In a series of prior posts about “Recovery Nirvana” (here’s part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this series) I laid out the case for why we’re in an increasingly heterogeneous world and what that means. In the final installment, I spoke about future-proofing with respect to backup.

The short-hand for this that we’re going to start using is “Ditch the Niche.” It’s something that has already begun up in the large enterprise space: Gartner analysts Jie Zhang, Dave Russell, and Alan Dayley in the document “Survey Analysis: 2011 Data Center Conference, Backup Driven by Virtual Machine Recovery, Varying Deduplication Strategies, and Shortened Retention Policies” (March 29, 2012) reported as a major move in the last 12 months a flight away from virtualization-only products.

From my perspective, the reasons are pretty simple:

  • Using a niche product tends to “paint IT into a corner” in terms of being able to adapt to new trends. Taking sides in the various industry wars – whether it’s Windows versus Linux, Linux versus Unix (AIX, etc.), virtual versus physical, VMware versus Hyper-V, archiving to disk versus tape, block versus file backup, agent versus agentless backup – wastes precious IT time – solutions are needed that are much more adaptable to the agile data center.
  • Using multiple niche (point) products significantly increases the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) due to already stretched IT personnel having to learn yet another data protection product.
  • Using multiple niche products means more finger-pointing when a some type of problem occurs (in the industry, this is known as the OTTC – One Throat To Choke – issue.)

Is that to say that niche products are never appropriate? Absolutely not. Advanced functionality in certain segments is reason enough to temporarily adopt niche products. But what you tend to find in the most productive IT organizations – those that are striving toward helping their businesses grow rather than just being a cost center – is that you end up using too much resource on data protection and thus you don’t have enough focus on driving corporate-level revenue and profitability higher.

What Gartner’s data reinforces is something we’ve been seeing now for a while – we’ve hit that point with virtualization. I know that as someone who has worked in technology for a long time, I smile every time I see a slogan like “For folks who love virtualization” – and am always wondering how the CEO, CIO, IT leader, or network administrator feels about people who love something more than driving business results and productivity within a company. I think that focus on customer objectives is what has made it possible for a company like Unitrends to achieve growth rates exceeding 100% (and climbing) while achieving a 99% customer satisfaction rating.

Got a different point of view? We would love to hear it.