EMC Announces Updates to BRS Line (Data Domain, Avamar, NetWorker), Part Two

Today, EMC announced updates across their entire BRS (Backup and Recovery Solutions) line of products, adding new data protection features. Due to size, I’ve split my analysis of this announcement into two parts, as follows:

Part Two:  What It Means

[DISCLAIMER: My breakdown of the EMC announcement in Part One is based upon information from EMC, given to me under embargo until today. You can consider it information directly from EMC, seen from my point of view, and, as such, can count on high accuracy. Everything in Part Two, however, is all me. What follows here is pure speculation and thought exercises of my own. To judge the accuracy of Part Two, revisit it a year or two from now…]

In Part One, I focused on what was announced and how it will benefit EMC customers. Here, I’ll take a look at some things buried in the announcement, and speculate on what I read between the lines.

The Power of Three, redux

In May, at EMC World, Joe Tucci, Pat Gelsinger, and Paul Maritz officially announced their three-pronged plan to dominate the data center: the triple-threat presented by the combination of EMC, VMware, and the newly-launched Pivotal initiative.  Data storage, application virtualization, and data analytics, all working together.

Easily skipped-over in today’s announcement, EMC revealed their three-pronged roadmap to dominate backup and recovery as well. They’re calling it the Protection Storage Architecture. It’s built in three parts:

  • Protection Storage – cost-effective, consolidated pools of capacity-optimized storage with built-in data integrity features.
  • Data Source Integration – integrating backup and recovery with data sources (storage arrays, applications, the server virtualization layer) to improve performance and increase visibility for data owners.
  • Data Management Services – tools to work across the entire environment to provide a single view for discovery, monitoring, and policy-based management of backup and recovery.

EMC's Protection Storage Architecture

How will EMC build this architecture?

  • Protection Storage – It’s pretty clear from where I sit that EMC intends that Data Domain will be the foundation that this Protection Storage Architecture is built upon.
  • Data Source Integration – In the near-term this integration will be provided by several products as EMC hasn’t consolidated everything yet (more on that later). For now the integration is provided by a combination of the features in NetWorker, DD Boost, and Avamar. (You had noticed that the backup and recovery solution now built-in to VMware is Avamar code, right?)
  • Data Management Services – This is a little more complicated, as there’s a broad range of products to span, but I believe this will eventually be a combination of integration with VMware tools and Avamar.

The Case for Data Domain

It’s clear that EMC has been positioning Data Domain as the backup target and backup storage platform-of-choice for a while now, but more recently, EMC has made it clear that they also view Data Domain as the archive storage platform-of-choice.

Think about it. Remember Centera, EMC’s purpose-built archive appliance? When’s the last time you heard someone from EMC pushing it? You still hear EMC speaking about their other archive platform, Atmos, but it seems to have taken a back seat lately.

Instead, EMC has started to position Data Domain as the platform-of-choice for archive. Not convinced? It was right there in today’s announcement:

Data Domain for Backup and Archive Storage

And EMC’s not a company to do things in half-measures. I believe they’re very committed to the strategy of having Data Domain as the platform-of-choice for both backup and archive storage. Since EMC acquired Data Domain, it’s clear they’ve been committed to it as backup storage. Take a look below to see how committed they are to it as archive storage:

Archive Products Certified with Data Domain

The Case for Avamar

Back when EMC acquired Avamar, we all asked the same questions:

  • Doesn’t EMC already have a backup solution (NetWorker)?
  • How will EMC handle selling two potentially competitive backup products?
  • How will EMC manage to embrace Avamar without alienating or losing their NetWorker customer base?
  • Does this mean NetWorker’s days are numbered?

(In my opinion the short answers are: “Yes”, “the long, slow merge”, “reasonably well (I’d give them a ‘B-‘)”, and “Yes”.)

In the days following the Avamar acquisition, EMC assured its NetWorker customers that there was no reason to worry: NetWorker would remain and continue to be supported and developed.  In the long term, however, I believe Avamar wins and NetWorker slowly goes away.

