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The dark side of data protection

As backup software vendors are discovering, being flexible is the name of the game when it comes to incorporating the management of some of today’s hottest storage technologies – CDP, data classification, data de-duplication or integration with VTLs – into their backup software.

I am also finding that when one tries to get updates from these companies, one needs to exercise some flexibility as well. Though I had indicated in my last blog entry that I planned to cover Symantec in this month’s blog, the two of us could not get our schedules in sync. So instead I spoke to CA and CommVault and plan to cover Symantec’s NetBackup in more detail next time – or so I hope.

This month I began by talking to Kelly Polanski, CommVault’s Director of Product Marketing, and during our conversation she gave me a statistic that set me back. She said that nearly 80% of CommVault Galaxy’s customer base already uses disk as their primary backup target – either in the form as a virtual tape library (VTL) or disk-as-disk.

This stat caught me off-guard since it contradicts what I have heard to date. For example, Bocada, an independent data protection management software product which reports on all major backup software products, recently told me they still typically see 75% of their customers using tape as their primary target for backups.

So, I did some checking to see if CommVault was like Superman in the backup software space or if other backup software vendors were seeing similar increases in their percentages of customers using disk as their primary target for backup.

Neither CA nor EMC could provide any definitive numbers as to what percentage of their customers were using disk as a primary target for backup though both know that their numbers are growing. Symantec had some numbers to share as they had recently completed an internal survey of 200 of their customers and found that 63% of them now use some form of disk-based protection.

On a side note – I do have to congratulate EMC on their strategy of boosting (inflating?) their numbers – devilish though it may be. EMC is finding more of their customers switching to disk, but they conveniently ship NetWorker with their VTLs. How much NetWorker functionality and licenses that EMC includes with each VTL I’m sure surely varies by how many billions of TBs of storage the customer buys. But, it should come as no surprise to anyone that backup to disk is escalating in new deployments of NetWorker in EMC customer sites.

Sarcasm aside, this rapidly rising rate of users backing up to disk numbers increases the urgency for backup software vendors to integrate the management of each of these different technologies. For as time-consuming as it is to log in to manage each CDP, replication and backup product, it becomes even more difficult to create a consistent set of policies across these products that ensure the level of data protection and recovery matches the application’s requirements.

Of course, the difficulty arises from the fact that each of these different products usually makes its own copies of data, has its own database and is driven by its own policy engine. From a global management perspective, this makes it almost impossible to achieve any consistent method of locating the right copy of data, applying policies centrally or really knowing where anything is.

Both CA and CommVault (I know, it took me a while to get here) address these issues but are taking different paths to do so. This month (March 2007), CA is releasing a service pack (SP) for their BrightStor ARCserve backup softwarethat will more closely tie together their ARCserve and WanSync replication software. This SP provides ARCserve with an interface into the WANSync product and allows ARCserve to backup copies of data that WANSync creates. While a step in the right direction, this is more of a patch job than anything really innovative.

CA’s longer term plan is much more intriguing, if they can pull it off. CA is leveraging its acquisition of MDY Group International and its enterprise records management software (soon to be named CA Records Manager) that they completed in June 2006 to lay the foundation for enterprise-wide policy management for any product database.

According to Kristi Perdue, CA’s Product Marketing Director for Information Management products, the CA Records Manager will provide users a centralized policy engine that they can apply to any vendor’s product data repository. Configured modularly with an open architecture, it permits organizations to use a common set of policies for any vendor’s replication or backup product. (I ought to be in marketing for CA, you think?)

Overall, not a bad idea, but unfortunately at this time it is still vaporware. Even though CA’s Perdue describes CA’s integration efforts as “very aggressive” in this area, I wouldn’t expect to see a product release from CA for at least another year.

Of the two, at least CommVault’s technology is real. All of their replication products – Galaxy, QuickRecovery, and ContinuousDataReplicator – use the same underlying database and share a common set of policies. It even extends to setting policies for performing data archiving and data migrations which is great – assuming you are using their product exclusively on all of your servers.

This is my main concern about CommVault, unless you are exclusively using CommVault’s product, you may still have to bring in something like CA’s Record Manager to manage CommVault along with all of your other backup software products. But, whether that is a flaw in CommVault’s product design or a larger indicator of how enterprises run their businesses or let their businesses run them is a topic for another day.

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"but they conveniently ship NetWorker with their VTLs" As EMC also does with Symantec NetBackup. Pop in a license code and the NW Storage Node or NBU Media Server services start up on the EMC Disk Library.
thanks great post