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Analysis

ColdSpark and FASTRecover help change BakBone's game
Peter Williams By: Peter Williams, Practice Leader - IT Infrastructure Mgmt., Bloor Research
Published: 23rd June 2009
Copyright Bloor Research © 2009
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BakBone Software, long recognised for its flagship NetVault product families primarily focused on backup and recovery, recently splashed out to acquire ColdSpark and the technology from Asempra as part of its new strategic direction which it describes as Universal Data Management (UDM I presume). Then, earlier this month it launched NetVault: FASTRecover to eliminate backup windows (more of which in a moment).

BakBone's UDM breaks down into three discrete but inter-linking areas; its existing integrated data protection (IDP) and the new Centralised Policy Management (CPM?) and Message Management. It is designed to allow a company to directly control and apply policies to its data. In itself that is not too revolutionary, but customers will be able to do this irrespective of the applications that create, alter or interface with the data—while it is on the move across the network as well as at rest.

IDP is a long-used BakBone acronym covering the data security, availability and retention and has been implemented through its NetVault: Backup suite. It covers all virtual and physical storage environments. It is essentially about static data.

"[UDM] is a much more holistic view," Andrew Brewerton, BakBone's EMEA technical director, told me. "Information on the move is very important, whether it's entering the company or transient."

He said the aim was to deal with how the data moves in and out of the organisation as well as how it was stored, removed and deleted. I should mention that not all of this has suddenly been put in place as yet; I think it broadly provides a roadmap for the coming year.

It is CPM (I am saving ink here) that covers the creation, maintenance and application of management policies to apply across an enterprise's data. One way it will do this is to allow applications to inherit global data policies and apply them related to such things as de-duplication, encryption, message archiving and data loss prevention.

It was ColdSpark that brought in the bulk of the Message Management element with its e-mail processing and delivery solutions aimed at enterprises. It addresses complexities in tracking messaging (including the fact that most e-mails are now application generated).

"If you take Exchange in large environments you may have 10 or 20 Exchange servers to present to the user, and possibly 10s or 100s instances of Exchange covering potentially millions of messages—with some doing nothing but routing," said Brewerton. "What ColdSpark does is reduce this, by taking thousands down to one or two or high performance boxes—and inside a policy engine."

I have not got as far as finding out exactly how it achieves this, but I can see this scenario is very costly and that the software could quickly pay for itself; not least in savings in Exchange licences. The software enables monitoring and optimising of enterprise message performance—combining with message archiving, classification and customer message communication.

By initial header content analysis it can apply a policy so that, for instance, in-bound messages such as spam can be diverted or archived. Likewise, outbound policies can be applied. The main aim is not to flood the mailboxes.

By being integrated with CPM and IDP, it is able to better control infrastructure performance at the same time as improving overall data availability and policy compliance levels. Much of the linkage will be through new open APIs which will facilitate applying the new features for existing NetVault: Backup users as well as making inroads into enterprises that are non BakBone.

NetVault: FASTRecover is essentially a re-branding of the very advanced NetVault: Real-Time Data Protector (NVRDP) launched late last year—which Bloor recently evaluated. NVRDP, which uses the newly-acquired Asempra technology, is stand-alone; but the new name demonstrates BakBone's commitment to make it more closely integrated with the rest of the NetVault suite over time.

What this provides is continuous data protection (CDP), with integrated snapshots (unusual), for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and Windows file system data—but the unique and, to me, exciting part is its ability to achieve recovery to live within a couple of minutes (the minimum around 30 seconds). This almost completely overcomes the concern with CDP (for these Windows environments) that, while it normally eliminates a need for backup windows (except, say, once a week late at night), when recovery is needed after a glitch this can take hours. It is therefore very easy for me to see a rapid ROI payback.

As a software only company, BakBone can provide NetVault: FASTRecover as software-only to run on existing equipment. On the other hand, it runs very effectively as a pre-configured appliance that includes hardware, software and storage. So BakBone is now offering the option of hardware purchased either directly from BakBone or through a BakBone reseller. The plug-and-play options minimise the need for installation and ongoing management expertise—and appliances are available in different sizes to fit for all organisations up to large enterprises.

BakBone has, in the past, rightly focused on a very integrated, feature rich and reliable data set; this provides a sound data structure to build on. The acquisitions are a hint that it is becoming more innovative and (perhaps) adventurous. Its trick is to integrate the new features so as to reduce the overall administrative burden—but keeping the system simple enough for its large, loyal user base to remain happy. I will watch with interest to see how this all pans out over the coming year.

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