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Blue chips not always the best bet

Blue-chip vendors are introducing CDP-like products but the real stuff is being developed by startups. Which way would you go?

Microsoft Corp. announced its Data Protection Manager (DPM) product, the shortcomings of which have been well documented. The hope among many experts, however, is that at least a pseudo-continuous data protection (CDP) product from Microsoft will encourage its adoption among a wider population of users.

At least one analyst thinks it's worth trying. "The fact is that we suck at backup …This is better than what most of us are doing now," said Steve Duplessie of the Enterprise Strategy Group during a session at the Storage Decisions show recently.

But, according to Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group, "Microsoft is very hungry to be a viable player in the storage market, but it's going to take a while before they get there. I think it'll be another two or three years before they've got enough covered for people to start considering them a full-blown supplier in the storage industry."

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Meanwhile, he said "It's been my impression that the majority of innovation in our industry is made by startups. Big companies have increasingly become distributors and integrators rather than innovators."

And so some users find themselves on the horns of a dilemma: Do they get the most robust technology from a startup and accept the risks involved? Or do they buy from Microsoft or another big vendor doing what Duplessie terms "kind of CDP," simply because of the vendor's size?

"Right now there are tons of very good products in the market, and a lot of them are from startups. As long as the customer is willing to take some risk on it, they can work well," Taneja said. "If you're actually looking for a truly continuous product, [Microsoft] DPM won't do that for you. I say look at what your problem is and your environment -- fortunately, the market has plenty of alternatives."

Dianne McAdam, analyst with the Data Mobility Group, agreed that it might take Microsoft quite a while to introduce its final CDP product but pointed out, "Microsoft's name is certainly going to bless the architecture. Meanwhile, the small and midsized businesses (SMB) targeted by Microsoft with DPM are actually less cautious than the bigger guys, and might be more willing to buy from a startup. It's the enterprise guys who might be more inclined not to bring a startup into their data center."

Most enterprise users will never rip out their current backup vendor in their entire environment to test a product from a startup -- that's obvious and unquestionable. But if those users are really aching for a certain solution, say, true CDP with all the trimmings, it may be that exercising the power of choice -- even when it's risky -- might be the only real way to get out of the endless cycle of storage pain points. If users are intrigued by DPM, for example, why not try out a product from Revivio Inc., Mendocino Software or XOsoft Inc.? Why settle for DPM's limitations, if granular, continuous backup is really a priority for your shop simply because Microsoft isn't a startup?

Think of it like grocery shopping. No one's saying we have to go back to the old way of buying -- one store for meat, another for produce, another for baked goods. But if you want the best bread, you'll probably find it more often (and at a better bang for your buck) at a small bakery than at the Super Stop & Shop.

In the end, the journey to solving those widespread storage pain points doesn't have to be led by blue-chip vendors. By accepting some risk, users can pave the way -- and get their way.

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