Disk-based backup and the convergence of data center networking technologies are very much on the minds of storage vendors and users this year.
Falling disk prices and growing backup demands will continue to fuel the growth of disk-based backup, observers say, while virtualization and security needs will drive the convergence of storage, security and networking.
Together, the two trends are emblematic of the need to do more with less, as IT staffs struggle to cope with ballooning volumes of data and IT complexity while trying to meet growing e-discovery, regulatory compliance and business demands.
Disk-based backup and disk-to-disk-to-tape will continue to find favor with storage users, while tape becomes increasingly relegated to an archiving role, industry officials say. Falling costs and technologies such as incremental backups, active archiving and de-duplication are making disk backup more affordable, allowing organizations to use disk to keep more data online and readily available.
EMC senior product manager Scott Delandy said IT organizations realize that relying on tape for backup and restore presents numerous challenges, such as slow recovery times, shrinking backup windows and the operational complexity of tape-related processes, all of which are compounded by an avalanche of information growth.
"As a result, disk-based backup solutions are gaining strong momentum as a key technology to provide a more efficient and reliable backup and recovery process to meet required service levels, protect critical business data and improve IT efficiency," he said.
Disk-based backup is just one part of a state-of-the-art backup and recovery process, Delandy said.
"Disk-based backup and the related concept of disk-to-disk-to-tape alone cannot address the fundamental cause of backup/recovery headaches: enterprise data growth and accumulation," he said. The answer: active archiving.
"Coupling the benefits of a disk-based backup solution with an active archive leads to a 1+1=3 value proposition," said Delandy. "The fundamental premise behind the value of active archiving is that when a digital asset in the production environment is not actively being updated, it should be seamlessly moved into an online archive. These active archives are self-managed and fully protected. And because they free up production system space, performance improves, storage costs fall and backup and recovery processes run faster."
Mark Goros, CEO of CAS startup Caringo, said customers recognize that the quality and integrity of tape backups is suspect, as is the ability to reliably restore data from tape.
"As the amount of data being created continues to grow, so does the cost and overhead associated with managing removable media such as tape," said Goros.
Dave DuPont, CEO of SANRAD, goes further, saying that tape may disappear entirely. He believes that disk-based backup will continue to gain momentum because customers simply dislike tape because it is clunky, vulnerable and rapidly losing its cost advantage.
"As disk-based systems come down in price, and unique replication technology keeps evolving, customers will continue to jettison tape," said DuPont. "I disagree that tape will be used for archiving. Tape is problematic as an archive medium. It must be stored under special conditions, and the problems with tape in primary storage environments still pertain."
"Disk technology will continue to evolve, making advances in providing massive capacity, low power consumption and the ability to better take advantage of network-based data management services such as de-duplication and indexing," said Nigel Burmeister, senior product marketing manager of F5 Networks.
Storage, Security and Networking Converge
Another trend in the evolving enterprise storage market is the convergence of storage, security and networking to secure critical data stores. Some vendors believe that storage, security and networking companies will come together to meet end users' desire for simple, integrated data protection solutions.
"We are not going to see the convergence of storage, security and networking as much as we are going to see the convergence of storage, security and networking companies," said Jim McDonald, CTO of WysDM Software. "The harder work will come later, if at all."
Goros sees the IT environment as an ecosystem of computing components that must interoperate together. Each of these areas (storage, security and networking) have predominantly focused on their areas of core competence, often at the exclusion of the others, forcing IT departments to implement point products in order to cope.
"Customers recognize the importance of all of these elements in the computing environment and are increasingly demanding these work together to effectively protect their data," said Goros. This is driving storage, security and networking vendors to look to each other for capabilities to make this happen. "Industry standards help in this area so that customers can select best of breed products in each segment and be assured that they will interoperate," he said.
"Most organizations agree that information is their most valuable asset," said Delandy. "To preserve its confidentiality, integrity and value, information must be protected from a variety of threats, including unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification and destruction."
Sensitive information moves and lives in many places and this makes it difficult to secure, said Delandy. Because different systems frequently have different policies for securing information, attempts to protect data are often incompatible.
"Tools such as firewalls and anti-virus software protect proxies for information, such as networks and laptops," he said. "These perimeter-centric approaches to security ignore the fact that information and the people that use it are in constant motion. When data or people move outside the protected perimeters, they are left unprotected."
Many industry analysts believe that organizations must acknowledge the convergence of security and information management and recognize that security boils down to managing the relationship between people and data an approach dubbed information-centric security. This approach allows IT organizations to secure their critical assets by protecting information directly, while enabling secure information access from all locations and managing security information to ease the burden of compliance.