Backup Restore

Protecting personal data

This blog primarily focuses on protecting corporate data, but I recently received a call from my father that reminded me of the criticality of protecting personal data. My father called expressing frustration that his laptop hard drive had failed and corrupted his data. Fortunately, he had backup copies of his most critical files on a USB stick; however, his email history and address book were not stored on the external device and were lost. I mention this story to remind you of the importance of personal data protection. What are you doing to backup your data?

There are many different approaches to protecting personal data. The two key concerns to consider are:

  1. What happens if I lose the hard drive where my data is stored or experience a software problem such as a virus?
  2. What happens if I suffer a more extreme data loss such as my house burning down?

Each question is critical, and the answer will vary depending on the data. For example, digital pictures of your family might have a different priority than your MP3 library. The former is irreplaceable and the latter is not. These priorities will impact the chosen data protection medium and methodology.


My experience with social media and the Super Bowl

Last Sunday I thoroughly enjoyed watching the hard fought Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. It was a close game until the very end when the Saints made a critical interception. Interestingly, one of my lasting memories from the game relates to social media.

I watched the first half of the game with my friends with no thought of social media. The half time show was headlined by The Who, and as the band started, my first thought was, “these guys are unimpressive; I must tweet about it.” I retrieved my Blackberry, starting tweeting with SocialScope and engaged in a lively discussion with my twitter comrades about the merits of the band. As the second half started, the topic moved to the game and the performance of the two teams. It was great seeing a diverse range comments and perspectives.

In summary, my Twitter interactions improved my Super Bowl viewing experience. Some people are skeptical about the value of social media and this scenario is a microcosm of the benefits of the new medium. Where else can you create relationships with people with a common interest that transcends geographic boundaries? I continue to be impressed with the many smart people I meet on Twitter and suggest that my readers try it out. You can find my full Twitter profile here.

Deduplication Virtual Tape

The Demise of the NearStore VTL: A historical perspective

Rumors have been circulating for months about the demise of NetApp’s VTL offering. Today, Beth Pariseau from SearchDataBackup published the first public confirmation that development on the product has ceased. It is not a surprise, but makes for an interesting case study.

NetApp acquired VTL technology with their purchase of Alacritus for $11 million back in 2005. Alacritus provided a software only VTL solution that ran on a Linux platform. Their product specifications appeared impressive, but they had limited success in the US. Our partners in Asia saw them more frequently. For NetApp, the acquisition made sense because it represented a relatively cost-effective entry into the rapidly growing VTL market. However, as in most things, the difficulties were in the details.

NetApp’s core intellectual property is their ONTAP operating system and associated WAFL filesystem. These components provide the intelligence and value-added features of their arrays. The challenge for NetApp after acquiring Alacritus was the integration of the two technologies.

Backup Physical Tape Restore

Tale of the Tape: Musings on IBM’s 35TB Tape Announcement

A recent tweet by Chris Mellor from The Register caught my eye. He highlighted IBM’s recent development of a 35TB tape. Here are four articles on the topic:


FUJIFILM Announcement

The Register Article

A blog post by Robin Harris at ZDnet

My thoughts

It is interesting to see IBM/Fuji driving tape development. With this announcement they have increased native tape capacity over 21x from LTO-5, the newest LTO offering. The dramatic density improvement will drive a continued decrease specification-based $/GB. However it also raises some new questions:



Four Must Ask Questions About Metadata and Deduplication

When backing up data to a deduplication system, two types of data are generated. The first comprises objects being protected such as the Word documents, databases or Exchange message stores. These files will be deduplicated and for simplicity I will call this “object storage”. The second type of data generated is metadata. This is information that is used by the deduplication software to recognize redundancies and potentially re-hydrate data in the case of restoration. These two types of data are critical and are typically required for writing the data to the system and potentially reading data. Here are four key questions that you should ask about protecting metadata.

