Briefing Note: Why buy a Backup Appliance from a Disk Drive Vendor?

Seagate CSS (Cloud Systems and Solutions), a division of this long-time disk drive manufacturer, was put together to develop storage infrastructure solutions for the hyper-scale cloud provider and OEM markets, among others. More than just a component manufacturer ‘moving up the stack’, Seagate has married technologies from recent acquisitions (Xyratex and EVault), plus their considerable design and high volume manufacturing expertise from existing business units to create a systems business. When factoring in their available resources and channel presence it’s not hard to see how they could be successful driving down infrastructure costs in these industries.

EVault hybrid cloud systems have embedded backup software and cloud connectivity, allowing companies to store backups locally for faster recovery and copy to the cloud for long-term off site retention. Now Seagate has released the Backup Target Appliance (BTA), a new addition to the EVault product line, that the company is betting will give users a good reason to buy a backup appliance from a disk drive manufacturer.

EVault’s Backup Appliances

EVault’s Plug-n-Protect (PnP) appliances are all-in-one backup solutions that provide up to 24TB of local capacity. Designed for Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) or Remote Office/Branch Office (ROBO) implementations, PnP appliances come pre-configured with EVault software and an unlimited number of EVault agents for hosts being backed up. Supported platforms include Windows, Linux, UNIX (Solaris, AIX), IBM i-Series and VMware and most major database platforms. Also built-in is: replication, so that backups from the on-site PnP appliance can be duplicated to another PnP appliance off-site or to the EVault cloud, or both.

Enterprise Backup and Recovery Appliances (EBAs) are similar in functionality to PnP appliances, but larger in storage capacity and performance. Companies can deploy fixed-capacity 3U appliances or stack 4U EBA modules to create up to 100TB of usable storage capacity, scaling performance in the process. EBA and PnP appliances can be combined for added flexibility as well. Also, Seagate only quotes usable capacities in all their backup appliances, not RAW capacities as many vendors do.

Backup Target Appliance (BTA)

BTAs are purpose-built for database backup, providing a high-performance, low-cost platform that’s simple for DBAs and other users to operate. Designed for environments that use native database tools instead of dedicated backup applications, BTAs lower the cost of enterprise-level data protection from traditional purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs).

Enterprise Hardware

Each 4U, rack-mounted system contains 24 drive bays and currently supports Seagate’s 6TB SAS drives, in RAID 1, for a total of 62-65TB usable storage capacity depending on whether or not resiliency is turned on (see below). According to Seagate, this is twice the number of disk drives of most PBBA designs that typically use a RAID 6 or RAID 5 configuration. RAID 1 eliminates the potential problems associated with large capacity storage system RAID rebuilds. Each appliance also contains two server nodes configured in a failover cluster for high availability, plus only enterprise-grade components (HDDs, RAM, CPU, etc.) for better reliability.

Seagate has also developed a storage resiliency technology creating software-defined channels on each drive that access reserved capacity. This can be used to remediate corruption or other drive-level issues without triggering a lengthy drive RAID rebuild. BTAs have the full replication features that their other solutions provide, including EVault’s hybrid cloud options. Companies can also optionally run EVault’s backup software simultaneously on the BTA, if desired.

StorageSwiss Take

Seagate seems to be flexing its muscles in the systems business, as some other manufacturers are doing. With their acquisition of Xyratex a couple years ago, they’ve made a big push into the hyper-scale market, building the systems that large cloud providers are using, not just the drives inside them. Hybrid cloud backup appliances would also seem to be a good fit for leveraging the company’s extensive resources and technology stack.

One example of this is the way Seagate quotes only usable (not RAW) capacities and uses RAID 1 instead of RAID 6 in their appliances. As the drive manufacturer they can absorb this added expense and provide a more enterprise-level solution. Together with EVault’s history in the cloud backup and appliance market Seagate is making a strong case for being a preferred backup infrastructure vendor.

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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