Background on Appliances
Backup appliances exist to lower the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) associated with the data protection of an IT environment. Backup appliances were initially designed almost exclusively for small and medium enterprises that couldn’t afford to have backup specialists on staff who spent all their time integrating, maintaining, upgrading, and adjusting the server, storage, I/O, networking, operating system software, antivirus software, backup software, archiving software, replication software, and the like that constitutes a backup solution.
Backup software vendors in essence pushed the design and implementation of backup solution integration to their customers. This had the effect of increasing the software vendors’ profits since this shift of capital and operational expense was transferred from the backup software vendor to the buyer. Backup appliances were created to directly address this by reducing this capital and operational expense burden from the buyer back to the backup appliance vendor.
At the same time, backup appliance engineering and technology has significantly changed over the years. Ten years ago, backup appliances were relatively simple devices that basically just bundled all of the components listed above into a relatively simple integrated hardware and software package. As data protection grew more complex and began including not only file backup but block backup, dissimilar bare metal, virtual environment backup, archiving, and replication for disaster recovery, and other features the design of the backup appliance grew more complex.
Physical appliances, also known as Purpose Built Backup Appliances (PBBA), are alluring. With these solutions you no longer have to integrate servers, storage, networking, backup and recovery software, replication software, etc., or manage each individual piece—you simply buy it, turn it on, configure it, and get back to the rest of your life. No more finger pointing when there’s a problem. No more resizing nightmares as your business grows.
Software-based Virtual Backup Appliances (VBA) are targeted at customers who want the advantages of an all-in-one, purpose built solution but want to run it as software on their existing hardware servers. By installing a virtual appliance in a virtual environment, these customers get the advantages of an appliance with the additional flexibility to run on existing hardware capacity.
However, customer who are looking for backup appliances should beware. Not all appliance are as advertised. Unfortunately you soon discover that there’s a lot of sizzle and too little steak for many vendor's solutions. High-end “integrated” backup appliances are mostly third-party software applications slapped onto a server, with limited models sizes to meet your exact needs. More affordable niche backup appliances lack the enterprise-class functionality and performance required to meet your RPOS and RTOs. When you are in the market for an appliance, be sure to get a true integrated all-in-one solution.
Deduplication Devices are Backup Appliances, the Check is in the Mail, and Other Lies
Recently I've run into some marketing material stressing from deduplication device vendors that what they are selling are "backup appliances." This reminds me of the story of the car salesman selling a car and then later admitting that the engine and steering wheel and seats are "options" that will cost more. By this logic Seagate could sell their disk drives as "laptop computers" to school children to use in class. I don't know what offends me worse—the blatant lie or the assumption some marketing person made that their intended buyer is either too stupid or too bored to be able to tell the difference.
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The Benefits of Physical Backup Appliances in a Virtual World
Virtualization has become something of a fad within the IT industry. Although there is no
denying that virtualization has its place, the industry seems to be embracing something of a virtualize everything mentality. In spite of the fad, there are advantages to utilizing physical
hardware for certain tasks. This is especially true for backups. In many cases, it is clearly in an organization’s best interest to make use of physical, purpose-built backup appliances rather than relying on virtual backup appliances.
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The New Rules for Choosing Physical Appliances in a Virtual World
Physical backup appliances are still a necessary part of any IT department’s infrastructure. The key is to find physical appliances that work in the new framework of virtualization everywhere. Read this white paper to discover why physical backup appliances are still critical, even in an IT environment seemingly dominated by virtualization. Also, discover five steps for choosing a physical backup appliance that will blend into a virtual world.
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