Doubts about CDP persist

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By most accounts, continuous data protection (CDP) is the next great must-have technology. Yet research suggests users aren't exactly jumping on the bandwagon.

Sixty-seven percent of Storage readers aren't currently using a CDP product, and of that number 37% have no plans to start (see "Snapshot: Is CDP part of your backup?" Storage, December 2006). That figure is corroborated by last fall's Storage Purchasing Intentions survey in which 22% of respondents said they have or will implement the technology, and 45% said they plan to evaluate it (see "What storage managers are buying and why," Storage, October 2006).

Though these numbers might suggest that user interest hasn't caught up with CDP's technological momentum, users say they're interested, just unclear as to where the technology fits into their backup strategy.

"A number of end users believe that CDP is just another name for other data protection methods, such as snapshot or replication, or, even in some cases, RAID," said Natalya Yezhkova, research manager, Storage Systems Group at Framingham, MA-based IDC, in a Web teleconference.

Vendors could help clear up the confusion by shifting their focus from the backup benefits CDP provides to its recovery advantages. "I think for a lot of people that it either doesn't make sense, or it doesn't fit their needs when they view things from the perspective of protection," says Joseph Martins, research director and managing member at Data Mobility Group, Nashua, NH.

That shift is underway, with large storage vendors such as EMC and Symantec increasingly emphasizing recovery and availability, and it's beginning to register with some users. Tory Skyers, infrastructure engineer, IS at Devon, PA-based Prudential Fox & Roach/Trident, likes CDP for its granular restore capabilities. "It doesn't necessarily mean I'm constantly changing my data, but what I'd like is to be able to get it back to right where it was," says Skyers.

Nevertheless, users are likely to remain cautious about CDP technology. Some, for example, are waiting for their peers to try it first. Mike Coons, data storage project manager at The TJX Companies in Framingham, MA, says he doesn't see his colleagues ready to take on CDP. "It's still, I don't want to say vaporware, but who's employing it?" says Coons.

Others who've invested heavily in snapshot and replication technology think adding CDP would render those earlier investments useless. "I think it's that fear people [have of] 'Okay, you're expecting me to dump the technology that I'd already invested in; why do I need this?'" says Heidi Biggar, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, MA. But CDP is truly most appropriate for mission-critical applications that demand that level of protection, she says, and should be just one component of an overall data protection plan.

It's clear the trend is toward bringing CDP into existing product lines: EMC acquired CDP and replication software vendor Kashya last May; CA acquired XOsoft in July 2006; and Symantec snapped up Revivio's CDP technology in November 2006. But the integration of those acquisitions is still in progress and that's feeding hesitancy. Coons says he loves the idea of integrated CDP, but he won't be diving in headfirst. "You bought it, now you're trying to integrate it. Well, you know what? I'll give you another year or two before I jump on that because then you'll have worked out all the bugs," he says.

CDP may have yet to gain the maturity users want, but users will eventually find it essential for mission-critical data, says Biggar. As users begin to sort out which of their applications require continuous protection, CDP will get a better footing. "It requires a shift in thinking; it doesn't require ruling out what you have," says Biggar.

--Trina MacDonald

This was first published in February 2007

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