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Editorial: Backup done right and not so right

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Backup done right and not so right


This is a story of what to do and what not to do if you're a vendor trying to gain the favor of storage managers, and perhaps persuade them to open their billfolds at the same time. It's about a couple of product announcements: one promising and the other perplexing. At first, I thought I could talk about this stuff without naming names, but that didn't seem very honest and I'd end up shortchanging a vendor that, in my book, had done a good job.

CommVault, which has been chiseling away at the big three's backup app hegemony over the last few years, rolled out a newly packaged suite of data protection products wrapped around its flagship Galaxy backup program. It even deep-sixed its old QiNetix suite moniker in favor of the newly minted Simpana. While the name "Simpana" isn't my favorite part of the announcement--it sounds like something a doctor might prescribe-- there's a lot to like about what CommVault has done.

Besides adding new features such as file-level single-instance storage and data classification, CommVault replaced its indexing/search engine with a popular and more potent engine from Norway's FAST. Even better, a new Web interface allows simultaneous searching of online, backup and archive data. CommVault also beefed up its encryption, now allowing encryption to occur as an offline or secondary process.

The best part is that everything is packed into a single suite so backup

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and recovery, archiving, data migration, snapshotting and other features can be accessed and managed centrally. You just plug in the parts you need. CommVault isn't alone in trying to integrate all data protection apps into a single, cohesive set of apps built on a common platform.

Other vendors are on the same track; for example, Symantec used its recent Vision 2007 conference to introduce similar plans to integrate some of its many data protection and storage management tools. This approach, intent, philosophy (whatever you want to call it) is a solid first step in addressing the dilemma of having to juggle a bunch of disparate apps to ensure that your data is properly protected. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

Atempo, a well-regarded backup app vendor with a European track record, is working to expand its North American presence with its Time Navigator backup program, and LiveBackup and LiveServ continuous data protection apps for desktops/laptops and Exchange, respectively. The latter product line, picked up in the 2006 acquisition of Storactive, seems to be gaining traction.

Recently, Atempo added an archiving app to its arsenal: Atempo Archive Server (AAS). At first blush, that seems laudable as yet another tool in the firm's data protection kit. Atempo's spokeswoman says the product was developed in response to several customers' requests for file archiving--and it's equally laudable that the company is eager to meet customer needs. But AAS is an "almost" product; it lacks some features that most observers would agree are de rigueur for archiving apps today. It doesn't do data deduplication or content indexing, which are features Atempo says will appear in future versions. In fact, Atempo already has dedupe technology in some of its other products.

So why was AAS pushed out the door when it's clear that in its current incarnation it's unlikely to provide much competition for established archiving vendors? That's a real head-scratcher. If Atempo hopes to become a serious player, it needs to roll out a more fully featured product soon ... real soon.

I suppose it comes down to reading the market and knowing if what customers are clamoring for are one-off tweaks or real, marketable products. Storage pros can move that market by dogging their vendors and making sure they know what's truly needed. And vendors need to listen.

This was first published in August 2007

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