EMC overhauls DPA backup monitoring software

EMC gives its Data Protection Advisor backup monitoring tool a new interface and analysis engine, and makes it easier to install.

EMC revamped its Data Protection Advisor backup reporting and analysis product today, making it easier to get started and improved its performance in detecting, monitoring and predicting changes in customers' data protection environments.

Data Protection Advisor (DPA) 6 is targeted at enterprises and cloud providers with heterogeneous storage and backup environments. It supports data protection applications and storage arrays from EMC and its major competitors.

EMC has sold DPA since 2005 through an OEM deal with startup WysDM, which EMC acquired in 2008. EMC has added support for replication, deduplication, virtual machines and storage platforms since acquiring WysDM, but DPA 6 includes a new interface and analysis engine, along with self-installation that enables customers to get it up and running quickly. The interface looks more like EMC's NetWorker backup software and its Unisphere management application for midrange storage arrays, said Rick Walsworth, director of product marketing for EMC's advanced storage division.

The new version has more dashboards that perform real-time backup monitoring and analysis, and allow administrators to manage their data recovery environment from one console.

Of all the new features, the most valuable could be the self-installation. Previous versions of DPA usually required a professional services team to install. That could be costly and it often took weeks to get a services team on-site, Walsworth said. DPA 6 loads as a virtual machine or on a server, and auto-discovers items such as backup and replication software, physical or virtual hosts, and storage area network devices involved with replication and backup. Wizards step administrators through the rest of the process.

"In most cases, customers can be operating in a couple of minutes," Walsworth said.

That's a big change from previous versions of DPA.

"Before version 6, you had a significant amount of complexity getting started with DPA," said Jason Buffington, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "It was a long professional services engagement, and you were burning money. There was also a lot of scripting with the old version."

Other backup monitoring processes have been made faster, too. Walsworth said the analysis engine in previous versions often required up to 15 minutes gathering information after changes were made to the backup process. He said the new engine immediately discovers and reports on the effects of any changes.

DPA 6 also changed to a distributed architecture that allows it to run on multiple nodes and send information back into a centralized view. That allows customers to scale the application. In previous versions, if the information outgrew the centralized data repository, customers had to add additional repositories that did not talk to each other.

DPA 6 is vMotion-aware and moves a protection policy of a virtual machine as it moves from one host to another. It also sends automatic notifications of unprotected virtual machines.

New features for service providers include Multi-tenancy, chargeback and showback reporting for backup and replicated data, and a REST API.

DPA's predictive analysis engine uses historical data to predict capacity growth. Walsworth said the predictive analysis in the previous version was, "Pretty rudimentary. You had to wait a couple of days to get enough historical data to do the math. The new version does projections much quicker and more accurately. You can use its optimization information to load balance, get better utilization and avoid future purchases."

Many backup software applications now include reporting and monitoring, but DPA's biggest competitor is independent vendor Bocada, which has heterogeneous support for backup apps and virtual and physical machines. Buffington said Bocada has data protection well-covered, but DPA paints a broader picture than Bocada because DPA goes beyond backup to other storage elements.

"If you're the storage manager looking at more than just backup or someone who sits in the CIO office, this gives you different sets of information," he said of DPA.

DPA 6 is generally available. EMC offers capacity and host-based licensing options. List price for client-based licensing starts at about $150 per host. Capacity licensing costs around $1,000 per terabyte, but varies according to which EMC backup application is used.

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