Physical Tape

Musings on the Spectra Logic T-Finity Announcement

Last week Spectra Logic unveiled the T-Finity, a new high-end tape library that is one of the largest and most scalable units in the industry.  The system can grow to 30,000 tape slots and 480 drives and it creates some interesting questions.

As data backup and recovery SLAs have become more stringent, end users have migrated rapidly to disk-based technologies.  Deduplication also adds value by reducing $/GB and required disk capacity although the technology can negatively impact backup and recovery performance.  These two trends have combined to reduce the requirements for physical tape and many tape vendors are seeing declining revenues.  This is not to say that tape is dead, it is very much in use and will be for the foreseeable future, but the use model has changed.  Physical tape is typically used for very long-term data archival where multi-year retention is not uncommon.


Bye, bye EDL/DL3D 1500/3000, it was nice knowing you

The email below appeared in my inbox yesterday.  The EDL/DL3D 1500/3000 has officially been discontinued.  It was obvious from the moment EMC purchased Data Domain that the Quantum stuff was dead, but it took time for EMC to finally admit this.  The strongest statement came in Frank Slootman’s TechTarget interview.  Clearly the EMC/QTM relationship was a rocky one from the beginning and so the outcome is not surprising.

Deduplication Marketing

Data Domain keynote at SNW – Slootman’s surprising response

I attended multiple keynote and breakout sessions at SNW last week, but my busy meeting schedule conflicted with many of the morning sessions. I was able to attend to Data Domain’s talk given by Frank Slootman and wanted to provide some commentary.

The bulk of the session was boring and included what appeared to be a standard corporate slide deck which I am sure any salesperson could present in their sleep.  The presentation could be summarized with Data Domain’s usual message: inline deduplication is good and everything else is bad, and, of course, Data Domain’s deduplication is the best.  I was definitely hoping for something more interesting and was sorely disappointed; however, things changed when it came to the Q&A.

Just to provide a bit of background, my experience with SNW is described here.  There were a large number of end users in attendance both at the expo and the keynote sessions and I estimate that many of the show’s 900 end users were in attendance for this talk.  At the end of the planned remarks, Slootman opened the floor to questions.

Deduplication Marketing

SNW Recap

I returned from SNW in Phoenix last night and wanted to recap the event.  I had 10+ meetings at the show and there were multiple sessions and so am providing my perspectives on the event in general and the sessions I did attend.

Deduplication remains hot and still confuses many
I attended 5 different sessions on deduplication.  The content overlapped quite a bit and yet all but one of them was full.  The presentation in all cases focused primarily on deduplication and data protection.  I heard that there was a great panel discussion on primary storage deduplication which I unfortunately missed. Clearly, primary storage dedupe was not ignored, but it appeared that data protection remained the focus of the dedupe sessions.

Anecdotally, the most common deduplication question related to the difference between target and source deduplication.  It also appeared that deduplication adoption was limited.  When asked who was using some form of deduplication about 50% of the audience raised their hand, but when queried about system size, hands went down rapidly at around 10-15 TB.

The key takeaway is that deduplication remains a strong point of interest.  It appears that end users are still trying to understand the technology and how to implement it on a larger scale.

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Lessons from the Sidekick debacle

The latest scary backup story comes from a firm called Danger that makes the Sidekick PDA/phone. The Sidekick stores the majority of its data in a central data center and the data is loaded each time to the phone is restarted. The idea is that the data center provides protection if you lose your phone. A good idea, right?  Well yes, assuming that Danger adequately protects its customers’ data.

A number of outlets are reporting that Danger suffered a catastrophic data loss and all users’ data has been lost. I checked with a family friend who confirmed that her Sidekick was down for a week and is now finally working as a phone, but her data is inaccessible.  This is unacceptable; Sidekick users paid a monthly fee for this service and Danger should have maintained reasonable precautions to protect their customers data.  Clearly this is a bad situation for everyone, and lessons to be learned by all.

Here are some key takeaways from this event.