The year in data backup and recovery technology and a look 2011

Learn what Mr. Backup's hottest backup and recovery technology picks were for 2010, and read about what he thinks the backup world will look like in 2011.

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A lot has happened in 2010 in the backup and recovery space. We finally have the beginnings of a decent backup and recovery solution for VMware. Deduplication -- both source and target -- has really taken off and is showing up everywhere. (By the way, tape hasn't gone anywhere.) Continuous data protection (CDP), and its cousin near-CDP, have started to be deployed in real customer environments. Finally, the virtualization pendulum has swung all the way from disk pretending to be tape to tape pretending to be disk.

VMware backup: Still room for improvement

First, let's talk about VMware. VMware came out with vSphere, a completely redesigned product that included an API for data protection. Unlike its predecessor, VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB), the vSphere vStorage APIs for Data Protection don't require two-step backups and restores, and offer block-level incremental backups of VMware images. While

this is a significant enhancement over VCB, it shipped with a significant limitation of not being able to provide application- consistent backups on Windows 2008 servers. VMware addressed this limitation by the end of 2010, but the VSS backup type being used (VSS_BT_COPY) still doesn't tell the applications that they have been properly backed up, which doesn't allow them to do things like truncate their transaction logs. Hopefully this limitation will be addressed soon.

Although VMware has addressed many of the limitations of backing up virtual machines, there's still significant room for improvement and enhancements, creating a market opportunity for third-party VMware backup products. Quest Software's vRanger was once the only game in town in that market, but they found themselves in the follower position in late 2010 when Veeam released Backup and Replication 5.0 that offered instant recovery of virtual machines and automated testing of backups. PHD Virtual Backup has also added a number of new features, including source-based deduplication and one-pass tape restores for long-term storage of VMware backups. Given the popularity of VMware and the difficulty many people have with their backups, the VMware backup space will be one to watch in 2011.

The year of data dedupe technology

2010 was also the year of data dedupe technology. Every dedupe vendor sold more systems than ever before, and every one of them used some of that money to further enhance the speed and capacity of their systems. The big winner here was EMC Corp., which created a new division dedicated entirely to backup when they acquired Data Domain in 2009. EMC really found its footing in 2010 and started selling dedupe to everyone under the sun. While it is true that many other companies also grew quarter over quarter, none of their numbers come even close to those of EMC. Neither Data Domain nor Avamar is perfect, but they're strong products with an even stronger sales force behind them.

Dedupe also showed up in new places in 2010. EMC NetWorker, CommVault Simpana, IBM Corp. Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), and Symantec Corp. Backup Exec, all now offer integrated deduplication. EMC and Symantec accomplished it by integrating their other dedupe products, and CommVault and IBM did it by designing things from scratch. While these products may not offer the speed or scalability of the larger target dedupe systems, they offer dedupe to many who could not afford those systems in the first place.

Tape still isn't dead yet

While the backup to tape market isn't what it used to be, manufacturers of tape libraries refuse throw in the towel. They continue to make large tape libraries and sell them to many companies, if for no other reason than it is still significantly cheaper to acquire a tape library that it is to acquire a deduplication system. Dedupe may win the cost argument in the long run, but not everyone is willing to make that upfront investment.

Finally, the virtualization pendulum did indeed swing all the way the other way with the advent of the Linear File System (LTFS) in 2010 (on LTO-5 tape). Each tape offers a self-describing file system that could ultimately replace the hundreds of backup and archive tape formats on the market today. An LTFS tape mounts just like any other file system; it's tape pretending to be disk.

CDP and near CDP products picking up steam

Several CDP and near-CDP products began showing up in 2010 as well. Actifio Inc., Cofio Software Inc. and InMage all offer various types of CDP. As far as near-CDP (i.e., snapshots and replication), storage vendors like Cirtas Systems and Nimble Storage copied the NetApp model of using redirect-on-write snapshots (instead of copy-on-write like most vendors), which allows you to store hundreds of snapshots on a single storage system with no performance impact. Nimble can replicate those snapshots to another Nimble system, and Cirtas can replicate them to the public cloud. As mentioned earlier, Veeam is also offering near-CDP backup that can be instantly mounted by an ESX server if the primary system is down or corrupted.

2011 backup and recovery predictions

I believe 2011 will see VMware removing the last backup limitation discussed earlier. Dedupe will continue to get bigger and better, and many more people will replace their aging tape systems with dedupe systems. However, many people will also replace their aging type systems with -- wait for it -- new tape systems. They should, and probably will, stage their backups to disk first, but many people will still ultimately store most of their backups on tape. Since CDP is still not all things to all people, it will continue to grow, but not at the rate dedupe is growing. I will continue to dream of the day when we stop doing backups the way we've always done them and move to a new generation of backup and recovery. It will happen one day, but that day won't be in 2011 for most people.

About this author: W. Curtis Preston (a.k.a. "Mr. Backup"), executive editor and independent backup expert, has been singularly focused on backup and recovery for more than 15 years. From starting as a backup admin at a $35 billion dollar credit card company to being one of the most sought-after consultants, writers and speakers in this space, it's hard to find someone more focused on recovering lost data. He is the webmaster of BackupCentral.com, the author of hundreds of articles, and the books "Backup and Recovery" and "Using SANs and NAS."

This was first published in December 2010

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