By Ann Silverthorn
—When International Data Corp. (IDC) research analysts Rhoda Phillips and Natalya Yezhkova started researching continuous data protection (CDP) technology a year ago, they began by categorizing solutions according to whether they were software- or appliance-based. "This was before we thought about file- or block-based solutions," Phillips says. "The distinction might eventually be whether the solutions are SAN or not-SAN-based. For now, there's no clear way to categorize CDP products, and some users are confused."
IDC's study, Continuous Data Protection: A First Look at End-User Awareness and Behavior, reveals that of 686 storage administrators surveyed only 25% have a good understanding of CDP, and 53% have heard of CDP but are not quite sure what it means. Yet, with this limited understanding of CDP, 20% of the respondents say they currently use CDP products, 21% plan to use them within 12 months, and 23% are currently evaluating them. Clearly, interest in CDP is high and understanding is low.
"CDP has the potential to offer alternatives for the data-protection market, but users still need to be educated about its benefits to avoid over-hyping of the technology," according to the IDC report.
The CDP education process is not going to be easy. For example, there are different definitions of CDP, such as IDC's and the one used by the Storage Networking Industry Association (see below). Further confusing the situation, some products are "true CDP" and some are "near CDP." And for some users, "near-CDP" is good enough.
In addition to wading through the different types of CDP products, users have to decide whether to choose a stand-alone product or a CDP product that is integrated into a larger data-protection suite. In either case, users can choose between a wide variety of start-ups or well-established vendors. And with the recent partnerships and acquisitions between start-ups and large vendors, the "right" CDP solution is a moving target.
The IDC report predicts that the start-ups' CDP technology will be absorbed by the larger storage vendors—as demonstrated by EMC and Hewlett-Packard recently leveraging start-up Mendocino's CDP technology. Further, Phillips and Yezhkova believe that CDP offerings will eventually prevail as "integrated parts of enterprise data-protection solutions," rather than as stand-alone products.
"In the end, CDP will supplement backup and make backup less of a hassle," says Phillips. According to the report, "End users view the convenience and effectiveness of backup as the first priority, while recovery issues are considered to be secondary. IDC believes that the potential for near-instantaneous successful recovery is as important as the ability to recover from any point in time."
For more on this report's findings, IDC will hold a telebriefing on December 15 (12:00-1:00 PM, US eastern time). Rhoda Phillips will provide her perspective on the impact of CDP on the current backup/recovery and replication software markets. She will also offer analysis on CDP's potential as a stand-alone market and discuss its likely evolution path. For details on the telebriefing, go to www.idc.com/g etdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P12100&pageType=EVENTDETAILS.
IDC's definition of CDP: Continuous data protection (CDP), also referred to as continuous backup, pertains to products that track and save data to disk so that information can be recovered from any point in time, even minutes ago. CDP uses technology to continuously capture updates to data in real time or near real time, offering data recovery in a matter of seconds. The objectives of CDP are to minimize exposure to data loss and shorten time to recover.
SNIA's definition of CDP: Continuous data protection (CDP) is a methodology that continuously captures or tracks data modifications and stores changes independent of the primary data, enabling recovery points from any point in the past. CDP systems may be block-, file- or application-based and can provide fine granularities of restorable objects to infinitely variable recovery points.