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Data Preservers

The anniversaries of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have passed. The hottest summer in recent memory, the cause of prolonged East Coast power outages, is finally over. In the wake of the turmoil are jangled nerves and a passel of lost data. Whether it's the next calamity or someone deleting files, more people are thinking about data protection than ever before.

The anniversaries of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have passed. The hottest summer in recent memory, the cause of prolonged East Coast power outages, is finally over. In the wake of the turmoil are jangled nerves and a passel of lost data. Whether it's the next calamity or someone deleting files, more people are thinking about data protection than ever before.

Data is growing exponentially, and information availability is vital to business. Customers may be finding a bevy of new and more affordable ways to make sure their data is backed up and retrievable, but with the alternatives come choices that can make even the savviest customer's and solution provider's head spin: BCP. CDP. ILM. WAFS. And the dilemma goes beyond acronyms. There are backup, replication, mirroring snapshots, vaulting, archiving and de-duplication, not to mention the complexity of supporting multiple applications and operating systems.

More than 40 vendors of note offer data-protection products through various channels. Microsoft put a stake in the ground about a year ago when it released its Data Protection Manager, a tool that legitimized the continuous backup of file-based data. Today, it's becoming the norm to back up data to low-cost disks, sometimes postponing for months, if not years, the archiving to tape.

Today, backup and disaster recovery ranks second only to security infrastructure when it comes to IT spending priorities over the next 12 months, according to the first VARBusiness Market Insight Report. Only 12 percent said it's not a priority at all, while 8.6 percent are outsourcing the entire business-continuity effort.

One-third are addressing business continuity and disaster preparedness in conjunction with a third-party technology provider, the study revealed. Case in point: Fred Nix, CTO of Syscom Technologies, a solution provider in Marietta, Ga., says business in that area "is doubling and tripling quarter over quarter."

NEXT: Many new technologies and business imperatives are changing the way integrators deliver disaster recovery and backup to customers. Here are some things to consider.

  • Recovery-Point Objectives. The availability of so-called continuous data protection, or CDP, has brought more awareness to both recovery-point and recovery-time objectives.

  • If a disaster were to occur, how quickly does the customer need to retrieve the backed-up data, and how up-to-date must it be? While this may seem like a no-brainer, there are significant implications to not attaching costs to how data is protected.
  • "Everything starts with knowing what the customer's objectives are," says Ken Horner, executive vice president of business strategy at Bakbone Software, a supplier of backup and replication-suite software. The question every customer must consider is how long they can live without a certain amount of data. The requirements are much different if the customer says a day or so than if they say an hour or less.

    "The question is just how continuous the 'C' in CDP is. Is it 5- to 10-minute intervals where snapshotting is good enough? Or does every transaction have to be tracked in a journal so users can hone in on every single I/O activity?" says Manish Goel, general manager of the data-protection business unit of Network Appliance, one of several storage vendors, including EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM and Sun, that have increased their emphasis on disaster recovery over the past year.

    It's also important to articulate the difference between near-continuous and continuous. Products such as Symantec's Backup Exec 10d for Windows and Tivoli's CDP for Files fall under the category of near-continuous.

  • Location of Data. How should branch-office data be backed up, and where? Providers of WAN-acceleration technology, for example, are enjoying huge success by putting appliances in branch offices and replicating it in data centers, effectively centralizing the storage of data. Companies such as Cisco, Packeteer and Riverbed are key providers of appliances that use sophisticated algorithms to compress, cache and accelerate the transmission of large amounts of data over sometimes low-bandwidth WAN links. Executives at Riverbed maintain that many customers no longer want to maintain servers at small branch offices.

  • Proponents of de-duplication, offered by the likes of Asigra, Avamar and Diligent, argue that WAN acceleration is good for certain types of data but that some organizations are reluctant to move data out of the branch office. De-duplication uses a similar method as WAN acceleration--transmitting only data that has changed.

    At least one of the major players believes de-duplication has legs. Symantec, which acquired a leader in the field of de-duplication--PureDisk--will be adding that technology to its NetBackup suite in coming months, company execs say. "We think remote-office data protection is the new battleground when it comes to protecting data," says Peter McKellar, group manager for Symantec data-center products.

    NEXT: Pure software vs. appliance

  • Pure Software vs. Appliance. This transcends data protection, but it can be a key decision for any client looking to create or change their disaster-recovery and business-continuity strategy.

    There's no shortage of choices, either. In most cases, it will depend on the customer's infrastructure and their preference for managing it. CDP and de-duplication are perfect examples. While Symantec is looking to bundle its de-duplication offering into its data-protection suite, Avamar and Diligent offer that capability as an appliance. Likewise, EMC's recent purchase of Kashya, which offers a CDP appliance, and CA's purchase of CDP software vendor XOsoft clearly show the broad alternatives to skinning the same cat.

    Mark Tuggle, president of USI, a solution provider focused on information life-cycle management and storage, says the appliance approach is gaining traction, although software accounts for the bulk of his business.

    "I'm a huge fan of the appliance approach when a customer has a weak infrastructure or the upgrade is going to be significant," Tuggle says. Among the appliances he supports is NexSan's Assureon and Permabit's Dynamic Information Services, both content-addressable services that classify archived data.

    While these decisions may be agonizing for some and rudimentary for others, the math shows that this isn't going to be a short-term problem. Tuggle points to one client who has 6 terabytes of archived data today. That will grow to 12 TB by next summer and 75 TB within five years.

  • Established players vs. alternatives. There's a lot to be said for the big boys. EMC, HP, IBM and Symantec have huge product portfolios and extensive partner programs. But many solution providers argue that second-tier players such as BakBone, CommVault and SyncSort have decent partner programs and more integrated offerings that are easier to deploy and support. "When I install BakBone or CommVault, people rarely call me back with complaints," says Brian De Matteo, president of TriAxis Storage Solutions.
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