IBM brings CDP to SOHOs

By Kevin Komiega

—Continuous data protection (CDP) technology was arguably the most hyped storage software innovation of 2005, but once reality set in CDP quickly went from being a must-have product to something enterprise users expect to be offered as a standard feature of any backup/recovery product.

In response, IBM is taking a new approach to selling CDP software. The company recently announced that it has signed a multi-year deal with e-commerce outsourcing firm Digital River to help Big Blue sell its IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files software to PC users and small businesses via the Internet.

According to the deal, Digital River is making the CDP for Files software available for online purchase and digital download through the Digital River oneNetwork marketplace, which includes online retailers OfficeMax, Staples, and Circuit City, among others.

IBM's CDP for Files software will also be for sale via download from IBM's Website and through other sales channels at a cost of $35 per laptop or desktop PC.

So why bring a seemingly advanced backup product to the average remote worker and consumer users? For one, IBM chief technology officer Chris Stakutis has doubts about the potential market for selling CDP—at least block-level CDP—in large enterprises.

"I have my reservations about CDP at the block level. There is a large amount of CDP-like technology already built into databases and other applications," says Stakutis.

He claims that the data-protection capabilities available in mission-critical applications are already superior to most of the new CDP products hitting the market. Using technology such as frequent snapshots should do the trick in bigger shops, according to Stakutis.

"CDP for Files was originally designed for high-end customers, but it has found the most success on desktops," says Stakutis. "We started getting calls from end users saying, 'Can I take this home?' "

IBM's software continuously captures and saves data and also sends an encrypted copy of the information to a remote location such as a remote server or even a USB drive. According to Stakutis, users can restore files that have been corrupted or accidentally deleted back to any point in time with a few mouse clicks. And since the backed-up data is encrypted, the information can be viewed only by those with authorized access to the computer.

CDP for Files also automatically determines where data should be saved on the laptop or PC and configures the remote location to receive the backup copy. The ultimate goal is to make continuous backup as hands-off and automatic as the anti-virus applications installed on today's desktop and laptops.

IBM is targeting CDP for Files at small businesses with fewer than 75 people, as well as remote workers and consumers. But analysts at TheInfoPro research firm say that demand for CDP among Fortune 1000 enterprise customers is still growing steadily.

Robert Stevenson, TheInfoPro's managing director of storage, says he has seen a jump in enterprise user interest in CDP over the past six months. For example, 18% of his end-user contacts (most of which are with Fortune 1000 companies) are already using CDP, 8% are conducting pilot programs, and 11% have CDP in their near-term purchasing plans.

The one snag when it comes to enterprise users deploying CDP is application integration. "The majority of Fortune 1000 users want to see better integration with the application layer before they permanently put CDP technology into use," says Stevenson.

Examples of other vendors offering various types of CDP software include Asempra, Atempo, CA, EMC, FalconStor Software, Hewlett-Packard, InMage, Mendocino, Quantum, TimeSpring, and others.

This article was originally published on August 01, 2006