EMC Data Domain products enter the archive market

(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc., All Rights Reserved
(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc., All Rights Reserved

In another assault on the tape market, EMC announced today a new Data Domain 860 Archiver appliance. This new system supports both short-term and long-term retention of backup data. This attacks one of the last bastions of significant tape use – long-term data archives.

Historically, a cheap version of archives had been the long-term retention of full backup tapes. As such, if one needed to keep data around for 5 years, one would keep all their full backup tape sets offsite, in a vault somewhere for 5 years. They could then rotate the tapes (bring them back into scratch use) after the 5 years elapsed. One problem with this – tape technology is advancing to a new generation of technology more like every 2-3 years and as such, a 5-year old tape cartridge would be at least one generation back before it could be re-used. But current tape technology always reads 2 generations and writes at least one generation back so this use would still be feasible. I would say that many tape users did something like this to create a “psuedopseudo-archive”.

On the other hand, there exists many specific archive point products that focused on one or a few application arenas such as email, records, or database archives which would extract specific data items and place them into archive. These did not generally apply outside one or a few application domains but were used to support stringent compliance requirements. The advantage of these application based archive systems is that the data was actually removed from primary storage, out of any data protection activities and placed permanently in only “archive storage”. Such data would be subject to strict retention policies and as such, would be inviolate (couldn’t be modified) and could not be deleted until formally expired.

Enter the Data Domain 860 Archiver, this system supports up to 24 disk shelves, each one of which could either be dedicated to short- or long-term data retention. Backup file data is moved within the appliance by automated policy from short- to long-term storage. Up to 4-disk shelves can be dedicated to short-term storage with the remainder considered long-term archive units.

When a long-term archive unit (disk shelf) fills up with backup data it is “sealed”, i.e., it is given all the metadata required to reconstruct its file system and deduplication domain and thus, would not require the use of other disk shelves to access its data. In this way one creates a standalone unit that contains everything needed to recover the data. Not unlike a full backup tape set which can be used in a standalone fashion to restore data.

Today, the Data Domain 860 Archiver only supports file access and DD boost data access. By doing so, the backup software is responsible for deleting data that has expired. Such data will then be absent deleted from any backups taken and as policy automation copies the backups to long-term archive units it will be missing gone from there as well.

While Data Domain’s Archiver lacks removing the data from ongoing backup streams that application based archive products can achieve, it does look exactly like what could be achieved from tape based archives today.

One can also replicate base Data Domain or Archiver appliances to an Archiver unit to achieve offsite data archives.


Full disclosure: I currently work with EMC on projects specific to other products but am not currently working on anything associated with this product.

Tape, your move…