InfoWorld Review: ExaGrid Aces Disk-to-Disk Backup

InfoWorld has just published a review of ExaGrid’s disk backup with deduplication appliances, entitled, “ExaGrid Aces Disk-to-Disk Backup: ExaGrid’s unique scale-out grid architecture makes for powerful, scalable, and uncomplicated disk-based backup and deduplication.”

The entire review is a worthwhile read, as it offers an in-depth discussion of the technical differences between various deduplication approaches and architectures – inline vs. post-process deduplication and scale-up vs scale-out/grid architecture. ExaGrid was rated “Excellent” with a 9.1 rating. Here are a few excerpts from the review:

For enterprises seeking to escape the challenges of managing and maintaining tape backup architectures, disk-to-disk backup has been nothing short of a godsend. By replacing tape with disk for nightly backups and relegating tape to a long-term archival role, organizations of all sizes can shrink backup windows and provide near-instantaneous restores. While simple direct-attached storage may fit the bill for smaller organizations, larger enterprises wrestling with the task of protecting terabytes of data find themselves looking for functionality that plain old disk can’t provide.

That’s where deduplicating backup appliances really shine. While there are a number of well-known vendors with very strong product offerings in this space (EMC Data Domain and Quantum, to name two), ExaGrid’s unique scale-out grid architecture and truly refreshing support model set it apart from the pack and place it in a class of its own…

…With rapidly growing mountains of data, leveraging dedupe in backup (if not primary storage) has almost become a necessity. However, as sexy as deduplication tech may be, it’s reached a point where the major dedupe vendors are, by and large, getting the same data reduction results from their deduplication engines. Today the differences reside mainly in the impact the deduplication engine has on backup and restore performance and how well the solution scales as backup data inexorably grows. This is where ExaGrid has chosen to invest the bulk of its R&D.

Scale-out vs. scale-up
First, the ExaGrid EX series uses a scale-out grid architecture versus the scale-up architectures adopted by many of its rivals. That architecture allows you to combine multiple EX-series appliances — each equipped with dedupe and network capacity matched to its storage capacity — into a linearly scalable grid. This is important because it handily deals with the one true constant of any storage architecture today: rampant growth.

Because scale-up architectures are typically dependent on static controller resources that are sized when the system is initially purchased, an unexpected spate of growth might force you to replace those (often very expensive) controller resources well ahead of when you might have expected. With ExaGrid’s scale-out approach, you simply add another appliance to the grid and scale your storage capacity and backup performance at the same time. It’s about as close to pay-as-you-go as you’ll get this side of the cloud…

Inline vs. post-process
Second, on the deduplication front, ExaGrid’s EX series uses a post-process deduplication model. This means that the backup data is written to the device in its fully “hydrated” form and is deduplicated after the backup process is complete. This is in contrast to the more popular inline deduplication model, which sees incoming data deduplicated as it is written to the device.

Additionally, some backup software platforms are able to leverage the backup appliance’s storage to start a virtual machine directly from the appliance and use the virtualization hypervisor’s storage migration functionality to copy the virtual machine back onto primary storage (Veeam’s Instant Recovery coupled with VMware Storage vMotion is a great example of this). While a great deal of attention has always been placed on shortening backup windows, accelerating restore windows is more important today than ever before. ExaGrid’s post-process approach to deduplication meshes perfectly with these heavy-duty use cases.

ExaGrid in the lab

ExaGrid EX appliances are remarkably simple from a hardware perspective…In the end, I was slinging backups about an hour after opening the box…

If you’re working with explosive growth in your backups and are currently managing between 5TB and 75TB of data, I’d highly recommend taking the ExaGrid for a spin…ExaGrid has turned out a solid stack of software that does one thing and does it very well. Better yet, ExaGrid’s support model — which dedicates a named support engineer who is fully familiar with the backup applications you use — is a huge asset that is largely unparalleled in this space.

Above all else, if you’re in the market for a new backup appliance, remember that deduplication isn’t everything. In a day when even Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 boasts impressive data deduplication capabilities, dedupe on its own is hardly a distinctive feature. What makes a backup appliance stand out is its ability to scale gracefully without decreasing performance and to handle complex multisite replication topologies — two tasks ExaGrid’s EX-series appliances manage remarkably well.

To read the entire InfoWorld review by Matt Prigge, click here.

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