Recently, Forrester published The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Backup
And Recovery Software, Q2 2013. I wasn’t surprised by their suggestion that “CommVault [Sympana 10.0], EMC [Avamar 7.0 and NetWorker 10.1], IBM [TSM 6.4), and Symantec [Netbackup 7.5] lead the pack. It’s a tight four-horse race for the top honors — [they] all scored high on strategy and current offerings.” These are the four vendors that are always pushing and shoving on each other in analyst comparisons. The thing that caught my attention in this report was the expert job analyst Rachel Dines did in pealing back a complex market space to uncover some important strategic observations about each vendor.
After having participated in the IBM response to the investigation Forrester did, I have to give a shout out to Rachel for being thorough. Like most analyst studies, the Forrester Wave was backed by a detailed questionnaire. But Rachel went one step further requiring an exceptionally thorough live demonstration. You can watch the somewhat raw 1-hour TSM demonstration that IBM did.
Forrester’s punch lines
“CommVault excels with an integrated platform.” I’ve been watching CommVault for years and agree with Rachel’s punch line. CommVault established their position in the market by unifying such disciplines as backup and archive in a single interface and targeting jack-of-all-trades administrators in small and medium businesses. In recent years, they have carried that unified focus into the upper end of medium businesses and a healthy number of enterprises.
“EMC focuses on hardware and software integration.” EMC is continuing to do what I think I would do if I were in their shoes. In most segments, their disk array business enjoys leading market share. So when it comes to software, they tend towards clothing their disk install base. It’s the “Would you like fries with that hamburger?” model. A vendor-centric closed loop strategy like that can result in some nice solutions but some customers will weigh the value vs. the circular lock-in it creates.
“Symantec reinvents itself and refines focus.” I’ve also been watching the Symantec backup business for years. , and I think Rachel sums up what they need at the moment – some reinvention and solid execution. When Symantec acquired VERITAS in 2005, they got some good technology. The downside of the merger was that VERITAS’ laser focus got watered down and the portfolio has struggled.
“IBM simplifies management, focuses on cloud.” Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball to look into the future, but who has one of those? Maybe a magic eight ball will have to do. Rachel points out that “…many firms are weary of the constant battle with their backup software and are looking for a change.” The battle is with deploying agents, managing backup windows, resolving failed backups, upgrading and patching software, and performing restores.
Magic eight ball, when will IT managers just give up? IBM shares Rachel’s point-of-view that IT managers are already giving up in places – running old versions of software, letting maintenance contracts lapse, and even stopping backups on certain systems.
Magic eight ball, what are IT managers going to do instead? There is a lot being said about cloud backup, but mostly in the context of where backup copies should be stored. Everything on premise for quick restore, everything off premise in the public cloud for cost efficiency, or some hybrid of the two? I think the storage location will work itself out as IT managers balance economics and recovery time objectives. Hybrid storage models will ultimately prevail. But that doesn’t address the real question.
Magic eight ball, if IT managers are giving up on traditional management of backup systems, what are they going to do instead? Rachel picked up on two important strategic bets IBM is making with TSM.
- The generation of storage scientists that have managed backup, and all storage for that matter, are aging (like me). I talked about this phenomena in my post Do IT managers really “manage” storage anymore? So, for those firms who choose to continue the battle on their own, IBM, with a lot of help from its clients, is addressing the problem with an entirely new approach to storage administration.
- Rachel also observed that there are a good number of IT managers who are tired of the battle. This is where I differ from the pundits on cloud and backup. In this context, I think cloud is less about a storage location and more about a management model. Do I want to continue doing backup on my own (after all, as Rachel points out “it is painful, slow, and expensive, and seems to provide zero strategic business value”), or do I want to outsource it to a management provider in the cloud? IBM is spending a lot of time working with managed service providers who will take over all the day-to-day headaches of meeting backup service level agreements (SLA’s), most in any combination of on premise, public cloud, or hybrid storage configurations you want. Here are just a few.
Watch the LiveStream of Cobalt Iron CEO Richard Spurlock as he talks about the synergies between these two strategic bets.
At IBM, this entirely new approach to administration and focus on cloud as a management model are being coupled with a technology suite that Rachel says brings “…strengths in deduplication, manageability (due to significant improvements in TSM Operations Center), continuity, and restore features” and “…excels in extremely large and complex environments…”. Magic eight ball, do you know of an IT manager who would say “gee, my environment isn’t complex at all. It’s just downright simple”?
Whether you intend to continue the battle on your own or let a cloud service provider take over the headache, it’s worth looking into a software suite that excels at the kind of environment you have.