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IBM, Veritas Ready Continuous Data Protection

IBM will ship next month software to provide what’s called “continuous data protection” for end users. Meanwhile, competition in that space is heating up as Veritas prepares to enter the fray with its own offering.

The idea of continuous data protection or CDP is to provide more up-to-date backups than just nightly – ideally, second-by-second backups. But rather than back up the entire system image every time, whenever a change is made to a file, just that change is captured and backed up as a snapshot. Previous versions of files are protected and available for recovery through point-in-time snapshots. In contrast, nightly backups can only be used to restore to the last time a full backup was made.

Big Blue describes IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files, as a "data safety net," providing real-time back up for important data, including Word documents, MP3 files, digital photos, presentations, and spreadsheets.

“This makes sense [for both IBM and Veritas], especially with all the viruses as well as the increasing frequency of hard disk failures,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst for Enderle Group. “It’s an incredibly important area and it’s very topical right now in light of recent natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina).”

When a user makes a change in a file, IBM’s package will create a copy on the local machine within milliseconds, and then send a copy to a remote server. Workers on-the-go can protect and restore files that are corrupted or accidentally deleted, back to any point in time, even before they were lost -- adding multiple layers of defense against data loss, according to IBM.

IBM won’t be alone for long in the emerging CDP arena, however.

An update to Veritas’ popular Backup Exec, code-named “Panther,” which is currently in beta test and due by the end of the September, also claims to provide CDP – with a Web-based, end-user file recovery capability tossed in. With it, users will be able to perform selective restores themselves, reducing demands on administrators’ time.

“When you only back up once a day, everything in between [the daily backup and a crash] is lost,” said Jeremy Burton, senior vice president of Veritas’ data management group, in a recent interview with ENT. Panther began public beta testing in June and is planned for release before year’s end.

According to Burton, Veritas has two million units of Backup Exec in use, a pretty much built-in market for an update that adds CDP capabilities.

Neither is Veritas merely another tiny company in IBM’s sights, since it was acquired by security giant Symantec in July in one of the largest acquisition in software history. The overall cost of the deal when it was announced last December was estimated at $13.5 billion in Symantec stock. Veritas brought in $2.04 billion in revenues for 2004.

Both products are based on an evolving disk-to-disk-to-tape model. The backups are initially made to a hard disk and later cached on tape. “When you design for disk [based backup], you can do some things that you can’t with tape, such as CDP,” Burton said, adding that the update will be called 10D (for “disk”).

Meanwhile, IBM has one hole card in the game – it’s new CDP software will work with Big Blue’s line of Tivoli storage management products, the company says.

However, the two companies may not find themselves in too close a competition, says Enderle. “Symantec (Veritas) tends to play more in the small and medium-sized business space,” he says, although there will obviously be account areas where both products are in the running.

IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files will be available on September 16 at $35 per laptop or desktop, and $995 per server processor.

Backup Exec 10 for Windows Servers costs $795.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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