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Copying grows along with data, driving attempts to rein it in

Stephen Lawson | June 4, 2013
There are reasons to duplicate data, but it can get out of hand, analysts say.

Actifio was an early entrant to this space, introducing its object-based distributed file system in 2010, but bigger names are starting to take notice, Nadkami said. Last year, Hitachi Data Systems introduced a data-instance manager to administer data copies across its own storage platforms, and it's likely other major storage players will step in, he said.

There are already a variety of products for making data protection more efficient, such as NetApp's FlexClone software and CommVault's Simpana system. Data deduplication, which accounts for identical data so only new bits are copied, is used in many storage platforms.

Actifio's technology, which is available in appliances for internal use and indirectly through service providers, is designed to let enterprises use the same copy of a given piece of data for many different purposes. When an employee or an application requests data that's been backed up, Actifio can make a virtual copy of it without duplicating the entire chunk of data and putting that on primary storage, said Ash Ashutosh, Actifio's CEO.

The system isn't limited to creating just that one copy, Ashutosh said. Customers can prescribe any number of copies of a given piece of data, including extra copies on tape or in remote locations, he said. IT administrators can use Actifio to set specific service levels for each type of data. The system is compatible with any vendor's storage equipment and any operating system or virtualization platform, though not on mainframes, he said. To make copies, it works directly with applications rather than with primary storage platforms, Ashutosh said.

EMC, the dominant provider of purpose-built backup appliances, thinks old backup practices have been the main culprit in producing excess copy data. Newer backup systems have largely solved the problem just by using deduplication, said Rob Emsley, senior director of product marketing for EMC's Backup Recovery Systems Division. EMC's own backup systems work with other vendors' platforms for primary storage, Emsley said.

Though deduplication can save some storage capacity, EMC's approach perpetuates the inefficiencies of conventional backup, said Andrew Gilman, Actifio's senior director of marketing. Because it creates copies in backup that need to be shifted to primary storage when needed, EMC's technology drives the need for more storage capacity, he said.

Some users of Actifio say it has cut down on the share of their storage capacity that's dedicated to copy data. That's important to them because the amount of underlying data from which those copies are made continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Bua, at Admirals Bank, said the portion of his storage capacity that's devoted to copy data has fallen from more than 30 percent to less than 5 percent since the bank adopted Actifio almost a year ago. Yet Bua forecasts his company will add about 24TB of capacity this year just as it has in the past few years.

 

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