Sometimes the market takes you places you didn't expect to go. Commvault is very much a software company and the idea of putting out a Commvault branded hardware appliance at first felt a little strange for us. But the market message was clear: some organizations prefer to buy solutions in an appliance form factor. Since Commvault is always committed to doing right by its customers, we took on the challenge. Once we committed to the idea we handled it the way we always handle new projects: explore and understand the market, identify gaps and make sure our offering doesn't have them.
The result is our new, shiny Commvault® Backup Appliance with NetApp, a joint collaboration between Commvault and our good partners at NetApp. In our planning and design, we focused on three key areas: Manageability, scalability and flexibility. Let’s take a quick look at each of these (we’ll be putting out more blogs in the weeks ahead with deeper dives into the technology).
Perhaps the major appeal of appliances is ease of use and simplicity of management. Data protection can be a challenge, and anything that makes it easier is goodness. So we focused long and hard on providing an easy user experience, including building an easy configuration wizard. The end result is an appliance that goes from power-up to backup in about an hour, and a chunk of that time is the storage building the RAID groups. Easy!
But it doesn't end there. Setup is one thing, day-to-day management another. A lot of appliances lack good reporting and good software distribution tools (actually, a lot of appliances are just dumb boxes you throw stuff into, but that’s another story). Because our appliance is powered by Simpana® software, it takes advantage of all the great Simpana software reporting and software distribution tools. And it’s one console to manage as many appliances as you want to roll out.
Question: What’s the last thing an appliance user wants to hear? Answer: “Fork lift upgrade.” But too many appliances offer just that as a so-called scalability option. Yup, when you outgrow the first box you bought, just toss it and buy another one! Oh and you know you’ll have to migrate all that data over.
Hmmm… not the best way to do things. So we made sure we used a highly scalable hardware platform, the NetApp E2700 storage system. You can grow a single appliance affordably up to 288 TB of usable backup capacity (that’s physical capacity and doesn't take into account deduplication – your “logical” capacity can be quite a bit more depending on data types). You can also pair appliances for redundancy and that gives you a potential “pool” of disk up to 576 TB.
Also, there’s no reconfiguration involved when you scale, unlike some other offerings out there.
At first you may be thinking, “Why is flexibility part of an appliance design? Aren't appliances one trick ponies by design?” Well, maybe some appliances are! But we have bigger ideas.
First, we wanted our appliance to be flexible in how you deploy it. So you can go with a small, single node (starting at 18 TB, growing in 18 or 36 TB chunks) that might be fine for a smaller site, and for a datacenter you might want a paired config for redundancy and bigger footprint.
And what about features? Well it ain't just backup! We built in replication (included) so you can protect small sites and replicate back to a larger core appliance. Or you can go datacenter-to-datacenter. Or however you want. We included file archiving with our Simpana OnePassTM technology as a core feature and…
“Wait, what?” I heard you just say. Isn't this a “backup” appliance? Well, a great way to improve your backup performance is to stop backing up older files that nobody uses. So with our appliance you can archive them off, either to the same appliance or to some other storage tier. This leaves behind only a stub that you don’t have to back up anymore, making your backups smaller and faster. Email archiving is available as an add-on feature, including full search and compliance if you want (we did say “flexible”!)
You can even use it for snapshot management! That’s right, you can add our IntelliSnap® technology to the box or integrate into an existing NetApp SnapProtect environment, meaning you can manage and index snaps on many primary storage arrays and back them up to the appliance for longer term retention.
This appliance is so flexible it’s going to get a job at Cirque du Soleil!
Appliance Availability and Licensing
The Commvault backup appliance is available today in North America. Expansion plans are under investigation. These things just take time to iron out with various distributors across various countries. Stay tuned for more on that.
The appliance includes licensing for the whole works: compute, software and storage. So you’re licensed for as much backup data as you can put into the box. If you add, say, an 18 TB disk shelf, that includes licensing for that fresh 18 TB of capacity. Easy as can be.
What about existing Commvault customers? Well you can buy the appliance without software licensing and roll it into your current capacity licensing. It’s a nice, high powered box so if you’re thinking of adding a new media agent or deploying in a new site, you can drop one of these in, fire it up and add it to your existing CommCell® group. It’s a nice, pre-configured way to grow your Commvault environment.
That concludes our introduction to the new Commvault Backup Appliance with NetApp. Stay tuned for more blogs with more technical details. Meanwhile, if you'd like a look at appliance specs and other info, you can download the Commvault appliance data sheet.