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Backup Bundles of Joy?

Are you any closer to backup nirvana?

Have faster servers and faster tape drives failed to bring you any closer to backup nirvana? Several storage startups have retooled existing products into all-in-one backup packages that may bring you the backup bliss you've been looking for.

The protagonists in this story are all more or less startups. They include Stonefly, which has teamed up with CommVault to bring you the StoneFly Backup Advantage; Maxxan and FalconStor, with Maxxan's SVT100 and SVT200 Virtual Tape Library bundle; SANRAD, with a volume snapshot and replication feature for its V-Switch; and StoreAge, which has bundled Computer Associates' BrightStor Backup on its StoreAge Storage Virtualization Manager.

These vendors may currently position themselves as providers of integrated backup solutions, but their heritage lies in developing pure-play virtualization software. And while individual approaches may differ, the underlying approach is the same, says Arun Taneja, analyst and founder of Taneja Group in Hopkinton, MA. "Fundamentally, they are converting hardware and system-level software and taking it up a step, and solving a problem."

That's very wise, Taneja adds, because users thus far have shown little interest in buying this technology. "They are telling them, 'This box looks cool, but I don't buy boxes. I buy solutions.'" (See "Extreme Backup")

On a technical level, these bundles improve on traditional backup by way of IP storage capabilities, which let you perform "LAN-free" backups. Under this scenario, backup traffic from several servers travels over its own dedicated network rather than the end-user LAN.

But in and of itself, don't be fooled into thinking that a disk target will necessarily speed up your backup, warns Steve Whitner, marketing director at tape library vendor ADIC. Disk backup, however, should dramatically improve restore times.

That said, where will these bundles play? Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner, Data Mobility Group, Nashua, NH, sees StoneFly's Backup Advantage as a great fit for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

"If you think about the SMB market, they've really struggled to find a backup solution that works," says McAdam. "They go out and buy some software, buy some disk and it never really works." As such, a certified, best-of-breed backup bundle could be very appealing to this segment of the market, she predicts.

Furthermore, with a street price of around $30,000, which includes 1TB of disk capacity, the StoneFly bundle is relatively affordable. "A department could probably sign off on this on their own," says McAdam, without having to go through the procurement process.

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