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Symantec Shows Backup Exec a Little Dedupe Love; Lays out Source Side Deduplication Roadmap

Over the last few years, it is understandable why Symantec Backup Exec users may have felt a little unloved as deduplication has proliferated throughout the backup space. While NetBackup, its data protection product for the enterprise space, was getting all sorts of deduplication capabilities, the best that Backup Exec users could say was, “Hey, we can deduplicate data using 3rd party deduplication appliances.”

Today’s announcement from Symantec changes that. Backup Exec users now have some assurance that they will soon be able to leverage a greater number of deduplication solutions available from both Symantec and its partners and then centrally manage them using Backup Exec. However the announcement also laid down a roadmap for how source side deduplication could become the lynchpin for Symantec to help users to achieve better and cheaper data and storage management capabilities in the not too distant future.

Over the last few years Symantec has been acquiring and/or developing the technologies that its customers need to deduplicate data and/or manage deduplication at various points in the infrastructure:

  • Using Symantec’s Enterprise Vault, organizations can deduplicate archived emails and files.
  • Using Symantec’s NetBackup PureDisk, organizations can deduplicate backup data on either the client server or on the NetBackup media server.
  • Using Symantec’s NetBackup OpenStorage API (OST), organizations can use NetBackup to manage deduplicated data on a growing number of 3rd party deduplication appliances that are provided by Symantec’s partners (Data Domain, FalconStor and Quantum, to name a few).

Yet as these points make plain, Symantec’s attention has primarily been focused on NetBackup to deliver and/or manage deduplication at the different points in the process. That’s great if you are an existing or potential NetBackup customer but it certainly left its sizeable Backup Exec user base wondering if and when they would get a little dose of the dedupe love that Symantec has up to now primarily showered on NetBackup.

That love fest with Backup Exec (at least in part) starts today. In this announcement Symantec lay out its roadmap for delivering data deduplication as a core component of Backup Exec 2010 that is due out later in 2009. As part of the 2010 release, Symantec plans to port some of the existing data deduplication features already found in NetBackup PureDisk to Backup Exec such that it actually leapfrogs NetBackup in the near term by providing native support for client-side deduplication, media server deduplication and support for data deduplication on 3rd party devices using OST. (Symantec indicated that it plans to include these features in the next major NetBackup release.)

The announcement today did not completely leave NetBackup or NetBackup PureDisk out of the picture. A minor version release (6.5.4) of NetBackup that is available now enables NetBackup to protect Microsoft Hyper-V server virtualization environments in a manner that is on par with VMware vSphere environments while also supporting the creation of virtual synthetic backups on OST managed devices. (This is the ability to create a full backup image from past incremental backups done to disk.) On the NetBackup PureDisk side, Symantec will improve PureDisk’s capabilities for the deduplication of virtual machine images and will offer a new virtual appliance option.

An interesting side note that came out of my briefing was Symantec’s increasing push for organizations to become more efficient in their data and storage management by archiving emails and files and using Symantec Enterprise Vault to deduplicate backup data when possible at the source (on the application client). Symantec has always advocated that its customers be proactive in their data and storage management practices to minimize unnecessary storage purchases so that is nothing new.

Customers tend to view it is as easier and possibly cheaper  to just buy more storage than trying to manage it. But archiving with Enterprise Vault may pay for itself in as little as six months and it reduces the capital cost of adding more storage. So as Symantec deploys source side data deduplication across its different product lines and customers come to better understand the value of archiving, its data and storage management message may better resonate with more users.

The major news today is that Symantec has finally formalized its roadmap to roll native data deduplication capabilities and management features into Backup Exec. This alleviates any questions its current users may have had as to when Backup Exec would support data deduplication and will likely keep them loyal to Symantec.

On a larger scale Symantec is making a push to enable users to manage data closer to where it resides and the incorporation of deduplication into Backup Exec is just one part of that strategy. What will be interesting to watch going forward is if source-side deduplication will eventually serve as the tipping point for users to stop buying more storage and lead them to better manage their data and storage environment as source-side dedupe makes it more cost-effective and easier to do so.


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