2011 is shaping up to be a point of demarcation for how enterprise data is managed and protected. But in making that claim I cannot point to any specific analyst study or market survey to support it. Rather it is my sense that enterprise organizations can no longer ignore or put off their need to better manage, protect and recover their data. So when I see new releases like today’s CommVault® Simpana® 9 and the features that it has packed into it, I see it ushering in the new era of enterprise data management, protection and recovery that these enterprise organizations crave.
What makes this release of CommVault Simpana 9 special as compared to its competitors or even previous releases of Simpana is that it is more than just an introduction of new features. Yes, it now offers new source side deduplication, broadens its snapshot support to include over 75% of the market leading enterprise storage arrays, extends its cloud support and further enhances its integration with VMware to facilitate auto discovery of VMs.
But other data management and protection software products offer many of these same features to greater or lesser degrees. So while these are certainly key enhancements to Simpana, they primarily help CommVault maintain its leading position in the market.
Simpana 9’s real differentiator and why it is helping to usher in a new era of enterprise data management, protection and recovery has much more to do with how it makes it possible for enterprises to take advantage of these features.
For instance, when a user enables the new source side deduplication feature on Simpana 9, the client will only send data over the wire that is net new unique to the server or the environment. The client does this by first scanning its data and then checking the hash marks of that data against that of the media server so only net new blocks of data are transmitted.
It is at this point that some of CommVault’s differentiators come into play that is not always evident to the casual observer. As new or existing servers are brought under Simpana 9’s management, they can be put into pre-existing groups that each has its own set of policies.
So rather than an administrator having to first install and then turn on source side deduplication on all of the servers in that group, as servers are added to that group Simpana 9 automatically installs its iData agent on each server and enables the source-side deduplication on that client.
Possibly a better illustration of how this works is with CommVault Simpana 9’s extended support for snapshots on storage arrays. One of the bugaboos of end-users working with storage array snapshot technology is taking full advantage of the snapshot feature. While users tend to initially be excited about the new backup and recovery possibilities that snapshots create, the time and effort involved with implementing them for even a few applications quickly curb their enthusiasm for doing them for any more than the few applications that require them.
Simpana 9 eliminates this hassle as it takes the same approach of applying snapshot policies to servers in specific pools. By leveraging its prior support for EMC, NetApp, HDS and Dell storage systems; adding new support for HP, IBM, and LSI models; and, introducing its own Open Snap API framework so that storage array vendors not yet supported by Simpana 9 can be brought under its management, CommVault essentially makes taking advantage of any storage array snapshot feature a snap.
Now any application server that uses one of these backend storage systems to store its production data and is under Simpana 9’s management can have a policy applied to it so that snapshots are automatically taken on the storage array of its data. This removes the overhead associated with doing the backup from the production server while re-assigning the snapshot to a proxy server that can then mount the snapshot and use it for recovery or copy it off to disk or tape.
However Simpana 9 goes much further than just automating the generation and management of snapshots on these storage systems. Since Simpana 9 has previously placed its iData agents on these servers to generate application consistent snapshots, once the snapshots are mounted on another server, these can be used as sources for recovery, for backing up to a secondary disk or tape target or even indexed at a very granular level such as at a mailbox or SharePoint document level if doing data mining or search.
But maybe what is most notable about Simpana 9 is that it addresses possibly one of the largest unspoken reasons why enterprise customers avoid switching to CommVault in the first place: the cost, pain and risk associated with making such a change.
CommVault tells me that none of its existing 12,000+ customers were a “green field” opportunity. In other words, they all had another competitive product installed before switching to CommVault and had to navigate the transition from their existing solution to CommVault on their own. So while they did the work, the work, cost and risk associated with making this transition has likely been a barrier for many others in making the switch to CommVault.
So to address these largely unspoken customer concerns, Simpana 9 is introducing a “Fast Pass” option that removes much of the cost, pain and risk associated with switching from either NetBackup or TSM to Simpana 9.
Simpana 9 provides an SRM style agent that can be installed on a NetBackup or TSM master server. This agent discovers and extracts all of the meta-data information associated with the clients that they protect and then aligns them exactly with how a CommVault implementation would look.
In so doing, customers know exactly what CommVault agents (Exchange, SharePoint, Oracle, etc.) that they need to install on each server and how many they will need across their enterprise. Further, with CommVault’s new capacity-based licensing option, they can install whatever agents they need since CommVault now makes all of its agents available at the same flat per TB fee.
Enterprise organizations are dealing with an entirely new range of forces such as cloud computing, inexpensive network, server and storage hardware, virtualization and constantly changing shifts in business direction. These drivers are forcing them to fundamentally change how they manage, protect and recover their applications in this new environment.
So it might be premature to say that 2011 will be the year that the majority of enterprise organization will make that change but it is clear most are looking to make such a change sooner rather than later. This is why CommVault Simpana 9 with its source side deduplication, enhanced snapshot management and new Fast Pass enabler certainly looks poised to make its mark as it now makes it easier for these enterprises to say yes than put off the decision.
Further, its Fast Pass enabler alone may be the catalyst that helps to usher in this new era of data management, protection and recovery because if its competitors do not keep pace with similar technology, they will likely find themselves on the outside looking in as their customers make the switch to Simpana 9.