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Dell EMC PowerProtect aims to go beyond data protection

Dell EMC hopes PowerProtect will modernize its data protection for customers, but what will it mean for its legacy backup products, such as Data Domain, Avamar and NetWorker?

LAS VEGAS -- Dell EMC expanded its data protection platform, adding new backup software and an integrated appliance that scales out and goes beyond backup to broader data management.

The Dell EMC PowerProtect software and PowerProtect X400 appliance, launched today at Dell Technologies World, is designed to compete with scale-up data protection products that have sprung up from newer competitors in recent years. PowerProtect also poses a threat to Dell EMC's traditional backup products, such as the Data Domain disk library and Avamar and NetWorker software. Data Domain is the market leader in disk backup, although it has lost ground in recent years to integrated appliances.

Dell EMC PowerProtect software handles backup, replication, copy management, cloud tiering and self-service restores, with support for VMware and Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases. The PowerProtect X400 integrates PowerProtect software on a Dell EMC PowerEdge server, available in all-flash or hybrid configurations that mix flash and hard disk drives.

"It's for customers who would never consider Avamar or NetWorker and are looking for that next-generation software for data management," said Ruya Atac-Barrett, vice president of product marketing for data protection at Dell EMC. "We see more use cases going beyond data protection, going into data reuse for app test and dev purposes, for mining of data on your secondary copy, third copy."

Atac-Barrett said functions such as spinning up virtual machines, application test/dev, DR testing and data restores can be done from the interface of applications such as Oracle and SQL. That allows application owners to perform those tasks without having to rely on backup administrators.

With PowerProtect appliances, the software performs all the data deduplication. That's different than Data Domain, which reduces data on the appliance.

Dell EMC PowerProtect offers scale, flash

Dell EMC describes the X400 as a scale-out and scale-up appliance. It consists of a platform cube and up to four scale-out cubes with compute and storage capacity. The platform cube is a 4U PowerEdge server that places data across the capacity nodes. The scale-out capacity cubes are 1U PowerEdge servers that scale from 64 TB to 96 TB of usable capacity in a hybrid configuration and up to 112 TB in all-flash models.

Only one platform cube is required, regardless of the number of scale-out cubes. The scale-up comes from the ability to add capacity in 16 TB increments inside each scale-out cube. A system with four scale-out cubes includes 448 TB of flash storage and 384 usable terabytes in a hybrid setup. Roughly 5% of the capacity will be flash in the hybrid configurations.

Atac-Barrett claimed the X400 is the first all-flash data protection system, but admitted all-flash configurations are unlikely to be cost-effective for most backup workloads at the start.

"Will we sell tons of all-flash? It's highly unlikely," she said. "The costs still need to come down to be the most viable option."

How powerful will Dell EMC be in the market?

Dell EMC PowerProtect will compete with well-funded startups. Data protection and management vendor Veeam Software, scale-up converged secondary storage startups Rubrik and Cohesity, and copy data management pioneer Actifio pulled in more than $1 billion combined in funding in the past year.

Dell is saying, 'We need to evolve the data protection model to match these new opportunities in the industry.'
Steven HillSenior storage analyst, 451 Research

Dell EMC's longtime backup rivals Veritas and Commvault have reacted with new appliance architectures, and now Dell EMC has a new data management platform.

"Dell is saying, 'We need to evolve the data protection model to match these new opportunities in the industry," said Steven Hill, senior storage analyst for 451 Research. "All these new guys, they're saying, 'You don't need to put in a big Data Domain. You can put it on our appliance -- and, by the way, you continue to use this data in an intelligent way.' They realize it's not about data protection anymore; it's about data management."

Storage Switzerland analyst Krista Macomber said Dell EMC's move to emulate newer rivals shows how data protection is broadening.

"By and large, in the data protection market, we are seeing a focus on more comprehensive data management," she said. "When I say comprehensive, I really mean two things: supporting a number of use cases, like backup and restore, replication, and search and analytics, and protecting that data no matter where it lives. We're seeing vendors try to make smart use of cloud storage and compute."

How PowerProtect will fit in with current product line

Atac-Barrett said Dell will continue to invest in Avamar, NetWorker and Data Domain. PowerProtect will be part of the Dell EMC Data Protection Suite, along with Avamar and NetWorker, and it will write to Data Domain as a target. No third-party backup software can write to the PowerProtect X400.

"Some customers say, 'I love what I have. It works, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Atac-Barrett said of organizations using Dell EMC's legacy backup. "We're looking at how to get our existing customers there. We look at it as a period of coexistence."

Bob Bender, CTO of Founders Federal Credit Union, based in Lancaster, S.C., is one of those customers who doesn't want to fix what isn't broken. The bank uses Avamar and Data Domain to protect 5.2 PB on Dell EMC Unity storage arrays. Bender said he's happy he can finish nightly backups of more than 200 servers in four hours now and relies on Avamar's Cyber Recovery Vault for malware protection. He said he isn't likely to switch unless he sees a compelling reason.

"I couldn't maintain that window of protection before," he said. "Bringing in Avamar and Data Domain shrunk that window to three minutes from four to eight hours. Avamar is a component of our cyber recovery. With that Cyber Vault, it becomes a full mini-data center. I don't know if I'm ready to start playing Lego and putting more things together."

Atac-Barrett said backup for software-as-a-service applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce are on the Dell EMC PowerProtect roadmap, but not in the first version.

Dell also launched a smaller-capacity Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA), which integrates Avamar-based software on an appliance. The entry-level IDPA 4400 starts at 8 TB and scales to 24 TB. The previous version started at 24 TB and scaled to 96 TB. The IDPA 4400 is aimed at remote offices and small-business deployments.

The PowerProtect software and X400 appliance are due for general availability in July, with the new IDPA appliance expected in May.

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