To survive, backup reporting tools must expand their scope

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Backup software tells you if a backup job failed. That should be enough, right? Yet a handful of vendors have carved out a business providing additional backup reporting tools.

In their most basic form, these tools report across multiple backup processes, systems, platforms and devices. The tools aggregate information that IT would otherwise have to collect by rummaging through (machine by machine) numerous log files, flat files and transaction journals. Generally, they perform data collection without installing software agents and pass the results into their reporting and analytic engines. Results are stored in a relational database.

"We have 2,200 servers we back up daily. We have no effective way of tracking what's going on or measuring it," says Douglas Bovie, head of infrastructure management worldwide at Orange Business Services, a telecom and hosting service provider.

To ensure backups were happening as scheduled, Orange Business Services deployed WysDM Software's backup reporting tool over a year ago, primarily for its own internal use. However, Orange Business Services' corporate customers also liked the detailed reports. "Once customers saw this information, they demanded more," says Bovie. "Now we do a lot of custom reports with WysDM."

WysDM Software is one of four vendors--along with Aptare, Bocada and Tek-Tools--that have emerged in this category. "These tools provide vendor-neutral reporting across multiple platforms," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder, The StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN.

But analysts have doubts about the long-term viability of third-party backup reporting tools. The independent tools demonstrate "the increased need for backup reliability and reporting," says Doug Chandler, program director for storage software and services research at IDC, Framingham, MA. But, he adds, "this functionality is begging to be built into other tools. We don't think customers are looking for another category of products."

Informally, Chandler estimates that these vendors combined might generate approximately $100 million in revenue this year.

That makes backup reporting vendors prime candidates for acquisition. "I expect the big storage management vendors to acquire some of these companies and [then] add the functionality into their own toolsets," says William Hurley, senior analyst, Data Mobility Group, Nashua, NH.

Until then, vendors will continue to attempt to differentiate themselves through the number of backup systems and platforms they support, as well as the breadth and flexibility of their analytics and reporting. Going forward, analysts expect to see backup reporting and analysis capabilities extended not only to more platforms, but to cover local and remote replication.

Analysts also expect more intelligent predictive analysis and forecasting, which will alert IT to any likely problems or resource constraints before they impact operations, as well as more reports and documentation to satisfy compliance requirements.

--Alan Radding

This was first published in September 2006

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