Industry data from leading analysts clearly indicates that in the past few years the backup and recovery appliance market has grown at a healthy pace. Often seen as a complement or replacement to traditional software deployments, appliances are undergoing a generational change. There is a lot more than meets the eye, and it is important to understand the definition of backup appliances. The traditional classification of data protection appliances – also known as Purpose Built Backup Appliances (PBBAs) – covers two primary categories:

  • Backup Appliances
  • Deduplication Appliances, or backup stream storage optimization through deduplication

Let’s explore this classification and market dynamics.

Traditional Backup Appliances must evolve

End-users have recognized the many benefits of having a “one stop” solution that bundles software, server processing, storage and networking. Many benefits can be reaped from this approach such as simplified deployment and operations and simpler, and ideally cost-optimized licensing.

The reality of the market today, however, is that these backup and recovery appliances have essentially been nothing more than retrofitted “bundles,” put together in a box with all the components, fine-tuned a couple of performance parameters, and more or less successfully productized to fit specific environments. Even certain vendors that sell appliances inherently went through the same process as software and appliance vendors by slapping software on a server with storage and connectivity. This actually worked beautifully – the market numbers don’t lie.

However, this approach has come at a cost:  scalability in some cases, with performance, usability and functional capability in others. While your “cost mileage” may vary depending on individual circumstances, it’s easy to see how these shortcomings translate into direct and indirect operational efficiency costs.  And some vendors have hit the wall hard by making execution mistakes in technology, positioning and product lineup.  At Arcserve, we believe that we are seeing the end of Phase 1 in the backup appliance market today, one in which the recipes of the past will not suffice to provide end-users with the operational efficiency they require to surmount their current data protection challenges.  A new breed of technology, not just bundles, is needed to meet these requirements.

Deduplication appliances: a pretty old band aid

A few years ago many organizations, originally in the enterprise space, realized that they just could not make their backup windows with traditional backup architectures. They also struggled with the essential cost of storing a seemingly uncontrollable amount of backup data.  Storage costs exploded as back-up schemas imploded. Enter deduplication appliances:  let’s take your backup data and optimize it through dedupe processes and put it on disk. Let’s “compress” your backup volumes and save you money. It worked well and some vendors became very successful, gaining many customers and in some cases, getting acquired.

The deduplication technology in question does not require the user to drastically change their backup software configurations or policies, rather only to change the destination of the backup streams. Dedupe software/appliances will even emulate your favorite tape formats so that you don’t disrupt your backup policies. It’s a band aid:  minimal disruption to your backup schemas and optimized storage costs.  Depending on the technology, deduplication happens on the fly, or as a post process (write it all on disk, then optimize after the fact to make backups go faster). One dirty little secret of backup appliances that do post-processing is that they tend to be “fuzzy” in terms of the actual usable capacity – what is left after reserving space for the post processing phase.

Whether the processing happens in memory on the fly or post backup, this is a technology of the past. Why not de-duplicate data at the source in the first place, so long as you can do it in a way that does not impact the client, and save yourself all of that bandwidth you use to send backup streams to the target?

Why not share all of this de-duplicated intelligence across all of your clients? That is global source-side duplication, and it is where the industry needs to go. This is what many end-users have recognized as the critical technology moving forward. Yet most de-duplication appliances don’t do it.  They do it the old way.

Are you ready for a change? Do you want to know what is coming next to address these issues? Please attend a very special Arcserve data protection appliance webcast on February 3 to discover how to overcome these limitations.