CDP: Calling It Right

CDP: Calling It Right This month's Byte and Switch Insider identifies true CDP, and who's doing it

April 20, 2005

5 Min Read
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In the two years since a handful of startups began talking it up, the term "continuous data protection" has proliferated faster than the technology itself (see Revivio Starts Talking Continuously, XOsoft Turns Back Time, and Vyant Ships Rapid-Recovery App). The trouble is, not everyone claiming to have CDP really does.

While enterprise CDP products from startups such as Mendocino Software, Revivio Inc., and XOsoft are trickling into the market, many vendors use the term CDP to describe snapshot and replication products (see Revivio Launches Backup Box, Mendocino Scores $15M, and Intel Unveils WiMax Roadmap). That has CDP pioneers concerned their products will get lumped in with the traditional backup-and-restore process that they aim to improve upon.

"A lot of people say theyre doing CDP, but only a handful are really doing it," says analyst Brad O’Neill of the Taneja Group.

The real CDP players hoped a recently formed Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) special interest group (SIG) on CDP would help separate the contenders from the pretenders (see CDP Gets SNIA'd). Now some fear the opposite might happen.

The first marketing meeting for the CDP SIG resembled a season-opening episode of the "Survivor" TV series. The group split into two tribes, with a difference of opinion about what real CDP is."One group of vendors view it as sort of how Veritas does it -- replication plus standard backup equals CDP," says one of the vendors' reps at the meeting. This group comprises Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC). "The other group says the concept of time travel is a critical prerequisite -- the ability to retroactively pick a previous period in time to restore from." The time travelers included Mendocino, Revivio, XOsoft, and TimeSpring Software Corp.

An executive from one of the startups says he now fears the SNIA standards group might actually lower the standards for CDP.

"They want to make CDP snapshotting," he says. "Let’s just devalue CDP until it’s nothing but a logo on a Website. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for snapshots. But it’s not the same as CDP."

This month's Byte and Switch Insider -- CDP: Backup to the Future -- goes more deeply into the differences. Where snapshots capture data at set intervals, CDP software records every change as it occurs, employing time stamps to be able to restore it from any point in time. CDP also automates the process, whereas snapshots must be scheduled manually.

There's more at stake than just a naming scheme. If done as the purists demand, CDP provides more protection for data. "CDP is something that captures data in real-time or close to real-time and provides an extremely fine level of granularity," says Jim Damoulakis, CTO of storage consultant firm GlassHouse Technologies Inc. "It’s also transparent from an application and server standpoint. You don’t have to initiate an operation like a backup operation."Although they are primarily industry upstarts, the time travelers might win their battle to define CDP. Backup vendors are beginning to admit there’s more to CDP than snapshots, and they will probably have to offer the ability to restore from any point in time in order to keep up.

Veritas and EMC -- part of the SNIA SIG – say they’re working on adding those features, although they don’t provide many details. Smaller backup vendors also say it’s inevitable they'll get into CDP.

"CDP certainly is a natural extension of data protection, and we believe we’re in the data protection business, not the backup business," says Chris Van Waggoner, director of product marketing for CommVault Systems Inc. "CDP is a natural evolution towards reducing the vulnerability window as technology advances. My guess is you will see all of the vendors of this space start to move in the next 12 months to offer products with more CDP-like functionality."

It remains to be seen how CDP-like the traditional backup guys will get. We could also see replication vendors add time traveling features to provide CDP. Then again, a lot of potential CDP players might take a wait-and-see approach. Enterprise CDP products are in their infancy. Right now, it’s an immature technology dominated by startups.

One time-traveling CDP advocate left the stage earlier this month when Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) bought Alacritus for a mere $11 million (see NetApp Annexes Alacritus). Alacritus had already launched a CDP product, but NetApp pulled it from the market because it needs more development. Clearly, NetApp thinks the technology is worth having, but there’s no pressing need to offer it today.The pro-time-travel faction won a skirmish in the battle to define CDP this week when Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) launched a public beta of its new data protection product (see Microsoft Backs Up on CDP Claim). When announcing it would enter the data protection game last fall, Microsoft said it would offer continuous protection (see Microsoft's Recovery Plan). To its credit, now Microsoft admits the Data Protection Manager product it plans to ship later this year isn’t CDP, just snapshots.

As CDP purists would say, there’s room for snapshots. They’re just not CDP.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

The report, CDP: Backup to the Future, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Byte and Switch Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit:

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