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In today's storage hungry world, virtually all organizations rely on backup to protect their critical data. And, just because various backup solutions are widely implemented, it does not mean that storage professionals do not recognize the need for innovation in this area. However, in order to move forward with innovation, there must be education for both storage professionals and end users.
In May of this year, Quantum Corporation, along with additional sponsoring companies such as Atto, Avamar, BakBone, Storage Tech (to name a few) decided to implement an educational forum called the he Enhanced Backup Solutions Initiative (EBSI).
Improving and extending the backup model of date protection
EBSI is an open-forum dedicated to improving and extending the backup model of data protection through education, communication, and coordination between both suppliers of back-up systems and solutions and end users. According to Dean Morash, Strategic Alliance Manager at Quantum Corporation and the Storage Solutions Group, the goals of the EBSI is to support the development of necessary/applicable standards but not to create or drive standards. "Whenever possible the EBSI will support standards that promote the integration of this market into storage networks but not be the body which executes the statement of work," says Morash. "In addition, he continued, the intent of the EBSI is to leverage organizations and committees that have standards development as their core competencies."
Keeping abreast of the exploding demand for storage
In this challenging economic environment, enterprises do not have the financial resources to keep pace with the exploding demand for storage systems which is expected to exceed $59 billion is storage revenues by 2002, according to a recent Dataquest report. Some storage professionals believe that the EBSI is the next logical evolution of network storage as it encompasses a strategy of business continuity and disaster recovery. "The reality of shrinking budgets and diminishing storage expertise creates an unprecedented and unyielding demand for intelligent storage network infrastructure solutions that reduce the total cost of ownership of enterprise storage services," says Harsih Nayak, co-founder of Maranti Networks, a California-based start-up specializing in the areas of intelligent, application-aware storage switching platforms. "The EBSI is very much in sync with what we want to do and I am in the process of getting involved," says Nayak.
Focusing on the integration of new technologies
The initial focus of the initiative is the integration of new technologies, such as disk-based backup targets, network storage systems, and storage device virtualization into backup solutions. Morash says that each member of the EBSI is working on technical developments in one or more of these areas. "I feel that we can develop this market together as even though in the past technology marketing has been somewhat confusing, theres enough room for all of us in this emerging space," says Morash. "In addition, he continued, if we gain momentum as an effective consortium, we will be able to produce marketing opportunities for everyone involved."
Peter Tarrant, vice president of marketing for Agile Storage, Los Gatos, CA, sees the EBSI as an important initiative because things are constantly changing in the backup and recovery arena. "These issues are paramount on people's minds and we really do need a data protection policy," he says. Agile Storage is presently creating a solution that can maximize existing IT assets and storage resources by consolidating networked storage environments. "Consortiums like EBSI help coalesce these solutions throughout the industry," says Tarrant.
According to Morash, the EBSI does not place any limitations on a particular disk type (e.g. ATA, IDE, SCSI, Optical, etc.) although it was agreed that the implementation and management of 'cheap disk' into a traditional backup and archival system is the key business opportunity for the EBSI. It was also agreed that both replication and HSM were inclusive in the EBSI. "Although Archival is not the focus of the initiative, we need to insure that the developed solutions support interoperability with Automated Tape Systems and the associated third party software that is the primary targets for data archival," says Morash. He also says that the focus of the EBSI will be on utilizing enhanced backup schemes to manage the changing workflow at customer sites, which requires considerable commitment on the part of the EBSI to provide continuous customer education.
Education as a key issue
Education seems to be the issue on everyone's minds including Karen Dutch, vice president of marketing for InterSAN and she should know since she has over 24 years of experience in developing and implementing enterprise storage management solutions. "The EBSI is very beneficial as there isn't anyone who doesn't need to be thinking about storage recovery and backup solutions. I think the EBSI needs to not only make people more aware of the backup solutions but also of recovery solutions," she says. "It is time for everyone to switch their thinking to the recovery side, not just the backup side," she continued. The question that she thinks every storage manager needs to be asking is "Is my backup solution matched up to my recovery solution?" In other words, she continued, the best practices for backup better be talking about recovery as well.
Morash says that in the end EBSI partners agreed that the best way to define the scope of the EBSI is from a solutions perspective, rather than a technology perspective. "We plan to address the following three major limitations of backup today: the time required to backup; the confidence in completing backup within the available time window; and the latency associated with restoring backup data," he says. The EBSI plans to hold seminars and trade show panel discussions, offer case studies and white papers to its members, and contribute articles to both print and electronic industry periodicals. "The EBSI will act as a centralized forum for competitors to differentiate solutions and also be an online repository for interoperability and certification results," he continued.
Diffusing the acrimony and infighting between advocates of tape and advocates of disk-based data backup solutions
Jon Toigo, a noted authority on both data storage and disaster recovery planning, says that the EBSI holds the promise for diffusing the acrimony and infighting between advocates of tape and advocates of disk-based data backup solutions. He also believes that that the current debates over tape and disk-based backup technologies have confused consumers and pressed many into adopting technologies and strategies that deliver little or no protection, or protection at a cost that is misaligned with potential threats and their consequences. "Unless an initiative like EBSI takes hold, the vendor community will remain polarized, preventing the intelligent discussion and cooperative development of commonsensical and truly effective data protection solutions," says Toigo.