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2008 recommendations for deduplication, encryption and VMware

As 2007 draws to a close, there are three technologies that appear near the top of many storage managers’ priority lists going into 2008.

· Deduplication

· Tape encryption

· VMware

The mix of old and new technologies is intriguing. One would think that as deduplication and VMware rise in importance, more companies would start to abandon storing data on tape. Yet that does not appear to be the case. Symantec’s Director of Product Marketing, Marty Ward, recently told me that the new encryption features in NetBackup 6.5 are its #2 most sought-after feature (deduplication is #1).

Don’t rush into a deduplication purchase decision. I have yet to talk to a user who doesn’t report faster backup times using a deduplicating backup appliance or backup software and ensuing reductions in data stores. However, I sense that users are rushing into purchasing decisions and not stepping back to look at what other options they have available.

ExaGrid System’s CEO, Bill Andrews, told me this past week that in 50% of its customer deals, the company is seeing no competition. I suspect this percentage probably holds true for Data Domain and Quantum as well. But storage managers should avoid rushing out and buying a deduplicating product to solve their backup problems. Taking just a few extra days to check out what other products are available, how each product adds more capacity and performance, and how viable the company behind the product is can save you some management headaches.

The big cautionary note with tape encryption is to verify how encryption keys are created and managed. So, I recommend using a third-party appliance to create and manage the encryption keys. Though appliances can encrypt the data, more are starting to work in conjunction with backup software and tape drives to provide encryption keys. When companies encrypt data stored to tape, most are hoping they never to access the data again. So managers need to think in terms of how best to manage the recovery of data in five years, not five days. Encryption appliances create highly secure encryption keys, manage the keys long-term, and give companies assurance that they can manage the encryption keys and then recover the data years later.

Storage companies also need to account for the very real storage problems that server virtualization creates. One of the best things you can do in 2008 to prevent VMware from negatively impacting your environment is to change the way you back up VMware virtual machines (VMs). One approach is to use the latest versions of backup software that support the VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) framework, which back up just the VMDK file which contains the data for all VMs on a VMware server. The other is to install a host-based CDP or dedupe agent on each VM. This eliminates the overhead that backup software agents introduce on each VM. I recommend using CDP. If you are going to change your backup approach anyway, choose the one that gives you the most granular recovery options.

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Deduplication does make sense, however, it is anything but the entire solution. Data is growing incredibly fast and its impact is everywhere and deduplication does help. What is required is a comprehensive look at what the underlying problem is, and that takes time to asses things. The problem is that I have yet to call on an IT shop that is over staffed and has money to burn so finding the time to really solve the problems and get control often does not happen. Deduplication is a band aid. But then again, often we have to stop the bleeding before we can go much further. Paul Clifford Davenport Group
Thanks for the great post and very helpful for me... Regards, SBL - BPO Services