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CDP: Future directions

Downtime to recover terabytes of data can cost a company dearly in terms of income (and customer satisfaction). Continuous data protection (CDP) is emerging as an attractive supplement to traditional backup schemes when downtime isn't an option. It's clear that CDP isn't a perfect or universal backup solution. Some implementations involve agents, or can impact network performance. CDP users must also watch for potential configuration and interoperability issues. But CDP solutions are appearing and proving themselves in very demanding enterprise applications.

There is little doubt that continuous data protection >continuous data protection (CDP) technology has an important future in enterprise IT deployments. Analysts and vendors alike feel that CDP will eventually become as ubiquitous as RAID and will change the fundamental way that global enterprises protect their data. The transformation is already taking place: sSme analysts see the shift to CDP occurring in as little as three years, others place the broad adoption of CDP closer to ten years, but all agree that the reign of CDP is really just a matter of time.

"CDP's biggest challenge is that it's completely different than anything that we've ever done before," says W. Curtis Preston, vice president of data protection at GlassHouse Technologies Inc. "I believe that CDP (and CDP-style products) are absolutely the way that backups will be done in five to ten years."

The move toward broad industry acceptance, however, will challenge both the products and the players.

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In the near term, Preston says that CDP products still need some features and polish. "We need to bring to the CDP market the enterprise management and deployment and reporting and monitoring features that we're just now getting in the traditional backup world." He expects CDP products to add integration to the front end, making it easier to browse and manage the vast library of possible restore points that CDP products currently provide (using tactics similar to Mendocino Software's annotated timeline). Preston also warns that some applications may face inadequate support from their own vendors unfamiliar with CDP. "I want people to talk to their database [or other application] vendor and ask what the vendor thinks about CDP," he says. "You should be aware that their position is so that, if and when you have a support issue, you're not caught off guard by calling them and finding that they disavow all knowledge of you." Application vendors must become familiar with the CDP paradigm and provide support after their customers implement CDP solutions.

As CDP technology evolves further, Jerome M. Wendt, an independent storage analyst, sees products moving from software (host-based) to hardware (network-based) implementations. "Currently these [CDP] technologies exist at the host and network levels. I see the host-based approach as currently being the most stable (and the one users should give preference to). However, the network is the logical place for this technology to eventually show up, especially for large networked storage environments." Wendt notes that Revivio Inc. and Topio Inc. are already offering network-based products.

Players positioning for growth

But ultimately, the future of CDP will be determined by the players left standing. Brian Babineau, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, points out that the CDP market is being driven by small and aggressive players today, but many of these fresh startup efforts stand in the shadow of giants like Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Symantec Corp. and others. Small companies can make a living in today's CDP niche, but often lack resources needed to support the huge enterprise deployments and support demands that are essential for CDP's long-term success.

Most vendors agree with Babineau's assessment, noting that large companies seek to buy from other large companies. For now, CDP products are available primarily from small startup companies. The problem is that Fortune 1000 enterprises are extremely reticent to trust their mission-critical data protection to startup efforts. Before CDP can enter mainstream acceptance, Fortune 1000 players must be able to obtain CDP products and support from an established stable of "trusted suppliers." Consequently, today's small companies will inevitably grow, sell out and OEM their technology to large players -- or go under.

Preston says that he fully supports growth through strategic alliances and acquisitions. "I'm a fan of the technology, I'm a fan of the companies that are forging this path, and I hope that one or more of them get acquired or OEMed by these [larger] companies." Preston points to Mendocino as one example of a startup currently pursuing growth through OEM deals with industry leaders. "If that [OEM relationship] is successful and they [Mendocino] get some 'three letter acronym' company to OEM their products, I think that's great." He suggests that other alliances can easily help large companies like Veritas to catapult the development of their "Panther" project, bringing CDP to NetBackup. "I hope they go and buy someone like Revivio or Mendocino." **

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  • CDP: An overview
  • CDP: Strengths and weaknesses
  • CDP: The vendors
  • CDP: User perspectives
  • CDP: Future directions
  • Dig Deeper on Disk-based backup

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