If you look back over the last few years, Avamar has clearly received more developer attention than NetWorker.  New features come to Avamar first, then to NetWorker as if it’s an afterthought.  It was Avamar that was integrated with EMC’s backup-platform-of-choice first, and Avamar that received the DD Boost treatment first.  VMware Data Protection (VDP) is not built from NetWorker code. It’s all Avamar.

I predict EMC is moving to slowly merge the two products’ feature sets until Avamar eclipses/consumes/replaces NetWorker and becomes EMC’s sole backup offering in the future.

Don’t worry — it will be a long, slow process. Backup solutions are probably the most difficult thing in the data center to “rip and replace”. Even if the customer HATES their backup software, as long as it works it’s nearly impossible to get them to replace legacy backup systems. NetWorker customers love the product. I’ve talked with folks who have been using it since the pre-EMC days (EMC purchased LEGATO ten years ago), and they can’t imagine using anything else.

Not convinced? Look at the messaging around the hottest new features in NetWorker 8.1 — “Powered by Avamar”… What is that if not a plan to get NetWorker users to start thinking of their beloved backup software in an Avamar light?

EMC’s Commitment to Isilon

Since EMC acquired Isilon in 2010, one thing has been clear and keeps becoming clearer: EMC is 100% committed to the Isilon architecture and line of products. EMC has moved it to the same level in their portfolio as VNX and VMAX. If anything, VNX may start to take a back seat to Isilon.

EMC took their time pulling Isilon completely into the fold, letting Isilon run as a separate division for a while, but has now fully “EMC-ized” Isilon. They’re very insistent that it be called “EMC Isilon” — not “Isilon” — and if you go to isilon.com, you’re now redirected to a page on the EMC website that thanks you for visiting the “former Isilon website”.

EMC pushed Isilon sales training on their sales force, and that is now moving out to partners as well. The EMC Velocity “Consolidate” specialty used to focus on the VNX and VNXe product lines. This year, EMC partners will lose their “Consolidate” status unless they also certify on Isilon. Old Isilon certifications expire at the end of 2013 – only the new EMC-ized versions will be recognized after that.

Not convinced? In today’s announcement EMC brought out the one thing that Isilon was missing — an integrated backup solution — and they did it with both their backup-software-of-choice and their backup-storage-platform-of-choice.

Still not convinced? Look at the development commitment EMC’s brought to Isilon’s OneFS. Check out the new features coming to Isilon. Nothing new has come to VNX lately. In fact, the much-hyped “MegaLaunch 3” refresh of the VNX that was supposed to happen in April just… disappeared.

Still not convinced? Take a moment and reflect upon EMC’s commitment to VMware. It would be extremely understated to say that EMC has a strong commitment to VMware — both as a company and as a platform. Remember “Project Galileo”? This is where EMC gave demos of the ability to vMotion a running VM from a server to run on the compute and memory resources of the storage array itself. What’s the only platform they’ve ever demonstrated this capability on? You guessed it. Isilon.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s far too much demand for transactional and high-I/O block storage for Isilon to become EMC’s lone production-storage-platform-of-choice, but I believe it is becoming their file-storage-platform-of-choice.

(And don’t get me even further wrong — this isn’t a bad thing. It’s a perfectly fine thing. Since joining the partner community more that a year ago, I’ve spent more time hands-on on Isilon than I ever got to while I was at EMC, and it is a great platform.)

Where Does That Leave Us?

For years, the storage industry has been going through a consolidation process, as the bigger players have acquired both smaller players and startups. EMC has a broad enough portfolio that it’s a sort of microcosm of the storage industry all by itself, so it’s no surprise that EMC is going through a consolidation of their own.

I predict that the EMC product consolidation will lead to a thinning of the product portfolio, with the platforms-of-choice as follows:

  • Block storage – VMAX
  • File storage – Isilon
  • Backup and archive storage – Data Domain
  • Backup and recovery management – Avamar
  • Data replication – RecoverPoint

At least, those are the conclusions I draw looking at things now. How accurate are my predictions? Let’s check back here in two year’s time and see how it things turned out.

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One Response to EMC Announces Updates to BRS Line (Data Domain, Avamar, NetWorker), Part Two

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