Q: Why are Companies Interested in Backup Appliances? A: Because they are looking for a diamond.

Posted 03/06/2014 by Commvault

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Guest blog by John Pearring, VP, STORServer, Inc.

John Pearring, Vice President, currently leads Sales for STORServer, and has held a variety of leadership positions in the organization. John developed the first OEM alliance partnership and e-business infrastructure for the company’s integrated appliance model, and served as its President from 1995 to 2008. John previously held positions as an educator and a publisher. John is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University

You know how the earth makes diamonds? Long-term, relentless, worldwide pressure. The same thing happens in order to force paradigm progress upon the world of computing. Pressures from all sides – limited resources, higher expectations, technology advances, relentless data growth, and cries for automation – force the IT industry into making something shiny, new, and practical. 

Pressure got us to the Backup Appliance. Resellers of backup solutions felt the demand from their customers for a backup product that installs quickly, operates easily, includes all recovery technology in one package, and is supported by a single source. Then resellers searched the industry for products. In short order, the analysts sent out a cry to manufacturers. Manufacturers responded. Today, we have no less than 22 different backup appliances.

Commvault and STORServer, Inc. have recently collaborated on a new set of appliances. From a simple “hardening” point of view, I believe we’re getting closer to the diamond that customers are looking for.

Here’s why.

Everything ends up getting further automated in computing, and the key components to data protection – backup, archive and disaster recovery – got the initial attention. Many backup appliance manufacturers simply put the software and hardware in a nice box, with some nice installation instructions, and shipped it to customers.

The automation of protecting and recovering data, though, is a complex and often confusing IT category. With the software and hardware now in customer hands, much more is necessary. The STORServer Appliance powered by Commvault should address the “much more” categories very well.

A Backup Appliance must include hardware from every portion of an enterprise (servers, storage arrays, and connectivity); software that touches every aspect of computing (files, databases, networking, transactions, retention – the list is too long!); operation interfaces for everyone (management, operators and users at all levels); and capabilities to handle practically every operating system ever deployed. My goodness.

Well, Commvault and STORServer together certainly do that. Fortunately, even though most appliances can’t accomplish even that much, the STORServer Commvault appliance provides these capabilities right out of the gate.

In fact, the STORServer Enterprise Backup Appliance 2200, powered by Commvault (EBA 2202-CV) has received the only “Best in Class” designation in the DCIG 2014-15 Integrated Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide.

Out of 72 integrated backup appliances evaluated, the EBA 2202-CV achieved the highest ranking in the Buyer’s Guide for demonstrating impressive scalability, exceeding 1.4 petabytes of disk storage with additional tape storage if needed, and placing near the top in all four categories in the Guide: Hardware, Management, Software and Support.

The add-on backup technologies that have overwhelmed traditional backup solutions are usually purchased piece by piece. Some appliance manufacturers punt, and simply ship out specific boxes for new tasks. The folks in service and sales suffer “technology creep,” as some analysts call it. An appliance should keep the sales pitch at a high level. With complexity, product overload complicates the appliance message. 

One example of an IT change that is already addressed in the STORServer Commvault Appliance is virtual server protection. Virtualization added confusion by returning backup appliances to “pieces and parts” thinking. Shared hardware resources relegated the standard idea of an operating system on a single machine to the Stone Age. Commvault has addressed that data protection problem by integrating simplification in the process of capturing and storing all data.

Virtualization is no longer the latest technology advance. Storage no longer can be sold as stand-alone offerings. Enterprise shops are virtualized into server farms and storage arrays with various snapshot offerings. Plus, the location of those offerings can be located in the nebulous arena call a “cloud.” In order to provide backup solutions for a customer, resellers and consultants think they need to bring a handbag full of offerings to try to address each new thing that a customer either has implemented or wants to implement.

Again, out of the gate, the STORServer Commvault Appliance handles the NAS and SAN issues with Commvault’s IntelliSnap technology built in. Cloud locations can be used for any function in the enterprise data protection content storage hierarchy – backup, archive, disaster recovery.

Backup appliances have been slow to come on the scene because these pieces and parts of backup and restore operations could usually be purchased anywhere. Enterprise shops have largely opted to fashion their own solutions. Throw in virtualization, snapshots, eDiscovery requirements, content management, deduplication, continuous data protection, mobile users’ data, and remote replication, and customers’ minds start to explode. They want to address all of these things, in both their production environment and their data protection stores and pools, but have no way to put them all together and maintain them. Their IT veterans no longer want the task of building, rebuilding, and maintaining the megalith solutions that they’ve put together just for backup and restore.

Commvault’s Simpana software has been incrementally addressing every desire and forward-thinking readiness for data protection administrators. Capacity licensing, Archiving with HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management) built-in, IntelliSnap, Edge (mobility access), and content indexing capabilities already exist. The upcoming stuff may well cause riots in the IT hallways. “We’ve got to have this!” CIOs will yell to hurriedly educated CEOs. It’s wonderful.

While manufacturers have finally jumped on the bandwagon of backup appliance products, because enterprise shops are choosing to buy rather than build, a concentrated appliance strategy with the de facto data protection leader on the planet (Commvault) seemed out of reach. Those folks selling parts and pieces of backup (storage, software, and add-on technologies) wondered why this couldn’t be done. Well, now it’s done. Being able to sell disparate backup and recovery technologies to customers will soon be a thing of the past. 

The ones making a difference in backup appliance sales will not be the ones who get behind the sales counter first or who get a customer’s attention first. Customers have the Web. They can search for solutions all over the place, and make their own comparisons. 

The differentiators for success will be the breadth of the offering, the ease of use, the scalability, and the ongoing maintenance. In addition, the software must be so far forward thinking that customers become giddy with excitement. That’s Commvault providing the giddiness, by the way.

Customers are looking for the appliance with the largest set of capabilities, the farthest-reaching roadmap, and the best customer service available. They want the appliance to take automation seriously, rather than just bundle up parts (heck, customers can buy parts). The appliance must be scalable as they grow. And most importantly, the appliance they buy will need a comprehensive support and maintenance program.

The really good IT shops will know that they could actually build what the Commvault STORServer Appliance offers. But why would they do it? They’ve got a business to support and IT problems that they’re just finding out about.

Customers are looking for a data protection diamond. Commvault and STORServer’s Appliances are the result of worldwide pressure. The diamond is getting more and more brilliant as we speak.