EMC says new ProtectPoint solution can revolutionize backup


Earlier this month at their Redefine Possible event in Britain, EMC announced EMC ProtectPoint, a new data protection offering that they believe can redefine backup by combining the performance of snapshots with the functionality of backups. Yet at the time, few people noticed.

“The London launch headlines were ‘defining the data centre’, ‘defining flash’ and ‘defining scale out,’ and the fact we aligned this release to that announcement meant there was a lot else to talk about,” said Caitlin Gordon, senior manager of product marketing at EMC, who handles Data Domain and ProtectPoint. “We were also embedded into the VMAX 3.0 press release, as opposed to handled separately.”

Gordon said the technology is fundamentally different from anything else out there, and comes from EMC’s internal resolution to make their storage and backup integrate better.

“Given the problems customers are having with backup today, we considered that since we are a major data protection vendor, and the number one storage vendor, we had to look at how we could make those two talk together more intelligently,” Gordon said. “Making our primary storage talk intelligently to our backup required a lot of different pieces coming together into one solution.”

ProtectPoint does this by integrating primary storage and protection storage, so that while in conventional backup all data passes through the application server and impacts the application, ProtectPoint eliminates this impact. Instead the primary storage sends changed blocks directly to Data Domain, which uses the changed blocks to create full backups in native format.

“What makes this possible is the changed block tracking technology in VMAX 3.0,” Gordon said. “It keeps track of changes in the blocks and dedupes them, and sends only the changed blocks from the primary storage to Data Domain, so only unique data gets sent across the network.”

This new approach provides a myriad of benefits, Gordon said. Taking application servers out of the backup path eliminates the impact on the application, and delivers up to ten times faster backup because of the direct backup from primary storage to protection storage, which takes application servers out of the backup path. It also removes the need for traditional backup infrastructure.

“It’s so much simpler than traditional backup, and you don’t need a backup server, it’s completely eliminated,” Gordon said.

So does ProtectPoint make EMC’s Avamar and Networker backup products obsolete? Not likely.

“Different applications have different requirements,” Gordon said. “This one fits in between what snapshots give you and what backup gives you. The big thing is the very fast RPO [Recovery Point Objectives] which we have down to minutes. But it’s for short term retention, typically a matter of days. Avamar and Networker, on the other hand, have a much longer RPO of between 12 and 24 hours, but they are for years of retention.”

Because ProtectPoint is enabled by taking advantage of the changed block tracking technology in VMAX 3.0, it also has another, short-term limitation. Right now, VMAX 3.0 is the only primary storage it supports. Gordon said the intent is to broaden this out to other arrays, but there is no public road map of when this will happen.

Gordon said ProtectPoint opens up strong new opportunities for EMC channel partners.

“This gives a very unique and differentiated data protection story that ties together two leading solutions – VMAX and Data Domain – in a joint story,” she said. “Customers’ mission critical applications demands are growing so fast, they can’t meet SLAs any more. It’s a huge opportunity for partners to expand the conversation about how you are protecting the storage.”

ProtectPoint is scheduled for availability in Q4 of this year. In addition to the VMAX 3.0 array, it supports Data Domain 4500, 7200, and 990 with OS 5.5, the Oracle 11g or 12c Database, and Unix or Linux.