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Backup reporting tools cast wider nets

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Users looking for more sophisticated backup reporting take note: Vendors are beefing up their tools--in some cases going beyond the boundaries of data protection.

Storage resource management (SRM) tools have traditionally fallen short on reporting, and until recently that's been true of most backup software products as well. Randell Eck, a senior technical services professional at a major airline company, has been using Tek-Tools' StorageProfiler reporting tool to augment his use of Symantec's Veritas NetBackup because for real-time, consolidated reporting, he says, backup software is generally "lacking--they're just lacking."

But backup software companies may be catching on to what backup reporting vendors seem to know already--users need predictive analysis, real-time monitoring, insight into disk utilization and performance, and the ability to integrate business user policies into their reports.

Feeding this demand is the growing alignment between business and IT. Compliance laws, service-level agreements (SLAs) and new tiered storage architectures are all pressuring storage managers to get a better handle on how well data is protected.

Symantec acknowledged this in January when it unveiled Veritas Backup Reporter (VBR) 6.0, the first generation of its own reporting tool. VBR offers centralized reporting and, claims the company, the ability to help users determine if they're meeting compliance SLAs. Symantec's entry underscores the importance

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of backup reporting.

"There's a case where one of the big players is saying, 'We have to be in this space,'" says Alan Atkinson, CEO of WysDM Software, a data protection management vendor.

But backup reporting vendors are split on whether to extend reporting to storage or to stay focused on data protection.

For example, Aptare will announce in late summer an add-on module for its StorageConsole 6.0 platform that will provide application-centric storage capacity reporting and planning. It can be integrated with the StorageConsole Discovery backup reporting module so that users can analyze storage and backup together. Aptare's strategy will be similar to that of Tek-Tools, which also offers modular reporting that lets users see how their backups relate to storage.

Other vendors such as Bocada and WysDM are, for the time being, continuing to fine-tune reporting for data protection. "It's really about broadening the coverage of the whole data protection environment itself," says Nancy Hurley, Bocada's VP of marketing and business development. "It's difficult to go completely comprehensive and do all of your SRM reporting and data protection reporting under one blanket."

Hurley adds that addressing data protection includes having "the ability to start tracking replication and mirroring and snaps, and get more in-depth information on capacity and utilization of the tape."

To that end, Aptare will be announcing a replication module in the fourth quarter, and Bocada is also working in that direction. Last month, WysDM announced an OEM partnership with Double-Take Software that extends its replication support, and has been considering continuous data protection (CDP). "The only thing holding us back [with CDP] is when we see customers actually adopt it," says WysDM's Atkinson.

But some analysts contend that deeper integration between data protection and SRM tools is the key to managing data lifecycles, however complex it might be to attain.

"I think that's absolutely where we're heading, and there's a lot of pointers to that right now," says Bob LaLiberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, MA, citing Hewlett-Packard's inclusion of backup reporting in Storage Essentials and EMC's reselling of WysDM's reporting products. "The industry as a whole has recognized the need to see this view from the application all the way down through backup."


--Trina MacDonald

This was first published in May 2007

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