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Veritas unveils Panther

Late to the party, Veritas has announced a continuous data protection product, codenamed Panther.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Taking Microsoft Corp.'s lead, Veritas Software Inc. has unveiled a continuous data protection (CDP) product, codenamed Panther, that will probably not be available until next year.

Veritas, a company one could argue is responding to the half-dozen startups offering CDP, and more recently Microsoft, sketched out its plans for Panther at its user show this week.

"It provides continuous instead of full and incremental backups, and end-user recovery of data via a Google-like interface," said Jeremy Burton, executive vice president of the data management group at Veritas.

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The company gave a high-level demonstration of the technology on stage showing the end-user recovery capability. Normally users would have to browse through a file server's complex directory structure or an administrator might have to search through tapes to recover lost files. Through the Panther Retrieve page, which looks just like Google, end users can search for files and recover them themselves.

"It puts an end to the restore concept and makes it more like downloading files," Burton said.

CDP combines backup, replication and snapshot capabilities in one. Typically, it creates one backup followed by replication of any changes that are made to the data. Since the updates are ongoing, CDP allows for faster data restore in the event of an outage, and it also makes it possible to go back to a specific point in the life of the data. That's the theory anyway.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst with the Taneja Group, said that there are a couple of things to be wary of where CDP is concerned. "Crash-consistent data is important," he said. This is when data is retained in the same state across systems. "What if you do a continuous backup halfway through a transaction? That's not useful."

He added that data can become "very large, very quickly" if it is being continually backed up and suggested that CDP should be used in conjunction with capacity optimization technology.

Users at the show weren't particularly enthralled by CDP. Stephen Frewin, network manager for distributed systems support at Banknorth Group Inc., was concerned about handing over this capability to his users. "I'd be worried they would override their own files after they have recovered them," he said.

Another user from a major Wall Street bank, who requested anonymity, said he thought it sounded interesting but was not a priority. Others didn't really get it at all. "What if my users take up too much space?" said a storage administrator for a large university in the U.S. He appeared to have other problems on his mind.

Whatever the case, CDP is a lot of buzz today, and very few users are clamoring for it. Startups selling CDP products include: Mendocino Software Inc., Revivio Inc., TimeSpring Software Inc., Vyant Inc., and XOsoft.

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