Recently read a good article written by George Crump at Information Week entitled “Consolidation at the Disk Backup Appliance“. After reading it, I thought it would be interesting to review some of the key points that George makes.

George argues that there are three basic ways to consolidate data protection:

  1. Centralize on a single enterprise backup application.
  2. Purchase a management application that provides management and monitoring of multiple backup applications. (This is sometimes called the MoM, Manager of Managers, approach.)
  3. Have multiple applications back up to a single device.

The centralization argument is what most people do. The MoM approach I think is an important trend that has been accelerating – not as a separate management application, but data protection software that supports native forms of backup. The third approach is I think a novel one – and that’s where George is spending his time. In this article, George is focused on the multiple applications backing up to a single device consolidation mechanism. Note that George also refers to another article he wrote called “Beyond the Backup Window” that has even more information regarding this.

First, let’s talk about where I agree completely with George. He calls out that tape support is important as is better reporting. Amen. Couldn’t agree more.

Now we’ll talk about where I find the article a bit more challenging. What I like about this article is that it promotes a use case that quite frankly I’ve never given much thought to – multiple backup applications backing up to a single device. This is a good use case if you are a deduplication device vendor. I’m not so sure whether this is a good use case if you’re a data protection buyer.

Is using multiple backup applications a good idea for most companies? Well – maybe if you’re a big enough company who has so much profit that you simply don’t have to care about productivity. In that case then theoretically you could afford the operational expense of having multiple backup administrators coupled with the capital expenditure of having a backup server and separate backup storage. I don’t meet many of these types of companies. Most companies I deal with are trying to reduce both operational expense as well as capital expense. I talk to folks each day who are or have merged backup administration with storage, server, virtualization, and/or even network administration. They want to do more with less – they want more bang for the buck. Having to manage multiple data protection software products is the opposite direction of bang for the buck.

The reason that there is so much interest in the backup appliance space (which is distinct from the deduplication device space in the way that a car is different than an engine) is that bang for the buck argument.

Does that mean that I think deduplication devices are worthless? Absolutely not. There are several interesting use cases for deduplication devices ranging from simplifying virtual environments in which data protection is hosted on a physical consolidated server with VMware sSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V or another hypervisor-based virtual machine to long-term archiving of data.

Then again, those are just my thoughts – would love to hear yours.