EMC’s Backup Journey to the Future

The recent EMC Backup Recovery Systems (BRS) product launch covered a dizzying array of interesting BRS product announcements. Amongst these announcements was the unveiling of the final phase of the total hardware and software integration of their market leading Avamar and Data Domain purpose built backup appliance offerings. In short, Data Domain disk appliances can now be leveraged as a target backup device for third party backup applications, various BOOST enabled applications and now all Avamar generated deduplication backup workloads.

BOOSTing the Data Domain Mid-Range Series

EMC will continue to support Avamar hardware grids for the foreseeable future, however, EMC BRS clients will be able to leverage a consolidated backup deduplication hardware architecture to simplify backup operations and reduce costs. Additionally, with the announcement of the newly refreshed Data Domain mid-range appliance series, BRS customers can implement Data Domain systems that have 4x the performance, 10x the scalability and support for 3x the number of concurrent data streams compared to the previous generation. Moreover, by maintaining the same pricing structure as the previous generation, EMC estimates that end users can save up to 38% on a dollar per GB basis when deploying the new mid-range appliance series.

By introducing the Intel Sandy Bridge controller on the new mid-range appliance series, EMC claims their customers will be able to significantly improve backup performance, improve storage density and increase data stream counts so that both backup and archiving workloads can be sent to the same appliance. The new performance and storage density capabilities of this refresh buttresses the prior claims made by Data Domain that their architecture could ride the Intel wave to produce continual product enhancements, without resorting to increased disk spindle counts.

The new DD2500, 4200, 4500 and 7200 will replace the 640, 670, 860 and 890 respectively. The current enterprise class DD990 platform will remain in place.


With data growth rates showing no signs of abating, the Data Domain Stream Informed Segment Layout (SISL) architecture design is a key competitive differentiator for helping data center environments maintain high backup storage density, while keeping backup windows in check. Furthermore, the portability of Data Domain BOOST to empower application administrators to maintain backup command and control of sensitive business data, is an important mechanism for enabling IT to dismantle highly silo’d islands of discrete, monolithic backup pools with a shared backup infrastructure that stores data in native application format.

For example, approximately one year ago, EMC’s BRS division announced native support between BOOST and Oracle RMAN. This capability allows Oracle administrators to leverage RMAN’s Oracle specific data protection feature/functionality while leveraging Data Domain BOOST based deduplication and replication. This provides for a common backup storage repository which dramatically speeds up backup windows, simplifies operations, lowers costs and enhances data recoverability.

EMC has now extended BOOST support for SAP on Oracle and Oracle Exadata primary storage systems while adding support for SAP Hanna via NFS.

Accidental Architecture Abatement

When application end users are effectively barred from making any choices outside of what IT presents to them, multiple “roll your own” or “bring your own backup” (BYOB) systems can start to permeate data center infrastructure. Referred to by EMC as the “accidental architecture”, this may increase data center costs and potentially make IT less relevant to the organization.

EMC claims their focus on driving backup innovation into the data source or application layer is a dramatic departure from traditional approaches which orient backup control monopolistically to the IT managed backup application. Alternatively, by providing seamless access to a common pool of backup resources through existing data source backup tools like Oracle RMAN and SAP, IT can actually increase backup efficiencies, enhance service levels and help foster end user adoption of IT sponsored “data protection as a service” catalogue offerings.

vSphere Console Control

Another important example of innovating at the data source layer, is EMC’s newly announced support for utilizing the vSphere web client to control Avamar backup and restore processes. This new capability allows virtual machine administrators to independently manage and control VM backups directly from within the vSphere management console and what’s more, end users can perform self-service data recoveries from within the same web user interface.

VM images stored on Data Domain devices can now be restored directly to a new VM image or optionally, may be booted directly off the Data Domain appliance itself, creating a new VM instance. Furthermore, to ensure that newly created VMs will not be inadvertently left unprotected from the backup process, Avamar will now automatically apply the same backup policies that apply to existing VMs to new VMs immediately upon creation – providing further service automation for virtualized infrastructure.

Storage Swiss Take

EMC points back to their $5B investment in the acquisition and innovation of backup technologies over the last five years as helping to fuel their market leadership position in the data protection market space. The transformation of their backup storage architecture portfolio to address a wide array of use cases while sharing command and control across multiple functional business groups within IT, is an important development. It should allow IT organizations to compete for their internal customer business in an increasingly boundary-less, cloud driven IT landscape.

While EMC’s BRS product enhancements are notable and in some cases, quite impressive, there still remains a dearth of innovation incorporating technologies that fall outside of the EMC affiliated camp – like competing hypervisor platforms that compete with VMware.

To be fair, when queried about this deficiency, senior EMC IT product management acknowledged the gap and asserted that R&D dollars were being appropriated towards expanding support for not only alternative hypervisor operating platforms, but also open standard frameworks like Open Stack. Given the increased competitive pressures from traditional industry peers and IT outsourcing juggernauts like Google and Amazon, this would seem to be an essential strategy.

As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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