EMC Breathes Life Into NetWorker With Dedupe, Cloud Integration

EMC is investing in its long-ignored Networker data protection business in the wake of the reorganization of its backup software business after EMC acquired Data Domain.

That includes this weeks’ unveiling of tight integration of NetWorker with Data Domain dedupe technology, and follows the recent move to integrate the software with the EMC Atmos cloud storage platform.

Frank Slootman, president of EMC’s Backup and Recovery Systems (BRS) division, on Tuesday admitted that EMC has ignored its Networker data protection software for some time despite it being a robust business within EMC.

Networker has fallen behind in terms of customer support and technology, Slootman said. ’We’ve changed the leadership, and reorganized,’ he said. ’But our ace-in-the-hole is integration with Data Domain. We own it. We’re investing in it.’

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EMC has had plenty of time to invest in NetWorker. It got the NetWorker technology with its acquisition in 2003 of Legato Systems. Since that time, though, EMC has been uncharacteristically quiet about NetWorker, especially compared to the buzz it generates with its other product lines.

However, EMC’s acquisition last year of Data Domain, and the subsequent reorganization of its old Backup, Recovery, and Archiving (BURA) division into its BRS division, is providing the vehicle for the vendor to re-examine NetWorker.

BRS, with an annual revenue in excess of $1 billion, includes Data Domain and Avamar data deduplication technologies, NetWorker data protection software, and the Disk Library series of virtual tape libraries.

NetWorker is getting integrated with some of EMC’s other technologies. For instance, EMC this week unveiled Data Domain Boost, a technology which, when used with Legato, shifts much of the processing from the dedupe appliance to the customer’s backup server, therefore increasing the dedupe performance by 50 percent and dramatically increasing throughput, Slootman said.

He said that Data Domain Boost was designed in response to Symantec's Open Storage Technology (OST), which, when used in conjunction with its data protection software, allows storage devices to automate the backup of data between multiple appliances.

About 22 percent of Data Domain backups are currently being done using OST, Slootman said. Data Domain Boost was developed from work Data Domain did with Symantec and OST before it was acquired by EMC, he said.

Next: Reinvigorating NetWorker, One Tech At A Time

NetWorker has been integrated with EMC's Avamar dedupe technology, which differs from that of Data Domain, for some time.

Avamar uses source-based dedupe technology, which dedupes data at the file server before the backup, while Data Domain's target-based technology dedupes after the backup.

’This whole debate, target vs. source?’ he said. ’It’s over. It’s absolutely over.’

The enhancements to NetWorker follow the release in November of version 7.6 which included integration with VMware virtualized environments and the ability to back data up to the EMC Atmos storage cloud.

EMC’s reinvigoration of the NetWorker business to make it more competitive with rivals such as Symantec’s Backup Exec gives it a chance to expand business on top of a stable installed base that never really went away, Slootman said.

NetWorker is still one of the great software franchises, and is quite profitable, he said. ’Backup software is extremely sticky,’ he said. ’It’s hard to rip out or replace.’

NetWorker does not carry as much cachet with the channel as its rivals from such companies as Symantec and CommVault.

Next: Finding NetWorker’s Channel Cachet

One solution provider, when asked about NetWorker’s business, responded, ’Oh, you mean the 10 users still using NetWorker?’

NetWorker is the ultimate test of how EMC’s reorganization of BURA into BRS will work, said Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner.

’If Slootman can make NetWorker work, it’s amazing,’ Norbie said. ’That’s a plane I thought would never fly.’

Jamie Shepard, executive vice president of technology solutions at International Computerware, a Marlborough, Mass.-based solution provider, said his company has been doing a lot of sales and services with NetWorker, and that additions like Data Domain Boost and integration with the EMC Atmos cloud are great managed services opportunities.

However, Shepard said, it is wrong to think of NetWorker as a backup software.

’At the end of the day, who really cares about which software to use,’ he said. ’Instead, customers are investing in how fast and reliable their backups are. EMC can take a run at Symantec with NetWorker. Not as a stand-alone software, but integrated with Data Domain.’

EMC’s reorganizing BURA to become BRS was a smart move, if for no other reason than to get rid of that ’horrible acronym,’ Norbie said, referring to BURA.

’BURA was loved by EMC,’ he said. ’But BRS sounds much more athletic.’