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Actifio upgrades data protection appliances for enterprise, clouds

Actifio improves data dedupe and multi-tenancy for its Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) data protection appliance.

Actifio this week upgraded its Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) data protection appliances, adding features that the company said will make their products a better fit for enterprises, as well as public and private clouds.

Actifio virtualizes copies of data, using the same copy for backup and disaster recovery instead of requiring separate applications and devices for different data sets. PAS 5 includes improved deduplication and multi-tenancy, a new way to handle test/dev data, and an Enterprise Manager which features expanded reporting functionality.

PAS 5.0’s DeDupe Async technology dedupes data that is asynchronously replicated to reduce network bandwidth utilization. Actifio claims this feature eliminates the need for a dedicated network to replicate production data, facilitating DR and cloud backup. Improved dedupe also increases the capacity supported by Actifio’s data protection appliances.

Actifio made its multi-tenancy more granular, enabling customers to separate data by sub-groups so they can set datastores for departments or user groups inside of larger organizations.

When creating test/dev data, PAS keeps modified blocks separate from backup copies. Backup copies are available to developers in read-only versions but changes are not kept on the main copy.

Actifio CEO Ash Ashutosh said the vendor’s goal is to virtualize and manage copies of data to facilitate data protection.

“There are two types of data -- production data and copy data,” Ashutosh said. “We’re trying to position Actifio simply as copy data management.”

PAS appliances come in two versions, one supports 64 TB of pre-deduped data and another supports 127 TB of data. Actifio licenses PAS according to the amount of application data managed, beginning at $70,000 for 10 TB of application data. Ashutosh said Actifio had about 70 customers for PAS. The new version will be available next week.

Garnter analyst Dave Russell said Actifio can drive down the amount of products required for traditional backup, DR and other data protection processes. “The idea of getting data once and repurposing it for multiple use cases sounds compelling,” he said. “The end game is very disruptive. Other vendors sell a variety of solutions. You have to buy backup software, a dedicated backup appliance and something else for DR. You have three or four different products. They do that through one code and set of policies.”

John Meyers, assistant director of medicine and director of technology for medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, said he installed three PAS appliances last September after a storage overhaul. Meyers said his department went from having data on “servers sitting under people’s lab benches, off-the-shelf NAS devices and portable hard drives” to an EMC Isilon NAS and Hewlett-Packard 3PAR SAN. After the overhaul, he sought the best way to protect his data.

“We’re a heterogeneous environment with stand-alone servers, blade servers, a SAN and a giant NAS,” he said. “If I didn’t go with Actifio, I would have had to buy replication targets for all of that, another 3PAR, another Isilon and at least three backup products. It would’ve cost about a million dollars in hardware.”

Meyers said he is looking forward to the improved dedupe and multi-tenancy in version 5, and will likely use the Dedupe Async Replication as his department expands its clinical data center.

He said the deduplication will help him better deal with hundreds of terabytes of data, while the multi-tenancy will come in handy as his department begins offering backup services to other groups inside the university.

“Having multi-tenancy is important in academia,” he said. “There are a lot of independent departments that will use this technology.”

One potential red flag is that Actifio’s PAS appliances must sit in the data path to protect certain applications. Meyers said he considered that a problem until he learned to trust the product. He said he uses raw device mapping (RDM) for his virtual machines, and routes them in-band through VMware vSphere while running VMDKs out-of-band.

“I swore originally I would never use Actifio in the data path,” he said. “But I found it gives me flexibility. We have physical machines on it but we route physical RDMs through VMware. After I got used to it, I started to trust it more. You can have hybrid configurations.”

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