Going above and beyond

Selected by five Network World contributors, these category-breaking products raise the bar with their novel approaches to solving today's enterprise challenges.

The category breaker: Symantec's Backup Exec 10d for Windows Servers

The columnist: Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research, "Eye on the Carriers" columnist

What makes this product so special? By way of background, in October 2005, Symantec introduced Backup Exec 10d for Windows Servers. Backup Exec includes a tool called Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server that provides disk-to-disk backup of updated versions of files, and a built-in search engine that lets users search for restored data by content and file name.

The product was developed by Veritas (acquired by Symantec in December 2004) and joins a lineup of continuous data protection (CDP) solutions from major vendors, including IBM (which recently announced Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files) and Microsoft (which recently made available its long-awaited Disk Protection Manager), as well as start-ups. CDP start-ups include Mendocino Software (licensed and supported by EMC), XOsoft (available through BMC Software), Lasso Logic (recently acquired by SonicWall), Mimosa Systems, Storactive, TimeSpring Software, FalconStor Software, InMage Systems, Kashya , LiveVault and Revivio.

Although Backup Exec 10d joins a crowded field, it represents a milestone for two key reasons. First, as an offering provided by a major vendor, it highlights the mainstream emergence of CDP as a key trend in business continuance. With CDP, business-continuity planning is becoming less about periodic batch backups of centrally stored data, and more about ongoing management and availability of information across the enterprise in real time.

Second, Symantec's move highlights another significant trend toward enterprisewide information stewardship, a holistic approach to information protection and security, data-quality management, information life-cycle management (ILM), business continuance and compliance. In a recent Nemertes benchmark, 87% of participants said they consider effective information stewardship vital to the organization - and a backup/ILM product offered by a security vendor is uniquely positioned to combine information protection with ILM and business continuance.

Given that it's offered by a security vendor, Backup Exec 10d marks a transition point in data and information management: positioning backup not in isolation, but as part of an overarching information stewardship architecture, which enterprises say they desperately lack. The overwhelming majority - 86% - of enterprises that participated in the recent Nemertes benchmark on information stewardship said their organizations' infrastructure was insufficient to support their information stewardship needs. Better and more integrated ways of protecting data (against corruption and loss) rank high in these enterprises' wish lists of needed infrastructure.

Information stewardship takes into account a user's need to locate information rather than just data, something Backup Exec delivers through its integrated search engine. Additionally, with information stewardship comes the goal of ensuring that information is not only available, but also accurate and uncorrupted. Symantec, a leader in integrated anti-malware, is uniquely positioned to help enterprises achieve this goal. Although the company has not yet integrated its anti-malware technology into its back-up software, doing so is an obvious next step.

Backup Exec 10d and Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server protect files by continuously saving them to disk. The tools also let users recover lost files by entering keywords into a search engine, which automatically locates the files. Although every change to the file is recorded, historic data is available only at specific intervals (for example, a user can dial back to the file's state at, say, 9 p.m., but not to that at 8:54 p.m.). Thus, some purists categorize the product as "near-CDP" rather than true CDP, which allows dial-back to an arbitrary point in time. Products that offer true CDP include Revivio and Storactive, among others. For users, however, both near- and true-CDP solutions mark a shift away from envisioning backup as an episodic occurrence and toward an approach that integrates backup into a broader information stewardship and data-protection architecture.

Who's using it? Leading-edge advocates of information stewardship in general, and CDP in particular, include professional services firms, particularly those managing a great deal of customer data. Companies subject to compliance constraints also tend to lead in information stewardship initiatives, because compliance concerns make logging and auditing capabilities, and the ability to search and retrieve older copies of files, more critical. These kinds of companies are on the forefront when it comes to understanding the need for information stewardship overall, and in particular in grasping the significance of integrated solutions that combine functions such as information protection with backup and ILM.

A case in point is Berdon, a New York accounting firm that uses Backup Exec and finds particular value in Symantec/Veritas' ability to provide integrated solutions for managing the company's data.

How much will it cost the enterprise, on average? Symantec Backup Exec 10d and the Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server are priced from $795 per server. The Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server is included at no additional cost with Backup Exec 10d. A Continuous Protection Starter Kit, including Backup Exec 10d, Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server and three Continuous Protection Agents, starts at $995.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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