Mendocino short-circuits CDP debate

Arguments over near-CDP versus true-CDP are about to become redundant as Mendocino provides the capability to do both.

Mendocino Software Inc., one of the last continuous data protection (CDP) startups left standing, is in the unenviable position of competing with the giants. To do so effectively, it has come up with a clever strategy to hush its competitors, at least for now.

This week Mendocino will begin promoting "dual-mode" CDP functionality. This lets users do both true-CDP for maximum recovery granularity when it is most important and switch to near-CDP with less granular recovery to save on storage capacity when it's appropriate. Most vendors, including Microsoft, IBM, EMCCorp. and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), offer near-CDP only products.

"Debate in the industry between those that insist on the superiority of true-CDPs better recovery granularity versus those who say that near-CDP offers enough protection more cost effectively has now been rendered moot with Mendocino's dual-mode CDP support," said Arun Taneja, founder and senior analyst of The Taneja Group.

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True-CDP refers to the real-time capture of each block- or file-level write operation, allowing users to roll back to any point in time to recover information. Near-CDP offers less granular recovery of data, supporting potentially many recovery points per hour, but not allowing the retroactive creation of any previous point in time. According to analysts, the two technologies have different architectures, and as a result, only true-CDP technology can be configured to offer dual-mode support.

Mendocino's dual-mode functionality is fairly restricted in the ability to switch between modes. Users can establish two policies within a window: how many days of true-CDP mode, and then how many recovery points in near-CDP mode. But you cannot, for instance, turn true-CDP back on. "You can only turn on near-CDP," said Eric Burgener, vice president of marketing at Mendocino.

This announcement is solely driven by marketing considerations, according to Taneja. "Mendocino has always had this capability … they are just short-circuiting the discussion over true-CDP versus near-CDP as the competition is increasing," he said.

Most of the CDP startups have been gobbled up by the bigger vendors. EMC acquired Kashya, NetApp bought Alacritus and Symantec Corp. acquired Revivio. Slowly but surely these vendors are starting to push the technology, upping the ante for the remaining startups. InMage Systems Inc. also offers dual-mode CDP, but has been fairly quiet of late. "That's going to change," according to Rajeev Atluri, chief technology officer (CTO) and senior vice president of engineering at InMage. The company recently hired Tom Urban to manage marketing, which is probably a good thing as InMage has been offering dual-mode CDP for "a couple of years," according to Atluri.

He said it's true that near-CDP uses less storage, but how much less is up for debate. The reduction stems from the overlapping writes of the same portion of data. "It really depends on the application," he said.

Ultimately, whether it's dual-mode CDP, near-CDP or true-CDP, this functionality has to become part of the backup application before users will jump onboard in any quantity.

"Who wants to run two catalogs for backup … we've got enough running around to do as it is," said Michael Masterson, information systems architect for a Fortune 500 life sciences company. A NetApp shop, Masterson said they would willingly turn on CDP for files if the functionality was part of NetApp's offering, but not otherwise.

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