Avamar unveils content-addressed storage product

Avamar Technologies is the latest vendor to try its hand at content-addressed storage. The storage start-up has developed a device that performs backup, restore and archiving operations entirely on hard disk drives rather than tape.

Avamar Technologies Inc. is out to put secondary storage first in the minds of users.

The Irvine, Calif.-based storage vendor announced its new approach to backup, restore and archive operations on Tuesday in the form of an appliance called Axion.

Axion uses hard-disk storage to deliver online access to data, while its software reduces the amount of data stored and moved over networks, the company said.

Much like EMC Corp.'s Centera system, Axion uses a CAS architecture. The storage address for any data element stored in the Axion system is generated by an analysis of the data itself and can be used to refer to repeated data elements to eliminate redundancy.

Randy Kerns, a senior analyst for the Evaluator Group Inc., which is based in Boulder, Colo., said that Avamar's Axion appliance is very similar to EMC's Centera system in that an algorithm is performed on the data to establish a unique identification. "The purpose of that is to eliminate the multiple copies of the same data in fixed content storage," he said.

Kerns added that Avamar is also calling Axion a backup and restore solution, which is different from how EMC is marketing Centera.

"EMC is focused on the fixed content market with Centera and not as a general backup device," he said.

However, Kerns did caution that there are several regulatory agencies that have certifications for records retention of data and that neither Centera nor Axion have these certifications. "In fact," he said, "no disk-based product does at this time."

Proponents of CAS say that the location-based addressing schemes found in NAS, SAN, DAS, tape and optical solutions track information based on its physical location, which makes complexity increase as the storage environment scales upward. CAS retrieves data faster because it requires no knowledge of the storage environment or physical location of the objects.

According to a report from Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group Inc., the fixed content space will be the single fastest growing sector of the storage market over the next decade. Fixed content will represent 51% of new corporate and government information by 2004, according to the study.

The Axion appliance features policy-based scheduling, organization and authentication through a centralized management application. Avamar says that Axion eliminates the need for recurring full backups, which eases backup-window requirements and reduces bandwidth utilization in congested networks.

The biggest battle for Avamar may be with the industry's loyalty to tape, but Kevin Daly, Avamar's president and CEO, said users do not need to completely change their backup methods to use Axion, because the product provides the ability to write to tape out of the system.

"This is the first time people will be using disk for all of their archiving. The benefit is that all recoveries are real-time recoveries," said Daly, who is also the company's former chief technology officer.

Daly said that the net effect of content-addressed storage (CAS) is low network traffic and communications. There is roughly 10 times less physical storage used.

He added that Axion has been designed to let end users control their own restore operations, but he admits that most customers will not utilize that option.

Axion's hardware components are not unique. The appliance is made up of 1U servers with as much storage as they can handle. "The value is in the software," Daly said.

Axion software finds small, logical sequences in files, objects and databases and stores each logical sequence only once in a company's infrastructure. Edited files, copied attachments, shared applications and daily database changes present a small amount of new data to an Axion system, according to Avamar.

Axion is available for open systems platforms including Windows, Solaris, RedHat Linux and Oracle databases that use Oracle RMAN. The starting price for a fully mirrored appliance starts at $175,000.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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