Column

Data protection and data backup trends in 2009

W. Curtis Preston
Data, companies and data backup products were lost forever in 2009. This article takes a look back at the year that was 2009 -- from a data protection/data backup and recovery perspective.

The year of the cloud backup ... failure

I'll leave it to others to determine what is and isn't the

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cloud, but my rather loose definition allows me to say that 2009 started out with a bang. First, Journalspace.com lost every bit of 14,000 customers' blogs. Before we could even take a breath, Magnolia.com, a service for storing bookmarks, did the same thing for an undisclosed number of customers.

Then Carbonite did the unwise move of suing its storage supplier, Promise Technologies and Interactive Digital Systems. The funny thing was that until this lawsuit, no one knew that they had lost the data for 7,500 backup customers. But The Boston Globe noticed the lawsuit and published the story. Carbonite fought back, saying that very few customers actually experienced data loss because they were able to redo their backups before they lost a file, but the fact remains that a company that is supposed to back up data lost it.

Speaking of Carbonite, the company also got caught in 2009 faking customer reviews on Amazon.com. An independent and diligent investigation by an irate blogger showed more than idle tampering by a few employees. He showed through several sources that this was a concerted effort on the part of the director of marketing to increase their standing in Amazon's reviews.

More on backup and recovery from W. Curtis Preston
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Then, of course, there was the T-Mobile Sidekick that synchronized all of its contacts to a service supplied by Danger, a Microsoft company. Danger announced that its service and servers had gone belly-up and that they told 400,000-plus Sidekick users that they were not going to get their contacts back. Then, in an odd twist of the story, they actually did get many of the users' data back, but the restore story was much less interesting than the deleted data story. The result is that Microsoft/Danger will be remembered for losing 400,000-plus customers' data and no one really knows what really happened (good or bad) behind it all.

In a somewhat related matter, two online data backup services also ceased to exist in 2009. Both Hewlett-Packard Co. Upline and Yahoo! Briefcase took their ball and went home. They don't want to play in cloud backup anymore.

The birth of a few backup and recovery products

There is some good news among all this tragedy. 2008 saw the advent of Zmanda Inc., a company who is attempting to do for AMANDA what RedHat did for Linux. AMANDA is the Advanced Maryland Disk Archiver, an open-source backup product that enjoys a very large community. Zmanda continued to increase its footprint in 2009.

Not to be outdone is the Bacula community who announced in 2009 that there would be Bacula Systems. Bacula Systems is providing commercial support for Bacula, the open-source backup software that "roams the data center at night and sucks the vital essence from your computer."

Although backup and recovery is becoming increasingly complex in large enterprises, the backup needs of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can easily be met by open-source products. These companies offering commercial support for them should go a long to furthering their use.

2009 also saw the birth of IBM Corp. Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) 6.1, which was a major step in TSM's evolution. Historically TSM has been based on a "light" version of IBM's DB2 database that did not offer the full performance of its bigger sister. With TSM 6.1, IBM switched to a full implementation of DB2, significantly increasing the speed at which TSM can do database-intensive operations such as expiration and reclamation. Further performance enhancements that leverage DB2 are expected in future releases. In addition, TSM introduced data deduplication for its disk pools in 6.1 as well. Unfortunately, while it is included with the product, the deduplication ratios they advertise are not much more than compression.

Symantec Corp. Veritas NetBackup increased the functionality provided by OST, the Open Storage protocol designed to work with intelligent disk targets (IDTs). NetBackup 6.5.4 introduced the concept of copy hierarchies so that you could replicate from one IDT to another, and then copy the replicated backup directly to tape.

And then there was EMC

EMC Corp. had an "interesting" year. While the company had some highs, it also had some real lows that I'm sure it would rather forget. But unfortunately this writer does not.

EMC did make some of the biggest news of 2009 when it won a competitive big against NetApp to buy Data Domain for $2.6B. It's nice to see them acquire a leading company and then run with it. Hopefully EMC will do for Data Domain what it did for VMware, which was a tiny company in comparison to the behemoth that it is today.

EMC also saw great increase in adoption of its Avamar software in 2009, mainly in virtualized environments. Someone figured out that virtual machines (VMs) are basically remote offices -- a bunch of servers with really bad bandwidth. Since that's what Avamar was made for, it was a perfect fit that EMC capitalized on.

But let's not forget the products that EMC put out to pasture in 2009. The first one was EmailXtender, the email version of DiskXtender. For whatever reason, they decided to rewrite a product from scratch and release EMC SourceOne. That meant that a bunch of EmailXtender customers would have to convert to a new email archiving product. While some may think this is no big deal, remember this is an archiving product. It's meant for long-term retention. Changing archiving products is a big deal, and the fact that EMC is forcing their customers to do that is a big deal.

Second, 2009 saw both the rise and demise of the ill-fated EMC 3D 4000, which was a hybrid solution designed to bring deduplication to the EDL line of virtual tape libraries (VTLs). Remember that the EMC EDL 4000 is really a FalconStor-based product, which has the ability to create physical tapes on the back end of virtual tapes made on the front end. EMC leveraged this functionality by plugging a Quantum DXi-based VTL into the back of the EDL, and copying the EDL's tapes into the Quantum VTL to be deduplicated. No one but EMC seemed to like this solution, including customers who purchased the ill-fated product. Fast forward to the "new" EMC Data Protection division being run by Frank Slootman and you see him referring to this as a "bastardized" product that they will not be selling going forward.

And, of course, there's EMC's line of Quantum-based VTLs that have also gone by the wayside. While they are still listed on the EMC website, EMC's senior director of the storage division Rob Emsley said it best, "We will continue to offer the one, but we will sell the other." It's clear that EMC's plan going forward will be based on Data Domain's products.

Finally, EMC (VMware) also put to bed another ill-conceived product: VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB).VCB was VMware's attempt to add a backup infrastructure component on top of a product that didn't originally have one. Unfortunately, it created at least as many problems as it solved and never gained widespread adoption. With vSphere, however, VMware has completely rearchitected the product and put backup as one of the top priorities. Customers using the vSphere backup API will find significantly increased backup and recovery functionality and speed. Now, if we could just get the major backup products to port to it….

A lot happened in 2009 in the backup space, both good and bad. Here's to 2010.

About this author: W. Curtis Preston (a.k.a. "Mr. Backup"), Executive Editor and Independent Backup Expert, has been singularly focused on data 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."


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