A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the benefits of Symantec’s Open Storage Technology (OST). The technology enables accelerated disk-to-disk backups (D2D) primarily over IP connections and additional value-added features. Last week, EMC responded with their announcement of BOOST for NetWorker. Insiders have told me that the BOOST architecture is essentially the same as OST although the go-to-market strategy is very different. Of course a major difference is that OST has been shipping for over 3 years and BOOST will not be available until sometime in the second half of 2010.
As discussed previously, EMC/Data Domain was unable to create a true global deduplication solution so were forced to use OST to do the heavy lifting. Ironically, they could only support Symantec NetBackup and BackupExec with the new feature because NetWorker did not offer an advanced D2D interface. The BOOST announcement addressed the issues, but raises new questions. Specifically, BOOST is positioned as an EMC only solution, and it is unclear if the API will be shared with other vendors. In my opinion, this creates a challenge for EMC/Data Domain and NetWorker. Let’s look at how the situation impacts a variety of interested parties.
Choice is critical. Customers’ needs vary widely and want the flexibility to choose the right solution for their environment. OST supports a range of choices from SMB-centric solutions to large systems targeted at enterprise datacenters. The offerings vary on numerous metrics including price, performance, scalability and reliability. SEPATON’s VTL offerings provide the fastest performance with the ability to ingest data at over 17 TB/hr and we will provide similar performance leadership with OST. If you want the highest performance D2D backups while using NetWorker, then Data Domain is your only choice. Fortunately, SEPATON’s VTL performance is maintained in NetWorker environments and so customers will have a high performance Fibre Channel option. But if you want an IP-based backup, then BOOST’s exclusively support of Data Domain is limiting. If you want choice and the ability to compare different solutions on an even playing field, you can’t have it with NetWorker. This puts the application at a competitive disadvantage versus NetBackup.
BOOST brings a much needed improvement to NetWorker’s disk-based backup functionality, but unfortunately these benefits are limited to the Data Domain platform. If you compare NetWorker and NetBackup, the openness of OST is a clear advantage. Of course this is just one of many features, but it appears that NetWorker has not improved its competitive positioning in this area.
EMC has historically been a storage centric company, and BOOST’s exclusive support of Data Domain reflects this heritage. By opening the API only to their own products, EMC is giving Data Domain a competitive advantage in IP-based backup performance. From EMC’s perspective this is good because it could drive up adoption and lock in of Data Domain. This may well be true for existing NetWorker customers; however, for customers thinking about moving to NetWorker, this “lock-in” limitation could hurt adoption.
In summary, EMC’s strategy with BOOST is all about vendor lock-in. They do not want to support third party platforms or an open architecture; instead they are forcing customers to purchase Data Domain solutions. Clearly driving more Data Domain sales is good for EMC, but the lack of choice is bad for customers. At best, BOOST maintain NetWorker’s competitive position versus NetBackup. OST’s support of multiple platforms is a compelling differentiator and competing software ISVs will compete aggressively using the mantra of openness. I believe that the lock-in strategy will ultimately hurt NetWorker marketshare and competitiveness.
Disclosure: SEPATON is an EMC NetWorker partner and we fully support NetWorker environments both with VTL and deduplication.