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EMC backup changes planned around convergence, ViPR

EMC backup executives detail plans to merge Avamar and NetWorker backup applications and fit Data Domain into its software-defined storage platform.

While updating their backup products last week, EMC executives detailed plans to merge Avamar and NetWorker, to possibly offer Data Domain as a virtual appliance, and to integrate more tightly with EMC storage and its ViPR software-defined storage initiative.

The changes are part of a strategy to re-shape EMC's data protection technology. David Goulden, EMC president and chief operating officer, said the vendor has spent $5 billion over the last 10 years in backup acquisitions and research and development. Now it has four backup apps to go with its target deduplication Data Domain boxes.

Steven Manley, chief technology officer of EMC's backup and recovery group, admitted EMC has more backup applications than he would like. He said the vendor is working on integrating Avamar and NetWorker. "I would like to not have two separate backup [software] products. Ultimately, the goal is to get to one converged set of modules."

That is a multi-year plan, though. When EMC merged its Clariion SAN and Celerra network-attached storage (NAS) disk arrays into the VNX unified storage platform, the company moved slowly to avoid alienating Clariion and Celerra customers. You can expect a similar process with Avamar and NetWorker. The route to convergence will be to develop common features for both products. For instance, EMC has embedded Avamar's VMware backup capabilities into NetWorker with the new versions launched last week.

"We have maybe 60,000-plus customers for the backup applications and we don't want to switch one application off," said Guy Churchward, president of EMC's backup and recovery division. "Convergence is not saying 'Goodbye, NetWorker' or 'Goodbye, Avamar.' The engineering work we're doing on Avamar and NetWorker is modular coding that can be used by the other platform. So we have distinct roadmaps for Avamar and NetWorker and the convergence we're talking about."

Integrating Avamar and NetWorker would remove one knock on EMC backup -- that it requires too many tools. The fastest-growing backup software vendor, CommVault, has had success with its Simpana application, which offers all data protection -- including archiving -- in one product. EMC still requires Avamar for virtual machine, image-level and remote office backup, and NetWorker for more traditional backup. Data Protection Advisor is required for monitoring and Mozy is required for cloud backup. EMC also has several array-based replication tools.

Another data protection industry trend is to package the backup software with a disk appliance, removing the need for a separate media server and a backup target such as Data Domain. Although EMC remains the market leader in backup appliances by a long shot with Data Domain, Symantec has more than doubled revenue over the past year from its integrated enterprise appliances.

Churchward pointed out that Avamar is sold as an integrated appliance for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and remote offices, but he doesn't see the need for a similar enterprise product. "We'll always have an all-in-one appliance for SMBs and remote sites, but I can't image a high-scale all-in-one. It doesn't scale to that level.

"My philosophy is we're more of a software company than a hardware company. I want to write software that could live on its own. If we want to harden it and stick it on hardware, we can do that. So the value of Data Domain isn't a hardware platform with disks, because you can go to CDW and buy all the hardware pieces. It's really about the file system. If you put everything into a single system, you've simplified it, but you sacrifice scale."

That doesn't mean there won't be changes to the Data Domain platform. Churchward said his group is working closely with the EMC Advanced Software Division that oversees ViPR. One of the goals of ViPR is to offer advanced storage services on commodity hardware. It's a safe bet Data Domain's data deduplication will remain a part of EMC's data protection portfolio, but the hardware target may change.

"I look at ViPR as a hypervisor for storage tiers behind it," Churchward said. "You still need the data movement. You'll see the software assets working above ViPR and Data Domain as one of the tiers, but Data Domain isn't always going to be the answer. Data Domain's job is to be the best backup target. I think of it as a capacity optimization platform or the storage of last resort. Over the next couple of years, you'll see us come out with virtualized versions of all of our products."

Churchward envisions offering layers of backup targets -- a commodity on-site box, commodity off-site box, high-cost on-site box and high-cost off-site box. Each would have service-level agreements based on recovery point objectives and recovery time objectives.

Early stages of integration with RecoverPoint array-based replication and Isilon scale-out NAS platform were also included in last week's releases. Avamar now backs up Isilon and NetWorker supports RecoverPoint replication that is commonly used for disaster recovery of EMC arrays.

"I see a convergence of backup and disaster recovery for sure," Manley said. "RecoverPoint is a great data mover. Over time, I would like it to send data over to Data Domain or even Mozy."

Churchward said Isilon customers like to use the arrays as their backup target. "That's all fine, but you still need something that will manage the catalog, understand it, quiesce the applications and deliver back to the user exactly what they're looking for," he said. That's where Avamar comes in now, and more integration will follow. "That's one to watch. That will be tremendously disruptive."

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