and will report and alert you of any suspicious activity. Combined, your backups are kept dependably safe and ready should anything happen to the primary data.


Managing aging data strategically is pivotal in an all-encompassing data management plan. In some cases, regulatory requirements may demand that data be kept for specific periods of time, though the organization doesn’t have any other business need for the data.

To support these needs, NetApp can help you define policies for managing aging data and maximizing cost-effectiveness with the archiving capabilities of BlueXP backup and recovery.

By setting up an archiving policy on BlueXP backup and recovery, you choose a time interval for a backup to be tiered to archive storage. When that period is reached, the data then transitions into an economically efficient cloud archive tier, such as AWS Glacier, Azure Archive, or GCP Archive. This shift moves the data to long-term storage at reduced costs, striking a balance between preservation and fiscal responsibility.

Safe Data Disposal

Safe data disposal is an integral stage of the data lifecycle that involves discarding data that no longer serves any business or operational purposes. NetApp facilitates this through a combination of customer-managed deletion and automated data handling.

NetApp’s Cloud Data Sense provides visibility into the age of your data. These reports serve as a valuable input when determining data disposal, aiding compliance, and optimizing storage use.

To support cases where customers need help identifying data that is no longer needed, NetApp also empowers users with customer-managed deletion to control when and what data is removed from their active systems.

It’s Time to Take Control of Your Data’s Lifecycle

A robust data estate shapes your business. Automated data management introduces unmatched agility, minimizes expenses, and enables swift adaptation to fluctuating customer demands.

But let's take a step back. Is the management of data, from its inception to its disposal seamless? Not really. Managing a data lifecycle is complex and any misstep can lead to inefficiencies, increased costs, and potential losses.

NetApp is committed to help businesses overcome these challenges. Whether your data resides on-premises or spans across private and public clouds, NetApp’s comprehensive, automated, and efficient data management solutions offer powerful features that not only amplify performance but also scale with your evolving needs.

The result? Reduced TCO, enhanced business agility, and an unwavering ability to adapt to customer demands.

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Cloud Solutions Architect