Backup Arrays Revisited

Was 2002 the year of the ATA-based backup array?

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Was 2002 the year of the ATA-based backup array? Certainly, the idea has gained a lot of credence as of late, bolstered by announcements from Quantum, with its DX30, and from Network Appliance, with NearStore.

But both products have already undergone changes since their introduction. Quantum's DX30 now features 80MB/s performance, up from 40MB/s, and can be expanded by adding one or two 3TB disk trays.

It also has a bigger footprint, going from 2U to 4U. According to Dave Kenyan, product line manager for the DX30, beta testers weren't nearly as concerned about footprint as they were about performance.

NetApp's NearStore, meanwhile, has shrunk in capacity. The original NearStore came with 12TB of capacity, at about 2 cents/MB. This fall, NetApp unveiled a 7TB version. "We got some feedback from the field that if we came up with a smaller model, there'd be a market for it," says Mike Marchi, senior director of enterprise marketing at NetApp.

What's surprised NetApp most about NearStore has been the variety of applications customers are using it for--not just for backup and recovery--but also for disaster recovery and primary storage, says Marchi. Today, NetApp estimates that 30% to 40% of NearStore customers are using it for multiple applications.

In general, backup arrays aren't being marketed as tape replacements, but start-up Avamar thinks that tapeless backup is now possible. Its Axion array, announced this fall, applies the notion of content addressed storage, a la EMC Centera, to storing backups. Axion also incorporates commonality factoring technology that finds and eliminates redundant data sequences, dramatically reducing the capacity needed to backup a primary storage environment.

The net result? If a typical backup environment consists of ten times your data, storing that same data in Axion is might result in 1.1 or 1.2 times the size of the data you are protecting," says Kevin Daly, Avamar president and former Quantum CTO. "The less data you have, the more practical it becomes to store it online."

This was first published in December 2002

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