Tape is dead – long live tape.

So, how many times do we hear bold proclamations?  They are a part of daily life.

Great predictions are made, but usually they get over-hyped (that’s the job of marketing right?) and, often, people don’t see things happening as quickly as predicted and then, logically, start to question the original premise.

It is easy to identify the big trends after the fact. Predictions like the car will replace the horse, we will pay our bills online and stop mailing checks, or we will watch the TV we want “on demand” vs. the network’s schedules. These all seem completely logical now but were all, at some time, just “wild ideas.”  The right ideas will generate a disruption -but, they almost always take longer than people think.

Sometimes bold predications don’t work out. We are not all traveling around in flying cars or living on the moon. The secret, obviously, is sorting out the real trends from the hype and understanding that even mega-trends do not happen overnight.

Timing is everything.

The other problem is that things don’t really change that often. Computing has “era’s” if you will – these can last many years and even decades. Imagine driving down a long, long straight road. It can be straight for years then, all of a sudden, a curve.

Missing trends (or curves in the road), simply, is how most (if not all) technology companies fail – they look at data and ignore the information/knowledge and then, miss a trend. Even in technology, the roads are pretty straight. Major trends tend to last at least a decade, which is plenty of time for everyone to get comfortable. Each day we wake up and assume the road will be straight, just like it was yesterday. The secret is predicting the curves.

For example, tape backup, I believe, is about to hit a curve.

The curve has been coming for a while based on a number of technologies like low cost disk, lower cost bandwidth, backup-to-disk, CDP (continuous data protection) and snapshot technologies. Now I believe that curve is going to make a hard tight turn based on two factors. Data de-duplication (or de-dupe) technology and Compliance (customer driven).

Data de-duplication is, in many ways, a simple concept. The simple premise is that you only need to backup one copy of any common piece of data. Doing it is the tougher problem. Good de-dupe systems can detect “duplication” at the file level or even within files. For example, most of us reuse tons of Power Point files but only make slight changes. Good de-dup (as it is called) technology can compress backup data (to disk) at 25:1 or better on incidentals and up to 500:1 overall – this is big. The technology does not work with tapes as reconstructing any file needs to use “segments” that may be located “far away” from each other on the media. This is no issue for a disk drive but essentially impossible to do on tape.

Shazam! With data de-duplication, disk can actually be lower cost than tape!

Compliance sits on the customer (pull side) of the disruptive spectrum. Companies are now faced with big costs for loosing or not being able to recover data. Not a couple bucks either, but big money, millions. Let’s face it - these are not tape’s strong points either. Coupled with the cost savings now possible with RDE, the argument for a curve in the road is compelling.

So there you have it – we announced our planned acquisition of Avamar yesterday and the reason we chose to move now is that the curve is coming, and I believe that it is just over the next hill.

Avamar offers the absolute best data de-duplication technology on the market today. It is capable of providing de-duplication both at the edge (to avoid sending too much data of the network to centralized backup stores) and at the core. It is simple and complete in that you don’t have to graft on your legacy backup software, yet it can still work in conjunction with tape-oriented backup systems. Just install it and use it. For those belt and suspenders types, you can still use your legacy tape backup SW to the backup the Avamar Data Vault.

Just like VMware, or Smarts, or Documentum, Avamar is on the leading edge of a trend in a huge market. The data protection/recovery market is about to change and we are going to lead the way.

So far, I think we have been a pretty good oracle (oops, I guess that word is taken) of technology trends. I think many folks had resigned themselves to backup being a static market that is just a chore within IT. That is not the case. There are sometimes some long straight roads but watch out for curves…

Mark…

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