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Feature Consolidation on Backup Appliances Currently Under Way

Integrating backup software, cloud services support, deduplication, and virtualization into a single hardware appliance remains a moving target. Even as backup appliance providers merge these technologies onto their respective appliances, the methodologies they employ to do so can vary significantly between them. This becomes very apparent when one looks at growing number of backup appliances from the providers in the market today and the various ways that they offer these features.

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Some providers such as Cohesity provide options in their appliances to satisfy the demands of three different backup appliance configuration. Their appliances may be configured as a target-based deduplication appliance, an integrated backup (offer both storage and backup software for data protection behind the firewall) and as a hybrid cloud backup appliance which gives their appliances to backup data locally and store data with cloud services providers.

By offering options to configure their appliances this way, it opens up the door for their products to address multiple use cases over time. In recently speaking with Cohesity, it often initially positions its product as a target deduplication appliance as a means to non-disruptively get a foothold in organizations with the hopes that organizations will eventually start to use its backup software as well.

Cohesity’s scale-out design also makes it an appealing alternative to competitors such as EMC Data Domain. By scaling out, organizations can eliminate creating the backup silos that results from deploying multiple instances of EMC Data Domain. Using Cohesity, organizations can instead create one central backup repository that makes its solution a more scalable and easier to manage deduplicating backup target that EMC Data Domain.

Further, now that Cohesity has a foothold, organizations can begin to test and use Cohesity’s backup software in lieu of their existing software. A number have already found that Cohesity’s software is already sufficiently robust that it meets the needs of their backup environment. This frees organizations to save even more money and further consolidate their backup infrastructure on a single solution.

Other providers also bundle deduplication along with virtualization and connectivity to cloud services providers as part of their backup appliance offering to offer instant and cloud recovery as part of their solution. In doing so, one specific area in which these appliances differentiate themselves in their ability to deliver instant recoveries on the appliance and even with cloud services providers.

Many providers now offer make virtual machines (VMs) available on their backup appliances to host application recoveries and some even make VMs available with cloud services providers. These VMs that reside locally on the backup appliance give organizations access to application recoveries such as Microsoft Exchange or SQL Server or to use these VMs for test and development. DCIG has found that appliances from Barracuda, Datto, Dell, and Unitrends all support these types of capabilities.

In evaluating these features across different backup appliances, DCIG finds that the Dell DL4300 Backup and Recovery Appliance sets itself apart from the others with its Virtual Standby feature that includes fully licensed VMs from Microsoft. Its VMs run in the background in standby mode and receive constant application. In this way, they are ready for access and use at any time should they be called up. This compares to the others where VMs on the appliance take time to set up. While organizations may want also bring up production level applications on the VMs on other backup appliances, it does take more time to bring these applications on these VMs and may require the intervention of the backup administrators to do this.

However other providers also give organizations a means to access and recover their data and applications.

  • Using Barracuda organizations can recover from a replicated site using a Local Control appliance and Local LiveBoot. Once accessed, administrators may recover to the local appliance using virtual machines.
  • Datto aoffers instant restore capabilities where VMs may be set up locally on the appliance for instant recovery. If the Datto appliance connects to the cloud, users also have the option to run VMs in the cloud which gives organizations time to fix a local server outage and providing business continuity during this time.
  • Unitrends lets users mount VMs for instant recovery on the appliance and in the cloud. Users that opt-in to its Disaster Recovery Service gain access to up to five VMs depending on the size of the appliance or they may also acquire VMs in the cloud if needed.

The consolidating of deduplication, virtualization, and cloud connectivity coupled with new scale-out capabilities provide organizations more reasons than ever to purchase a single appliance to protect their applications and data. Buying a single backup appliance not only provides a smart data protection plan but affords them new opportunities to introduce new technologies into their environment.

The means in which providers incorporate these new technologies into their backup appliances is one of many components to consider when selecting any of today’s backup appliances. However, their cloud connectivity, instant recovery, consolidated set of features, and scale-out features are becoming the new set of features that organizations should examine on the latest generation of backup appliances. Look for the release of a number of DCIG Buyer’s Guide Editions on backup appliances in the weeks and months to come that provide the guidance and insight you need to make these all important decisions about these products.

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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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