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CEO: Datto backup roadmap emphasizes cloud

Datto clarifies cloud backup storage strategy with Backupify integration and Microsoft 365 support, Linux Agent, Datto Networking Appliance.

Data protection specialist Datto Inc. expanded its cloud portfolio in late 2014 by acquiring cloud-to-cloud startup Backupify. Picking up Backupify allowed Datto, based in Connecticut, to augment its initial focus on backup storage for small and midsize enterprises.

The Datto backup platform included expanding Backupify technology in June to add cloud-to-cloud backup of Microsoft Office 365 to go with its previous support Salesforce.com and Google Apps.

Datto CEO Austin McChord said his company is fielding calls for backup storage from enterprises across regulated industries, including education, financial services, health care and legal services. SearchDataBackup.com recently caught up with McChord to discuss the evolving backup storage market and the vendor's product roadmap.

How far along is Datto on the Backupify integration?

McChord: We have been integrating Backupify into the broader Datto platform and expect to have it completed by the end of 2015. We will let customers use a single portal across the board to interact and work with all their products. We are migrating Backupify customers' data from Amazon Web Services to Datto's cloud for recovering lost or deleted data. We are also proud that the Backupify team was able to roll out support for Office 365 in June.

Which workloads are Datto backup customers moving to the cloud?

Austin McChordAustin McChord

McChord: We see the use of cloud apps by companies going up dramatically across the board. It's really a revolution [driven by] all the SaaS implementations that are going on. It's almost overwhelming. Even Datto itself is a great example: We use a lot of SaaS to get work done. One thing we're not seeing is companies moving their entire business to the cloud. We don't see the cloud supplanting local backup storage. It's additive, not being used as a replacement for the local infrastructure that businesses already have.

The backup appliance market is getting crowded. How will Datto backup stand out?

McChord: Datto separates from the pack in that our goal is to really build out a data protection platform. Our goal is to protect data no matter where it lives. We've got a broad suite of products for on-premises backup, hybrid cloud backup, and we protect cloud instances. We've got across-the-board cloud coverage, whether you're running in Amazon Elastic Compute or Microsoft Azure. We've got file sync-and-share support that allows us to do file-level backup.  Now we can go all the way down to [protect data on] mobile devices.

Many backup vendors make a similar claim to protect data virtually, on-premises and in the cloud. Specifically, what is Datto backup trying to do differently than its competitors?

The Datto backup platform included expanding Backupify technology in June to add cloud-to-cloud backup of Microsoft Office 365 to go with its previous support Salesforce.com and Google Apps.

McChord: The big thing that makes us different is restoration. We can do it faster than anybody else. On the hybrid cloud side, we have a six-second restore time to bring up a failed system, regardless of the data you're protecting. The key is that there's no conversion process on restore. Almost everybody else in the industry stores data such that it involves a backup chain, where you've got layers and layers of incremental [backups]. Whereas, in our case, we use a copy-on-write deduplicated file system that backs everything up and we store the data as a VMDK [virtual machine disk file]. When we take the backup of the machine, we update the VMDK and use the copy-on-write engine inside the file system to keep hundreds and hundreds of versions of that VMDK. The way the data is stored allows us to expose any of the previous copies of that VMDK, which is already saved in a bootable state.

Second, we are truly vertically integrated. Lots of other backup vendors say, "Put your data in Amazon or Azure or somewhere else," whereas we run our own cloud infrastructure. That means we can do this stuff at a cost that's a lot more competitive than other vendors.

How will containers affect backups? Will Datto at some point need to roll out support for Dockers and containerized backup?

McChord: I'm unsure at this stage. Containers are really just fancy applications. Containers are kind of an in vogue thing, but I would say they are very different than virtualization. And I'm not sure we're going to need to protect containers individually yet. But we'll see what happens in the future, and we'll certainly be ready if we need to [protect containers]. Our current position is to wait and see.

What can you tell us about the Datto backup product roadmap over the next 12 to 18 months? 

McChord: We've got a lot going on. We open sourced development of our Linux Agent in June and it is being used by thousands of users. Linux Agent installs without a reboot as a kernel module. The big thing is it enables block-level backup of Linux systems, regardless of which file system you're interacting with. It works at the block level and can protect [Linux] extended file systems, XFS file system and potentially new copy-on-write file systems as well. It gives us the capability to do block-level protection on Linux, which we couldn't do before.

Beyond that, we're getting into the networking space with our Datto Network Appliance (DNA) Router. We're building our own router-firewall-Internet security appliance that we think is going to make a meaningful difference for our customers. Datto DNA Router is separate from our storage appliance. It's definitely a different direction for a backup storage company to take, but we launched Datto DNA because literally one-third of all our support tickets are due to bad network configurations. We think we can offer a much better product than what customers are used to these days. It begins shipping [in September]. We're going through the process of getting it SCC-certified, which is a total pain.

How will the DNA Router make it easier to use your backup storage?

McChord: The way we see it, our job is to keep businesses running, no matter what happens. Moving into networking fits the mission around keeping machines running, no matter what happens. Every box we ship will include a built-in LTE card. We will manage all the carrier contracts and everything associated with that to make it really easy for people to deploy. It allows them to solve problems like troubleshooting Internet connections when they're remote and the Internet is down. That's a huge use case, not to mention the ability for failover Internet [connections] so that if the primary ISP goes down, you can fail over to our card. We'll be intelligent about blocking applications you probably don't need, such as Pandora for example, while making sure important applications like your email remain up and running.

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