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IBM Spectrum Protect and Modern Data Protection

I’ve written recently about how the data protection industry has become one of the hot parts of the tech market, with a mix of innovation from established providers like Veeam, Commvault and Veritas, as well as exciting new players like Rubrik and Cohesity. Many of these companies are bringing interesting innovation and an overdue change in the way companies look at their data protection and system availability.

This change of approach is exactly right. Backup really doesn’t cut it for modern business. They demand far more than quick recovery of lost data; it’s about making systems constantly available and managing data more intelligently across multiple repositories. Of course, the business needs to get value from all of its data, including the data siting in backup repositories.

Spectrum Protect and IBM

One name not often associated with the current data protection market is IBM. So it was interesting at Storage Field Day event in March to hear from IBM’s Steve Kenniston about IBM’s data protection solution suite, Spectrum Protect.

Steve has availability industry experience, previously at Catalogic, he has now returned to IBM as Business Development Executive, Spectrum Storage Software. I think it’s fair to say IBM is not the name that springs to mind when discussing data protection, but should they be? Has IBM got something new and interesting to offer?

Firstly, IBM is not new in this space. They have a 25-year history of data protection solutions. Many an enterprise has relied upon Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) to protect their enterprise applications and this means IBM has seen pretty much any data protection challenge over that time. However as Steve admitted, the problem with legacy systems is that it’s often difficult to change, develop and innovate on such a platform.

Data Reuse

With that in mind, IBM looked to develop something new in Spectrum Protect Plus, designed to take a modern approach to availability. This approach is based on something that is a key tenant for many of the modern data protection leaders, data reuse, the idea of getting additional value from our data protection copies.

According to IBM, reuse is the evolution of data protection, and I fully agree. The ability to gain value from all of the data we have in an organisation is crucial for a data driven business, and this includes our “backup” data. The ability to make it available for other tasks like DR, dev, analytics, or reporting has great value.

The innovation currently in this market goes beyond data resuse. To IBM’s credit they recognize this. You can see this in the other design tenants of the solution, focused on simple management and deployment, simple protection and recovery of workloads, a focus on SLA based protection policies and of course a focus on API’s with integration into modern automation tools such as Puppet and Chef.

Cloud also plays its part with integration into IBM cloud for protecting both data already there, as well as your on-premises solutions and using IBM cloud as a backup destination, there was also a statement of intent for integration with all of the usual cloud suspects.

IBM’s strategy is laudable and does tick the right boxes. It’s focused on the idea of not only ensuring your data is protected, but making sure the data vaulted away by those protection jobs can be used to deliver additional value to your business. All the things you expect from a vendor who wants to play a part in a modern data protection and availability strategy.

Is That Enough?

I started this article by pointing out that the availability industry is a hot part of the technical market right now, not only hot, but also very crowded. Although IBM is not late to the data protection market, the challenge they have is to deliver a modern approach. To do this, they have had to develop a brand-new solution with Spectrum Protect Plus, not additional capabilities built into its established products. IBM then have the same challenge with this as all new products have. They have a lot of catching up to do, as it’s already a long way behind the more established players in this space.

Not only is much of the competition ahead, they are also availability focused. Veeam, CommVault, Rubrik etc are not companies doing something else, they are focused on protection and data management. IBM is a huge company, with resources stretched in many places. They are not the only ones with this problem. Other companies who have to focus elsewhere also have the same issue, their data protection suites are only a small part of a bigger picture, and therefore can lack the appropriate focus and struggle keep pace with market leaders.

Does this mean there is no merit in what IBM are doing? No, the strategic thinking and design of the product could provide an attractive solution in the right environment, but beyond a committed true blue house, can IBM make an impact against more data protection focused competition ones with a much more mature solution portfolio?

IBM clearly gets the challenge and their strategy should be welcomed. It adds further validation to the shift business needs to take in its approach to data. However, can IBM make a major impact in this space? Of that, I’m not so sure.

About the author

Paul Stringfellow

Paul is Technical Director at a long established UK based IT consultancy Gardner Systems. A technology enthusiast who likes to understand how technology impacts organisations of all types.

He shares his enthusiasm via his BLOG at techstringy.com as well as the Tech Interviews Podcast which can be found at podcast.techstringy.com

Also a member of the NetApp A Team, CRN-A-List, and newly appointed Veeam Vanguard 2018.

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