Disk-Based Backup Does Not Equate to VTL; Insights from Day 1 at Storage Decisions in Chicago

This week I was back on the road again for a short trip to Chicago (short for me anyway since I am from Omaha) to attend the annual spring Storage Decisions conference put on by TechTarget.

Despite some of the rumors that were floating around that user attendance was down and not as many vendors were in attendance, I did not necessarily find that the case. I ran into Lindsay Mullen, TechTarget’s event coordinator, in the exhibit hall. She said that about 550 end-users had registered for the event and that she still expected another small influx of end-users on Wednesday. Also, in talking to other analysts and TechTarget editors who were in attendance, they said that all of the break-out sessions were full. The number of vendors exhibiting did, however, seem to be down from years past but not as much as I anticipated. Off-hand, I am guessing that the number of vendors exhibiting was about two-thirds of past events.

For me, the first day had a decided NEC flair to it. I arrived mid-afternoon on Tuesday and met first with NEC’s Karen Dutch. Though I know Karen quite well and she and I speak often, there were a couple of salient points that came out of our briefing. The first was that as she speaks to end-users, she finds that there is a tendency among end-users to lump all disk-based backup products into the virtual tape library (VTL) category. Having been guilty of making that assumption myself in the past, it’s easy for me to believe that other end-users are falling into the same trap. However, based upon my observations and trends I am seeing the market, I would venture to say that there is a definite trend away from VTLs and towards using disk-based appliances configured as NAS. Even vendors like Overland Storage who predominantly provide VTLs are examining the possibility of releasing a NAS-based interface.

The other topic that Karen and I discussed at length was the willingness of enterprise users to accept the NEC HYDRAstor’s disk-based NAS interface. NEC definitely has the enterprise in mind with the HYDRAstor but I have wondered if enterprises were ready to make the jump from VTL to a disk-based backup appliance configured as NAS. Karen said she had had that concern as well but so far that concern has not born out. Though NEC has a version of the HYDRAstor that is configured as a block-based VTL ready for testing, so far it has not found the need to bring a VTL-based version of the HYDRAstor to market.

Following my briefing with Karen, I stopped by the exhibit hall for a couple of hours to see who was exhibiting and catch up on the latest industry buzz. While grabbing a bite to eat, I ended up sitting with Greg Schulz from Storage I/O, We were sitting across from the HP booth so it naturally followed that we would talk about HP’s acquisition of EDS. Having heard about the acquisition on Monday night, I already had a day to mull it over and thought the acquisition made sense. Greg concurred. He felt that HP had a solid insourcing model for those companies who wanted to keep most of their computer management in-house but still needed the more traditional break/fix support that HP current offers. By acquiring EDS, HP now gains access to an outsourcing model for those companies that want to outsource components of their IT infrastructure that are not strategic to their core business. These companies can now turn to HP for both of those functions, something they could not do in the past.

Next up was the evening event that was hosted by NEC (hence the NEC flair to my Day 1 on Storage Decisions). During this event, I was seated next to an end-user from Davenport, IA, and we got to talking about what I saw as the hottest thing in storage right now. I told him that the evolution of data protection software to data management software is probably the most encouraging trend going on. Whenever I speak to users of Asigra Televaulting or the CommVault Simpana Suite, these users are almost universally telling me that they have moved beyond the day-to-day fire drill of troubleshooting backups to focusing on data management and data recovery. That statement obviously struck a chord with this user. He uses Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and he said that he wished he was at that point with backup because he still spends a lot of time struggling with backup and recoveries.

Stay tuned for more insight and info on Storage Decisons Chicago in tomorrow’s blog entry.

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