Backup Software, Part 1

Backup touches just about every component of your infrastructure, and if there is a weakness it will expose it at the most inappropriate moment

February 10, 2009

3 Min Read
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Backup software is an interesting market. On its surface it seems very simple -- all you have to do is copy all your data from Point A to Point B, right? Of course, as anyone who has been assigned the responsibility of managing backups will tell you, it is not that simple. Backup touches just about every component of your infrastructure, and if there is a weakness in that infrastructure it seems as if the backup process is the one that will expose it, and do so at the most inappropriate moment.

The engine of all this is, of course, the backup application itself. There are several survey's floating around that indicate 73 percent of you are going to reevaluate your backup software over the next three years. What it doesn't say is that most of you, after reviewing your choices, won't change. Selecting backup software is like voting for your representative to Congress: Do you go with the bad choice you know, or do you take a chance on something new that could be better but more than likely is worse?

As I look at backup software, I see two major nations: Symantec (NetBackup and Backup Exec) and EMC Software (Legato and Avamar), and a new, developing nation, Commvault. Symantec seems to be figuring out the integration of Veritas, and capabilities like its OpenStorage API (OST) are catching on. EMC seems to be really advocating Avamar more so than Legato Networker, and Commvault continues to march down the path of doing everything.

The contrast between Symantec and Commvault is the most interesting. Symantec has acquired much of its technology (Netbackup, Puredisk, KVS, etc.) and is working on integrating components of those solutions, as evidenced by the Puredisk option for Netbackup. Of course, Symantec will tell you that it is bringing best-of-breed solutions into its umbrella. If those selections are correct, and the integration work completes, the strategy could make sense. Symantec now is extending the best-of-breed philosophy by inviting everyone else to the party with OST. The interesting thing, at least from an industry perspective, is everyone likes Symantec now. Go figure.

Commvault, on the other hand, has tried to develop a single product for all your data protection and management needs. While I am not sure if Simpana 8 was worth a full version upgrade, the strategy makes sense -- a totally integrated holistic approach to software, keeping you from having to purchase 13 different applications, learning them, and maintaining them. The upside is that this should be easier for users. The downside is: What if you dont like one of their modules? Once you decide to use KVS for email instead of Commvault, the vision loses much of its luster.Another concern I have from a development perspective is keeping all of the capabilities of each of these modules on par with companies that can focus just on one thing. This is where it gets interesting, especially as you leave the very large enterprise. Companies like Syncsort have extended the use of block-level, incremental backups to create off-storage, multi-purpose snapshots; Vizioncore offers multi-level support of VMware data protection; and Kroll Ontrack sells protection options for Exchange and Sharepoint.

How do these solutions fit into a single-vendor-for-everything world? They don't, and that means you might have to forgo some capabilities to keep things simple. For some, that is an OK compromise, for others not so much.

Which way you go depends on how much, if anything, you give up by taking the easy approach versus how hard the best-of-breed approach is to implement and manage.

Please view our seminar on Primary Storage Optimization.

— George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland , which provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.6668

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