When customers look to implement data protection software packages, many topics are often overlooked. Here, Pearring, manager of sales for STORServer, identifies key topics for solution providers to discuss with their customers, including support and maintenance, positioning, financial factors and more.—Jennifer Bosavage, editor
The primary providers of data protection continue to be software companies—Avamar, CommVault, Tivoli Storage Manager, Symantec and many others. All of them have someone pitching a bundle of hardware to go with their solutions, but in large part, the driving force behind them remains the software. It makes choosing a data backup appliance difficult. While the appliance intention appeared to be headed toward complete solutions, “purposely built” as packages, what we largely see in the market for competition against our own Enterprise Backup Appliance remains the same software technology pitches.
Why did the big players get into the appliance business? They got into it because the smaller players—Barracuda, Unitrends and STORServer—built the business first.
Are all of the appliances and technology options the same? Given the basic designs of hardware, storage, connectivity and legacy software, aren’t they just a bunch of the same pieces put together by different folks? Interestingly, the simplification of backup solutions those of us in the industry have touted has yet to happen. The vast array of options that now complicate the goal for a simple appliance has muddied the ease of buying a solution.
I’m not talking about the low-end backup appliance boxes, which provide simple copy functions from production to a local or even remote disk. Those are here.
I’m talking about enterprise, midmarket corporate environments with dozens to hundreds of terabytes, multiple locations, virtualized servers and storage, and IT shops with more than a handful of employees. I’m talking about time-saving, centralized policies and efficient management tools implemented in a distributed world. I’m talking about service that covers the full gamut of the solution with one notification request, phone call or email.
The reasons for automating a typical “pieces and parts bundled solution” into an enterprise appliance identify the very elements for how appliances are different—software, technologies, hardware, support and the “other” parameters (listed below).
Software is the ultimate automation transformer of all time. It is just a bunch of weightless ones and zeros without hardware; but, frankly, the software rules. And, the software folks dominate the conversations at the enterprise level. The hardware bells and whistles are not really that interesting—disks dictate the storage in data protection now, and powerful servers are common commodities.
Consider the database engine of the software and its ability to manage complexity. Users expect a “relational” database in the software. The database must expand into dizzyingly huge sizes. Limits on growth send backup administrators into apoplexy. The big software providers who can’t get very large in their database will fall back on the hardware to solve this problem, forcing customers to buy a larger number of hardware implementations to get what they need.
In the appliance implementation of these software packages, though, many competitive topics get left out of the discussion between solution providers (including resellers) and their customers.
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