Throwing its hat into a market that is already gaining a lot of attention, CommVault is pitching its backup management software at service providers as a platform for online or managed backup services.
The move comes only a month after EMC paid $76m to buy Berkeley Data Systems, the provider of the Mozy online backup service, and in the same week that the Wall Street Journal reported on a long running rumor that Google is planning what is very likely to be an online storage service aimed at consumers and small businesses.
EMC is not the only one of CommVault’s major backup software rivals that has promised to launch an online backup service. Symantec made that pledge earlier this year, and yesterday said its service will be launched in the next quarter.
Like EMC and Symantec, CommVault wants to tap into the growing demand among small and medium-sized businesses for internet-based backup services. These span from the remote management of backups completed locally on customers’ premises, to backups that are piped offsite to a service providers’ data center.
Unlike EMC and Symantec, CommVault will not be providing any such services itself. But it has updated its backup management software with features designed to suit so-called managed service providers or MSPs. It has also launched a licensing scheme that it says is unlike those for other backup software, because it does not require MSPs to pay any fees until they have signed up their first online customers.
CommVault is the first software supplier to attempt this move using a conventional, non de-duplicated backup tool. But it is far from the first vendor on the market.
Symantec’s NetBackup, EMC’s Networker, IBM’s Tivoli Storage Manager — as far as I know none of those are being offered with license terms to suit MSPs, said Curtis Preston, vice president of data protection services at storage consultancy Glasshouse Technologies.
But the reality is that CommVault doesn’t have first-mover status, Preston said. In 2006 Symantec launched its PureDisk software, which was designed to enable remote backup of branch offices, while EMC last year bought Avamar, a supplier of very similar software.
Although those products were designed for use directly by businesses themselves, they can also be used by MSPs. The dominant supplier of software specifically designed for implementation by MSPs is Asigra, which has been shipping its Televaulting remote backup software since 1990, and claims several MSP customers.
EMC, Symantec and Asigra’s remote backup software all feature block-level de-duplication, which hugely reduces backup data volumes, and so allows backups to be completed in reasonable time over affordably thin network connections.
CommVault’s software features file-level rather than block-level data de-duplication. This does not reduce data volumes by the same amount. In any case, the file level de-duplication would not apply to network data traffic, according to CommVault’s director of strategic alliances Eric Rice.
Preston said however that through the use of incremental backups and full synthetic backups created at an MSP’s data center, CommVault’s software will meet the needs of the bulk of the potential market for online or remote backup services. CommVault’s software can be used to create synthetic full backups for a wider range of data types than other backup tools, the Glasshouse consultant said.
CommVault is simply the latest vendor to be betting on the return of a modified form of the SSP, or storage service provider. But don’t expect the term SSP to ever cross CommVault’s lips, or that of any other IT supplier showing an interest in online storage or backup services.
That is because by the time the Internet bubble burst in 2001, a number of SSP start-ups had already burnt through enormous piles of investors’ cash, in an experiment that appeared to prove conclusively that the SSP business model was never going to fly.
SSPs hoped to sell online storage space on tap over the internet, and to store customers’ primary or live data. Putting their crown jewels into the hands of the SSPs required too much faith from customers in the integrity of the service providers. Any difficulties – from technical problems to commercial disputes with the SSP — and customers would have lost access to their lifeblood data.
Today’s MSPs are only offering to store backup copies of data, which is a significantly less risky proposition. Soaring data volumes mean that backup is still the biggest IT problem for many small and mid-sized companies. By purchasing a remote backup service, customers not only eliminate that headache, but they also gain the disaster recovery benefit of getting their data offsite each and every night.
How much will this help CommVault increase its revenues? Not hugely, but it is certainly a market worth targeting.