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For users, CDP stalls on the horizon

Vendors are pushing the fad of continuous replication. But what does the term "CDP" really mean? And are users catching on?

Three different products have been released in the past week, in three different formats, and for three different market segments, all of which call themselves continuous data protection (CDP). And the confusion doesn't end there.

Kashya Inc. has added CDP to its local replication appliances targeting the high end, a repackaging of CDP startup XOSoft's WANSync and WANSyncHA software by StoneFly Software Inc. is aimed at the midrange, and the first shipment of a replication box that includes CDP by startup Lasso Logic Inc. is meant for the low end.

But despite the buzz over CDP among vendors, it's not clear users are interested yet. According to a survey by TheInfoPro of Fortune 100 users, more than half (52%) responded that CDP technology was "not in plan" for at least the next two years. Only 6% responded that CDP was in plan for 2005, with 18% saying CDP was in their long-term plan, through the end of 2006.

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Further clouding the issue is a rift between startups such as Storactive Inc., Mendocino Software, XOSoft, TimeSpring Inc. and Revivio Inc. and larger vendors such as Veritas, Microsoft and EMC Copr, as to what CDP actually means and where its future lies.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has yet to approve an official definition for CDP, but its working version emphasizes arbitrary and infinitely variable recovery points for data. By this definition, the EMC and Veritas products, which amount essentially to frequent snapshots, aren't really CDP.

"We're in the camp of, 'continuous is a pretty straightforward word'," said Mike Rowan, chief technology officer and founder of Revivio. "There's a lot of people who put a lot of work into creating a market awareness around this, and then you have a set of people that want to jump on the bandwagon but deliver a product that doesn't actually do what CDP is meant to do."

But according to Dennis Hoffman, vice president of software product marketing for EMC, the cold hard fact of the matter is that CDP will be whatever the larger vendors say it is, since customers are more reluctant to buy from a startup. "Until you find some of the bigger people entering the water with products, you won't find a lot of people who have CDP in their plans," Hoffman said.

"It's a foolish religious war for vendors to get into whether snapshots taken milliseconds apart are in fact different than continuous," he added. "What is the material difference between truly continuous up-to-the-second replications and event-triggered frequent snapshots?"

TheInfoPro's statistics, at least, back up Hoffman's assertion. Bigger players like Oracle, EMC, Veritas and Network Appliance Inc. own the biggest share of users' "in-use" storage -- a combined 20%. Revivio is the only startup that makes an appearance in user answers, little more than a blip at 0.7%. Furthermore, for users with CDP in either a near-range or long-range plan, EMC was the lead in-plan vendor.

Not surprisingly, most in the startup camp remain skeptical about Hoffman's prediction -- "They're just trying to buy time by confusing customers while they come up with their own true CDP solution," Rowan said -- but at least one start-up concedes the point.

"People just don't want to buy technology for a mission critical environment from a startup," said Eric Burgener, Mendocino vice president of marketing. "We don't think CDP is really going to become big until you can start buying these CDP solutions from what I call the trusted suppliers. Our distribution strategy as a company is to distribute our products through OEMs."

"From our perspective, we see this as a long-term [process], kind of the next generation of data protection," said Mich Fisher, co-chair of the SNIA CDP special interest group, as well as an engineer with Revivio. "From an educational standpoint, we've moved from the 'what' to 'how'."

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