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To Be or Not to Be Unified, That is the Question

Created: 18 Jul 2012
Kyle Drake's picture
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In today’s data-center protection world, nothing is more confusing or nebulous than phrases that mention “complete backup solution”.  A complete backup solution could be defined as any product that just gets your data off to tape or disk, period. Nobody ever said “restore” (sorry TSM), let alone other necessary functionalities.   But as we know, there are plenty of other aspects and features that define a comprehensive data protection solution, so how do we determine which vendors have the best strategy to provide the customer a proven product that differentiates themselves from the others?

There are two schools of thought here:

  1. Some believe in a unified and home-grown platform that encompasses all functionalities such as backup and recovery, archive, replication, Storage Resource Management and search.  The strategy here is that a perceived holistic approach to data management is supposed to eliminate the inherent inefficiencies, complications and expenses associated with operating across multiple silos.  But where do these home grown features stack up against the competition?  Are they best in breed, or are they only “good enough” solutions?
  2. An alternative point of view is to take an existing product and truly make it better by integrating top notch and already mature features through acquisitions.  The belief would be, why create unproven “1.0” releases of new features that would result in the common growing pains of any newly engineered technology, when a superior alternative is available?  Isn’t the point to provide the customer best in breed feature sets, in the most efficient manner and not just something rushed, immature and poorly performing to merely put a check mark in the box of, “yeah, we do that”?  

Symantec believes and lives by the second strategy.  By no means does this translate to NetBackup only relying on acquired 3rd party companies to build our product.  It means we’ve found that perfect balance of both merged technology and home engineering.  Here’s an example:

Symantec has recently won many awards around one of our home grown technologies called “V-Ray”.  Our joint co-op partnership with VMware and deep integration with the vSphere API have allowed us to differentiate ourselves when it comes to comprehensive VM protection.  We can see deeper into VM’s than any other vendor, and therefore have the ability to save storage space by backing up only what’s needed, true one-pass backups for full and individual file recovery (no proxy storage or staging needed), and on-the-fly identification of new VM’s that need to be protected.  Because of V-Ray’s integration with a technology we acquired years back called PureDisk (part of NetBackup’s core functionality), we can also identify changed file segments across both virtual AND physical environments, including application and database information as well.  This provides a true global deduplication solution that our competitors lack.  Again, this is just one example that validates our technology combination strategy, showing that not only does it work, but also make us the market share leader in backup and recovery.

Other leading technologies within Symantec that function with NetBackup are:

  1. OpsCenter-- for search and reporting capabilities
  2. Replication Director—for snapshot creation, indexing and management for backups
  3. Accelerator-- provides faster full backups by eliminating the need to read the entire file system
  4. AIR-- The use of Storage Lifecycle Policies and optimized duplication allow disk based backups to be replicated between devices under NetBackup control for DR purposes.
  5. Enterprise Vault--e-mail archiving for Exchange and Lotus—a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for information archiving
  6. Clearwell—for E-discovery --- a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for e-discovery
  7. Appliances—offering customers flexibility in a NetBackup form factor that best fits their needs and environment—the NetBackup 5220 appliance was the backup and archive solution winner at Microsoft’s Best of Tech-Ed 2012

OpsCenter, Replication Director, Accelerator and AIR are all built in pieces to our product.  You can’t run them without having NetBackup. EV and Clearwell are purpose built. They work standalone as well as with NetBackup.  The important thing to take away from this list is the understanding of why Symantec chooses the 2nd strategy.  It’s about making sensible acquisitions and integrating when it makes most sense, for us and our customers. 

Customers do not necessarily want to use all the features and functions of a product and want to have granularity for what they pay for.  Some go to the extreme and do not even want to have the additional "not used" binaries on their systems as they see it as more lines of code where a potential security breach can happen.  Those who think along the lines of a single unified platform commonly include too much in the product, or feature(s) that makes you scratch your head. (Dedupe to tape…why???)

In closing, Symantec is far more concerned with providing our customers best in breed, purpose built and  integrated functionality rather than simply putting a mark in a yes/no checklist, and assuming one size fits all.  We believe that when we either build or add features, it will be the best performing solution on the market, and address our customers’ most pressing needs.  A holistic “one stop shop” product that only delivers a “good enough” feature set can actually create the inefficiencies, complexity and cost issues it set out to remedy in the first place.  So remember these couple of cliché consumer statements: “buyers beware” and “you get what you paid for”.  

To be or not to be unified…what do you think?