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Maturing Deduplicating Backup Appliances Still Offer Plenty of Features for Organizations to Evaluate

As DCIG prepares to release a number of Buyer’s Guides on Midrange Deduplication Backup Appliances in the next few weeks, we thought we would share some of our observations that came out of our evaluation of these products. Like all Buyer’s Guides that DCIG prepares, it did a comprehensive review of available deduplicating backup appliances in anticipation of releasing these Guides. As it did so, it uncovered that deduplication itself has moved well beyond the breakthrough technology that it was a decade or so ago to provide an assortment of features there leaves plenty for organizations to consider when buying one of these appliances.

Backup appliances already make up a large component of the backup space (tape libraries, backup software, backup appliances, etc.) and may now arguably be the largest component by revenue. In a recent IDC report, factory revenue associated with the purpose built backup appliance market is growing 16.4% on a year over year basis with capacity shipped showing an even stronger 45% growth from the year before.  

Despite its increased adoption, DCIG in its research found no significant breakthrough in deduplication technology in deduplicating backup appliances since the last Buyer’s Guide that DCIG released. While advancements in these appliances have certainly occurred as reflected by greater appliance capacities and throughput speeds at a reduced cost – the deduplication technology itself is remarkably unchanged from a couple of years ago.

This maturing of deduplication technology is somewhat of a mixed blessing for organizations. On one hand, it gives them more confidence and reason to believe that the deduplication technology on which the appliance is based will be stable and work as intended. In other words, the chances for hidden “gotcha’s” have likely diminished.

Conversely, a maturing of the market means there are more deduplicating backup appliances available for organizations to consider for purchase. While there are only a fairly small number of vendors shipping such products (about ten,) there are over 40 different products available from these vendors.

As a result, organizations must make the following choices when selecting a deduplicating backup appliance:

  • Encryption. Legislation such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and the SEC 17-a4 rules have almost made it incumbent for organizations to encrypt their backup data as opposed to leaving it in its native format and risk having it exposed. This has resulted in 66 percent, or nearly two in three backup appliances, now supporting encryption in some form.
  • Public clouds.  Organizations want to get their backup data offsite and storing with public cloud provides them a convenient and economical means to do so. While this is still in its infancy, 30 percent of deduplicating backup appliances already provide some form of support for public cloud connectivity. It is worth noting that ATScloud (not Amazon S3!) is the most commonly supported public cloud offering among those deduplicating backup appliance that offer support for a public cloud.
  • Scale-up vs. scale-out. Appliances scale in one of two ways. The first is systems scale-up capacity by adding more of it to the controller head or heads. Others use a scale-out architecture where multiple nodes (each with a controller that includes system memory, processing and storage capacity) can be added and work in tandem. Scale-out appliances tend to scale higher than single controller systems.  When a single controller system hits the high end of capacity, a new higher capacity appliance must be purchased. DCIG found 44% of deduplicating backup appliances offer a scale-out architecture while the rest were configured in a scale-up configuration.
  • Inline vs. post process deduplication. When deduplication was first released, religious wars over which form of deduplication was better ensued. In recent years these debates have largely subsided though inline seems to have won, at least from an adoption perspective. 70 percent of deduplicating backup appliances using inline deduplication while only 30% use post process.
  • Licensing. Most deduplication appliance vendors tout an all-inclusive licensing scheme (all software licenses needed to operating appliance.) However, it is important to look closely at some.  While deduplication is certainly included, other features such as replication, encryption, and backup acceleration may introduce extra licensing costs.
  • Appliance management software. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that larger, high-end systems offer greater software capabilities to manage the deduplicating backup appliance.  However, in many situations smaller capacity (and less expensive) appliances offer the same management software as their high-end counterparts.  For example, Quantum offers many of the same software features on its midtier DXi4601 as it does on its high end DXi6802.

The deduplication technology on deduplicating backup technologies may be mature but the features found on each appliance continue to rapidly change and evolve. As they do, it makes it more complicated and difficult for organizations to select the right appliance for their environment which is why DCIG is updating its Deduplicating Backup Appliance Buyers Guide for 2013. So if you are looking for the right deduplicating backup appliance for your environment, stay tuned! A number of Buyer’s Guide that covers this segment of the market from various price points will be released in the weeks to come.

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Charley McMaster

About Charley McMaster

Charley McMaster is a Senior Research Analyst focused on the storage and data protection markets at DCIG. Charley covers DCIG’s Midrange Deduplicating Backup Appliance, and Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guides, with additional work in Integrated Backup, Hybrid Cloud Backup, and Virtual Server technologies.

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