Avamar Rolls the Tape

Looks to shed 'rip and replace' rep, but must convince customers they need its software

January 24, 2006

3 Min Read
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Avamar has revamped its disk-based backup software to work with, rather than replace, tape backup. (See Avamar Transforms Data Protection.)

The company is one of a new breed of backup vendor to emerge in the last few years preaching that the end was near for tape. (See Disk Backup's in a Crunch, Avamar Advances, and Data Domain Gets Compressed.) And while new disk technologies, cheaper disk drives, and recent security problems have put tape on the ropes, enterprises are nonetheless committed to keeping it, at least for archiving.

Avemar uses data compression to speed backup and recovery by only transferring data that has not been previously stored. But like another compression-based startup, Data Domain, Avamars Axion product was made to replace tape rather than work alongside it. And that required tape users to make two backup copies and manage the backups separately.

Introduced today, Avamar’s Axion 3.5 tries to play nice with tape by allowing customers to manage their Avamar and tape backups from one interface.

Axion will work better with backup software from leading vendors such as Symantec, EMC, IBM, and CommVault, but it requires installing one of the tape backup agents on the media server running Axion or separate Linux blades. That allows customers to see information from tape and Axion backups from Axion’s management interface. They also can back up data from Axion servers to tape for archiving, and restore that data without using Axion.Besides looking to make it easier for customers to implement Axion without ripping out its existing backup software, Avamar is angling for OEM deals with backup vendors.

“We were known as 'rip and replace,' ” Avamar CEO Ed Walsh says. “We used to say, ‘Tape is dead.’ Now we’re opening up possibilities of partnerships with tape vendors.”

The upgrade lets Avamar customers manage their tape and disk backups from one console, and they no longer must run separate backups for tape and disk. In an attempt to stay one step ahead of tape, Avamar also revamped its search capabilities to allow full text and metadata search of data backed up on disk. Axion costs $25,000 per Tbyte.

In trying to coexist with tape, Avamar finds itself in competition with Data Domain and other types of disk-backup technology, such as virtual tape library (VTL) and continous data protection (CDP). Those technologies are picking up converts fast, and Data Domain today added a VTL option for its backup appliances, priced at $4,000. (See Data Domain Adds VTL Option.)

Jason Paige, information systems manager at early Avamar customer Integral Capital, says he likes the old Axion that didn’t act like tape. He considered that an advantage over VTL.“I looked at VTL before buying Avamar, but VTL was a disk backup that mimicked a tape backup,” he says. “If you’re a disk, why not be a disk?”

Like most early Avamar adopters, Integral, a venture capital firm that is not an Avamar investor, got rid of its tape backup after installing Axion.

“We’ve gone 100 percent off tape," Paige says. "When we first switched, we were running tape and Avamar side by side because it was an unproven technology. Then we threw tape out the window three or four months later.“

Paige obviously isn’t concerned about Avamar’s tape integration, but he has tested its search features and finds them helpful for keeping up with compliance regulations.

“Since all your data is being stored on disk, you can search for key words inside of files,“ he says. "It does an index every night. It takes us days to find information for legal discovery. Now it will take seconds.“— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Avamar Technologies Inc.

  • CommVault Systems Inc.

  • Data Domain Inc. (Nasdaq: DDUP)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Integral Capital Partners

  • WysDM Software Inc.

  • Symantec Corp.

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