This is my fourth excerpt from my Deduplication Devices Are Backup Appliances, the Check Is in the Mail and Other Lies whitepaper. Download the full whitepaper for instant gratification.

What Is Not a Backup Appliance?
A toaster.

In all seriousness, there are an infinite number of things that aren’t a backup appliance.  Just because something may be associated with the task of protecting data doesn’t mean that it’s a backup appliance.  With that said, let’s discuss a few things that are occasionally called “backup appliances” that simply aren’t.  Before getting started, if you’re interested in first reading what IS a backup appliance, please check out my previous post.

Deduplication Devices
This is where companies such as Data Domain, ExaGrid, and more recently Symantec (with its NetBackup 5000) have an issue when their devices are referred to as “backup appliances.”  What these vendors are selling are deduplication devices.  Different vendors in this space are selling different things.  Data Domain sells a deduplication device that can be used for primary or secondary storage and offers very good data deduplication capabilities.  ExaGrid sells a deduplication device that is primarily to be used in concert with third-party backup software that operates on a third-party server.  Symantec’s NetBackup 5000 is an even more particular device – it is designed to work in NetBackup environments specifically.

Backup Software Copied Onto Some Hardware
There are some backup software vendors who have bundled their backup software with a server and have attempted to call this an appliance.  We call these “Frankenstein backup appliances.”  Like the monster in the novel, there are a lot of parts badly assembled and grafted together in a relatively haphazard way.

When you look deeper, you find that a veneer of integration – and only at the integrated, platform level.  Functional integration, all-in-one licensing, ease of installation, and ease of use in terms of monitoring and management are simply not there.  But those issues pale besides the biggest issue – the lack of integrated support.

At the most basic level, the fastest way to figure out whether a company is really selling an appliance is to ask what occurs when there’s a problem – who do you call?  Do you call the backup software vendor?  What if it’s an operating system problem?  What if it’s a server hardware problem?  Who is responsible?

The simple truth of the matter is that only one person is responsible – the customer of the backup software coped onto some hardware.