Editorial: Backup will get easier ...

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... or it might get more complex. It's one of those "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?" things.The glass half-full contingent will be encouraged by recent events that suggest data protection products are evolving to meet the demands of 21st century data management. Over the last four or five years, a bunch of new data protection technologies have popped up, including easier and more versatile replication and snapshotting, data deduplication, continuous data protection (CDP) and archiving.

But even the vendors of some of these products will admit that users aren't exactly breaking down their doors to get at them. Part of the reason might be that companies have been too preoccupied trying to meet runaway capacity demands to find the time and budget to do much else. But what I hear more often is that while something like CDP is a great idea, storage managers are reluctant to toss another app into their mix.

Vendors have heard the complaints loud and clear. Because so many new data protection apps were developed by smaller vendors, many of them sought out larger providers to partner with, while others were simply gobbled up through acquisition. The result? Application integration, or at least the beginning of true integration. Traditional backup vendors are now adding capabilities like CDP to their apps, usually as options and often integrated enough to approach (or achieve) "single-pane" management.

Among the backup leaders, the race is on to build one-stop shopping for a range of data protection technologies. For example, Symantec added CDP to Backup Exec and acquired the intellectual property of CDP startup Revivio, which should show up in products soon. CommVault has integrated archiving, data classification and content indexing. EMC added Avamar Technologies to its arsenal and turned Kashya's CDP into the newest incarnation of its RecoverPoint product.

Spectra Logic is taking a stab at bringing data protection integration to yet another level with its nTier line of backup appliances. These all-in-one blade boxes bundle processing, capacity and a slew of data protection apps, all controlled and administered via a single management interface. It's a neat trick if they can pull it off. What surprises me most is that a majority of the apps were developed by Spectra Logic, according to Molly Rector, the company's VP of marketing and product management. While the individual apps might not necessarily be best-of-breed class, Rector says the integration outweighs any shortcomings.

So what about the other half of the glass--the empty part? You don't have to be an inveterate pessimist to see the drawbacks of these integration scenarios. Whether its jack-of-all-trades appliances or already complex backup apps becoming even more complicated with a long list of optional parts, the specter of vendor lock-in looms.

Integration should make all the parts mesh better, and easier to use and maintain, but it does nothing to guarantee you're running the app that's best suited to solve your problem. Best of breed might not be an option.

But the alternatives are even less attractive. You can continue to squeeze the most functionality out your backup app and copying software, or you can build your own best-of-breed data protection package by cobbling together the pieces as best you can. If you opt for the latter, you're likely to experience more than a little frustration; interoperability standards are nearly nonexistent.

In the absence of standards that let you buy the apps that best suit your needs/budget and then plug them together, maybe the emerging integrated data protection options aren't such a bad idea.

This was first published in June 2007

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