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New data backup SaaS players emerge

Once upon a time in the storage market, storage service providers were all the rage. Then, the tech bubble burst and most of them went the way of the dodo bird.

But with storage growth in recent years forcing companies to consider new strategies for managing data, storage service providers are making a comeback. Within that market space, meanwhile, backup and recovery is the most popular area, as users struggle with the cost of protecting more and more data, the distraction of backup and recovery management from core business and IT operations, and ever-increasing regulation.

Naturally, this is the market where the lion’s share of new players are springing up. EMC Corp. and Symantec Corp. are among the heavy hitters that say they’re planning backup SaaS. But there are also some new and emerging vendors that are gaining attention in the market with the return of interest in outsourcing.

One of the companies that’s made its presence known in recent weeks is Nirvanix Inc., which is aiming to be a business-to-business outsourcer for large companies. It’s come out of the gate overtly challenging Amazon’s S3 service, saying it can overcome the performance issues that have been reported by some large S3 users. The service is also offering a 99.9% uptime SLA to customers.

Nirvanix claims it can offer better performance because it is constructing a global network of storage “nodes” based on the way Web content delivery systems work — by moving the storage and processing power closer to the user, cutting down on network latency.

Within each of Nirvanix’s storage nodes is a global namespace layered over a clustered file system, running on Dell servers residing in colocation facilities. These nodes also perform automatic load balancing by making multiple copies of “popular” files and spreading them over different servers within the cluster. With this storage infrastructure, the company is claiming that it can offer users a wider pipe as well as a faster one, allowing file transfers of up to 256 GB. Moving forward, according to CEO Patrick Harr, the company plans to offer an archival node for “cold storage” within 6 months.

One potential issue for the company in comparison to S3 is a lack of financial clout to match Amazon. Building out the storage node infrastructure will be an expensive proposition in comparison to creating software and running a typical data center, and so far, the company says it has received just $12 million in funding, some from venture capital firms and some from research grants. However, it also says 25 customers have already signed up for beta testing, and says one of those customers is supporting 50 million end users.

Base pricing for the service is 18 cents per stored gigabyte per month, a “slight premium” over Amazon’s price according to Harr. The company is hoping that it can increase sales volume and drive down the price.

Meanwhile, on the consumer/SMB side, a company called Intronis LLC is souping up its features in the hopes of gaining traction in the low end of the storage market. Version 3.0 of its eSureIT backup service will allow users to create a tapelike rotation scheme for files, creating backup sets and setting policies for data retention on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. The company has added a plugin it calls Before and After, which will allow users to create scripts dictating what their computer systems should do before, during or after engaging with the Intronis service — for example, the script can have the user’s machine shut down applications prior to backup and restart them after backup has finished. Another new plugin will allow mailbox and message-level backups and restores of Exchange databases, and adds a text search for email repositories.

But the biggest new development, and the one that’s taken it the better part of two years to develop, according to Sam Gutmann, co-founder and CEO, is a feature the company is calling Intelliblox, which like other enterprise-level backup services such as Asigra, backs up only changed blocks over the wire. The feature uses a set of checksum and hashing algorithms to identify blocks and keep them together with their corresponding files (an existing feature of Intronis’s service is total separation between the company’s admins and users’ data — each user is given an encryption key to access its storage at Intronis’s data center, and Intronis says it has no way of reading any of its customer data).

This use of hashing algorithms also has this blogger wondering if they might also be able to offer fixed-content archiving down the road.

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