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Analyzing recent developments in the backup software market

Switching backup software products can be a hassle, so it helps to know your options. This article looks at changes in the backup software market.

Cloud backup and disaster recovery continue to gain steam, with many solutions dodging early concerns about restore times by taking a hybrid on-premises/cloud backup approach, and others allowing users to fail over to backup instances of virtual machines in the cloud. Backup app vendors made a variety of cloud moves over the past year, such as supporting backup for cloud applications, additional virtual machine backup support and expanded endpoint device coverage. Array-based snapshot backup was also on the rise, as a number of vendors in the backup software market integrated array-based snapshots with their products. And some vendors looked for ways to streamline processes, merging backup with other enterprise applications, such as file sharing and archiving.

Cloud backup and DR keep moving forward

In late 2012, Asigra launched Cloud Backup 12 with support for backing up data, including accounts, contacts, leads, campaigns and custom objects. It also enhanced its support for virtual machine (VM) backup. Asigra users can back up VMs off-site for disaster recovery (DR) and run their applications off backups without first performing a restore. As noted above, this is one approach vendors in the backup software market are taking to address the slow recovery times associated with restoring data over an Internet connection.

The other main approach is to create an on-premises copy of data for fast restores with a DR copy in the cloud. One software-based example of this approach came from Zetta, which announced its DataProtect plug-in for local storage in 2012. DataProtect is an agent that can be installed on client systems to synchronize local data and cloud backup data. Cobalt Iron also came out of stealth, offering a variety of cloud backup options using software based on IBM technology to offer on-premises, public- and private-cloud backup.

Zerto took a different cloud DR approach entirely, performing replication at the hypervisor level. Virtual Replication 2.0 uses a software module that can replicate data continuously from a VMware vSphere to a VMware vCloud environment and vice versa. It can also be used for off-site cloning and backup with no impact on the production environment.

According to Rachel Dines, analyst at Forrester Research, cloud backup adoption was on the rise in 2012 and she expects to see more of the same in 2013. "There is a lot of trust in cloud backup, but more so with the disk-to-disk-to-cloud approach -- using the cloud as a backup target but keeping a local copy of recent backups as well. Our latest research shows that 24% of organizations have adopted some kind of disk-to-disk-to-cloud. Most of them are using backup software that they maintain themselves on premises, but also a fair number are using backup as a service."

Backup software market vendors push snapshots

In January 2012, CommVault announced its IntelliSnap Connect Program, an open development program that relies on a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow vendors to integrate CommVault's SnapProtect module with storage arrays. Array-based snapshots are typically included with an array, and historically have required management software sold by the storage hardware vendor. A variety of array vendors jumped on board with the CommVault program, such as Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, NetApp and Nimble. Then, in October 2012, the company went a step further, launching IntelliSnap Recovery Manager, a standalone product based on the IntelliSnap technology that can work in conjunction with any backup software.

Symantec also announced array-based snapshot integration in 2012 with NetBackup 7.5. The software's Replication Director feature currently supports only NetApp snapshots. However, it uses the Symantec OpenStorage, or OST, API to talk to the array, so it is likely we will see compatibility with additional hardware suppliers down the road. Asigra's Cloud Backup 12 includes support for NetApp array-based snapshots as well.

"There are a couple of big benefits to using [array-based] snapshots in your backup scheme," Dines said. "One is that certain systems will really never back up well. For example, really large-scale NAS [network-attached storage] filers and certain types of databases or anything transactional can be hard to get a good, quick traditional backup. Leveraging the snapshot ability of the array gives you the quick backup, and you get a quick restore time as well because you can mount the snapshot rather than restoring a massive amount of data."

Of course, using snapshots this way isn't a new concept. Companies have been using snapshots this way for a long time. However, according to Dines, it's a big benefit to be able to manage snapshots using backup software rather than a separate management tool. "Because you had to manage from a separate console, the snaps weren't catalogued or integrated with the backup. This is about ease of management, 'single pane of glass,' finding what you need and getting it back quickly."

Backup plus …

Druva announced that it added a file collaboration option to its inSync endpoint backup app. The software's Share feature allows users to share files locally or in the cloud, and choose from three sharing models. The peer-to-peer model lets users classify peers as authors, collaborators or viewers -- each with different permissions. The group share model allows users to collaborate and view files in the cloud. The external share model lets people share links outside of the organization, allowing access to files for a limited time. Druva isn't new to merging backup with other IT functions. In 2011, it released the optional SafePoint module providing laptop security features including encryption, device tracking and remote wipe.

CommVault also made efforts to merge backup with a number of IT processes. The latest version of Simpana can combine backup, archiving and reporting into a single operation. Data is sent to a deduped backup and archive repository that can span across disk, tape or cloud. Rather than creating a separate archive, the software allows users to keep a single copy of data stored on inexpensive secondary storage that can be used for different purposes.

"Backup and archive have been converging slowly for a long time. There is some demand there, but it's been a slow path because a lot of IT pros don't really see the need for archiving," Dines said. "On the endpoint side, though, backup and file sync and collaboration have been converging very rapidly. End users are looking for that type of functionality. I think those markets will be converging very quickly over the next year."

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