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Four Data Protection and Storage Trends for 2012

About a month ago I started to put some thought and research into what might emerge as the top trends of 2012 by keeping a notebook next to my keyboard so as ideas struck me I could jot them down. Now as I look at the four trends that made today’s short list, they ended up being on the surface ones that I hear, write and talk about every day.

What intrigued me about this list is that even though each of the technologies mentioned in these four (4) trends is familiar to most individuals close to data storage and data protection, these technologies are evolving at their core to reflect the world in which we now live.

Trend #1 – NAS appliances become cloud storage gateways. NAS filers are still as fundamental to today’s business processes as networking, phones, and printers so I do not see the concept of file sharing going away this year. However there are definitely movements afoot to change how file sharing is delivered in enterprises and unstructured data is stored.

This transition from NAS filers being delivered as purpose-built appliances to cloud storage gateways is the first and biggest step toward making this reality. I see two technologies coalescing to make this a reality.

First is the introduction of Ultrabooks. Granted, this is a consumer oriented technology and is a term that we really just started hearing a great deal about this week. However Intel is putting a lot of marketing dollars into making Ultrabooks the new business laptop. A side effect of this will be the continued erosion of SSD prices. These will likely find their way into cloud gateway appliances resulting in higher performing yet lower cost solutions.

The second is the maturing of cloud storage operating systems. Be it public, private or hybrid storage clouds, cloud storage is going main stream and it is easier than ever to deploy a cloud storage gateway into one’s environment that keeps all data in the cloud locally while caching more frequently accessed data locally. The explosive growth that enterprise cloud provider Nirvanix has seen and continues to experience suggests to me that the time is now for such a transition to occur.

Trend #2 – Archiving is poised to move out of the back alleys and into the main stream. This trend is almost inextricably linked to the first trend I mention but I highlight it separately as it helps to further explain why the transition from NAS appliances to cloud storage gateways is inevitable.

In my conversations with vendors, they are often convinced of the value of archiving. However what they seem to continually fail to take into account is that it is the users who are the ones who have to ultimately manage archiving, not them. As such, for archiving to really take off vendors had to first come up with a mechanism to simplify and automate archiving without it becoming something else that end-users had to manage.

This has essentially occurred with the introduction of cloud storage gateways. These gateways give users a NAS target where they can dump infinite amounts of data and have the price per GB stay flat or even decrease over time by controlling via policy where data is placed as it ages, users get what they want: a file sharing target with adequate or even greater performance than they had before that magically archives their data in the background without them having to intervene to manually move it into the cloud. This is another reason why archiving and cloud storage is poised to explode in 2012.

Trend #3 – Backup appliances. The rationale as to why backup appliances are taking off is clear. The consumerization of enterprise IT is well under way and organizations are becoming more inclined to buy a preconfigured appliance that has the backup software and hardware they need as one. This is why companies like EMC and Symantec are reporting such an overwhelming warm reception of their solutions in the large enterprise space and others like Revinetix are having such success in the small and midsize enterprise space.

Trend #4 – The end of backup accompanied by the beginning of recovery. I remember talking to a Tivoli sales rep years ago when I was attending a conference in San Francisco and he told me at that time, “Backup is unimportant. Recovery is where the rubber meets the road.”  That thought has stuck with me ever since even though it seems the industry has been consumed with trying to fix backup over the last decade.

2012 should be the year where the rubber finally hits the road and the transition to recovery occurs in mass. Backup to disk, deduplication and the growing use of snapshots and replication software are resulting in fundamental changes to how users view the backup and recovery process. As I talk to them, fewer talk about the problems associated with backup and more are focusing on what they can do with the data they have previously backed up.

Case in point is a conversation that I had just a little over a month ago with Andy Pace, the CTO of SingleHop, a Chicago based cloud provider. SingleHop is using R1Soft CDP to do automated, no touch backups for nearly 1600 servers and 80 TBs of data.

But what is more notable is that when SingleHop’s clients need to restore an application, SingleHop can use R1Soft CDP rollback to a previous point in time and do on demand full application restores. I rarely if ever had conversations like that with anyone even as recently as a few years ago.


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