CDP survey raises questions

By Ann Silverthorn

When International Data Corp. (IDC) 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- versus block-based solutions,” says Phillips. “For now, there’s no clear way to categorize CDP products, and some users are confused.”

IDC’s study, entitled Continuous Data Protection: A First Look at End-User Awareness and Behavior, revealed that of 686 storage administrators surveyed, only 25% had a good understanding of CDP, and 53% had heard of CDP but were not quite sure what it meant. However, despite this limited understanding of CDP, 19% of the respondents said they currently use CDP products, 21% plan to use them within 12 months, and 23% were in the process of evaluating CDP (see figure on p. 1). Clearly, interest in CDP is high and understanding is low.

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“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 analysts.

Weighing the options

The 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 “CDP definitions: IDC and SNIA,” 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 product that is integrated into a larger data-protection suite. In either case, users will have to choose between a wide variety of start-ups and well-established vendors. And with the recent partnerships between start-ups and large vendors, the “right” CDP solution is a moving target.

IDC’s Phillips says that the decision of which CDP product to select-or whether to use CDP at all-depends on factors such as what users need to accomplish, what their application requirements are, existing hardware/software installations, budgets, and whether users are more comfortable dealing with larger vendors or are willing to work with smaller start-ups.

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The survey revealed that companies with larger overall data-protection budgets are more likely to spend a higher percentage of their budgets on CDP than companies with smaller overall data-protection budgets (see figure). In a related finding, the higher a company’s overall disk capacity, the greater the chances of CDP adoption. For example, 40% of the surveyed companies with more than 50TB are already using CDP, while only about 7% of companies with less than 500GB are using CDP.

CDP vendor landscape

The IDC report predicts that start-ups’ CDP technology will eventually be absorbed by the larger storage vendors, as demonstrated by EMC and Hewlett-Packard leveraging Mendocino’s CDP technology. Furthermore, Phillips and Yezhkova believe that CDP offerings will eventually prevail as “integrated parts of enterprise data-protection solutions,” rather than as stand-alone products.

CDP vendors covered in IDC’s original survey, which was released in October 2005, included Atempo, Kashya, Mendocino, Revivio, Storactive, TimeSpring, Topio, and XOsoft.

Since then, larger vendors such as Microsoft, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM/Tivoli, and Symantec have jumped in, although sometimes with products that analysts refer to as “near CDP.”

IDC plans at least two more CDP surveys. In addition to tracking vendors’ market shares, the research firm will explore in more depth how companies are using CDP. IDC will also further examine companies’ use of CDP in relation to traditional backup, replication, and snapshot technology.

“In the end, CDP will supplement backup and make it less of a hassle,” says Phillips.

CDP definitions: IDC and SNIA

According to International Data Corp. (IDC), “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.”

According to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), “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.”

For more information on continuous data protection, see the following articles that have appeared in InfoStor:

“EMC ‘validates’ CDP”
November 2005, p. 1

“Symantec joins growing CDP field”
October 2005, p. 1

“IBM delivers file-based CDP”
October 2005, p. 1

“Evaluating continuous data protection”
October 2005, p. 28

“Continuous data protection: Is it about time?”
October 2005, p. 32

“CDP: What it is, and why you need it”
September 2005, p. 42

“Microsoft enters D2D backup market”
August 2005, p. 1

This article was originally published on January 01, 2006