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Storage purchasing survey says data deduplication adoption increasing, tape backup waning

According to the latest results of Storage magazine's Storage Purchasing intentions survey, storage managers are spending more on data deduplication, tape backup is decreasing, and some managers are turning to cloud backup.

In Storage magazine's most recent Storage Purchasing Intentions survey, conducted in early September, the storage budget picture is a little brighter. Compared with 2008, storage budgets are a mere 0.4% lower -- not back into positive numbers, but more encouraging than six months ago. Overall, 30% of those surveyed reported decreased budgets, 28% said their budgets would remain flat and almost 33% said their budgets increased.

Space-saving storage technologies, most notably data deduplication and compression, are still key parts of storage managers' efficiency arsenals for coping with increasing capacities and declining budgets. Here's a look at how storage managers are planning on spending their budgets for data backup and recovery.

Tape library usage declining

Each year we see that tape backup figures less and less prominently in most companies' storage operations, but that trend also illustrates the efforts of storage managers to squeeze their data down to more manageable sizes. Last spring, we saw the

About the survey
The Storage magazine / Purchasing Intentions survey is fielded twice a year; this is the seventh year the survey has been conducted. Storage magazine subscribers are invited to participate in the survey, which gathers information related to storage managers' purchasing plans for a variety of storage product categories. This edition had 826 qualified respondents across a broad spectrum of industries, with the average company size measured as having revenue of $1.5 billion.
lowest number ever (19%) for respondents who said they planned to increase their use of tape and, conversely, the highest percentage yet (29%) for those who plan to decrease their reliance on tape. Those numbers moderated a bit in the current survey, but the trend is clear, although 80% say all or some of their backup data will eventually find its way to tape (down from 86% two years ago).

Even among those respondents who have already bought or plan to buy a tape library in 2009, most are opting for smaller libraries. The average number of slots in the tape libraries they plan to purchase was 109, which is slightly higher than the 101 reported last spring, but still the second lowest number we've seen. But declining slot numbers have a positive side as they point to greater tape library efficiencies, most notably from the use of newer drives. Forty-nine percent of respondents indicated their new libraries would have LTO-4 drives that deliver higher capacity and speed, as well as encryption. Interest in encryption is also starting to translate into actions, with 51% of those surveyed saying they're encrypting at least some backup data, a seven point gain over last fall. And, once again, encryption ranked second among the newer technologies that respondents plan to implement or evaluate this year.

Disk backup spending is bouncing back

Of course, disk is de rigueur for backup operations these days, and storage managers will continue to invest in disk-to-disk (D2D) technologies that can improve efficiency. Overall D2D spending appears to be bouncing back from last spring; only 10% said they'll decrease D2D spending (vs. 13% last spring), while 44% plan to increase spending (vs. 34% in the spring). These are positive signs not only for backup vendors, but for beleaguered backup administrators.

Most shops (43%) have integrated disk into their backup systems as a file system-based target or cache; virtual tape libraries (VTLs) are the second most popular approach (26%). In our most recent survey, 35% of respondents said they'll add file system targets to their backup environments, while 24% will opt for VTLs. That figure represents a modest resurgence for that technology.

But the big story is still data deduplication. Twenty-one percent of respondents are using dedupe (the highest number we've recorded), and 26% have added it or plan to this year. That is new high for our survey. As far as budgetary considerations go, dedupe is a priority, with 38% planning to increase their dedupe spending (up 8 points from last spring) and only 6% anticipating reduced spending.

Continuous data protection (CDP), another space and time saver, is used by 12% of respondents, just one point shy of the highest mark recorded for CDP last spring. Sixteen percent plan to implement CDP this year, also just 1 point lower from the previous high.

The volume around cloud backup has been turned up considerably in the past year. While it's still more hype than happening among our respondents, the economy has tweaked interest and purchases. Last spring, we saw a big jump in those looking to trim backup costs by using outsourced or online services for backup when 21% reported using some kind of backup service. In the most recent survey, those numbers have trailed off a bit, with 19% using cloud backup. But use of some specialized backup services -- for desktop/laptop files and databases -- has actually increased slightly.

Belts still tightened

For most data storage managers, battling a storage budget that never seems to stretch far enough isn't new, but that annual grind may have helped them weather the most recent economic storms. Storage vendors have also made their contributions with efficiency-oriented products and technologies that seemed to come onto the scene at just the right time. One thing seems certain: Confronted by capacity demands and the need to protect more and more data -- with fewer funds to do it all -- storage managers have proven their resourcefulness once again.

This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.

About this author: Rich Castagna ( is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

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