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Dell expands PowerProtect portfolio, adds GenAI to Apex

Dell adds to its data protection offerings in both backup hardware and snapshot software with a focus on performance. It also introduces AI features to Apex.

Dell is adding two new backup appliances to its PowerProtect lineup and has updated its direct protection software to speed backup and cyber recovery. It's also introducing an AI assistant to Apex Backup.

The Dell PowerProtect Data Domain DD9410 and DD9910 backup appliances bring faster backup and restores over previous entries to large enterprise customers, according to Dell. Dell Storage Direct Protection, formerly Dell Storage Direct, has been updated to support the most recent PowerMax arrays, the 2500 and 8500, and brings higher performance to direct backups. The vendor is also introducing Dell Apex Backup Services AI to aid customers will real-time answers to their questions.

While ensuring data protection in clouds and AI attract more attention, on premises remains critical for companies, and Dell is continuing to bolster its offerings there, according to Phil Goodwin, an analyst at IDC.

"The fact is, more than 50% of applications are still on premises," Goodwin said. "An on-premises data protection requirement is still very much there."

New hardware backups

Both the DD9410 and DD9910, available now, are based on Dell PowerEdge server hardware technology and are outfitted with two Intel Xeon Scalable processors per appliance. The addition of the new CPUs brings 38% faster backups and 44% faster restores over the previous generation, according to Dell.

Like other PowerProtect appliances, the DD9410 and DD9910 use a combination of HDDs and SSDs. This hybrid storage arrangement lets Dell send most of the writes to memory first to aggregate performance and keep costs as low as one cent per gigabyte per month in an Opex model.

Goodwin described the new backup appliances as a standard hardware refresh that adds faster performance and more capacity without going all flash -- a move seen from other vendors, including a release last week from Quantum.

"Flash would overall optimize performance but at an expense," he said.

He added restores aren't typically of entire systems but are more often of smaller components, such as a file system or a database, that can be restored from flash cache.

Data Domain standard features include immutability, the inability to change data once its written, and the cyber vault capabilities, an air-gapped environment. But increasing backup appliance performance is key in data protection, according to Krista Macomber, an analyst at Futurum Group.

"[Higher performance] ensures having a backup copy available in the event you need to recover," she said. "The faster you can recover, the more limited your downtime is going to be."

An updated version of Storage Direct, now Storage Direct Protection, in Dell PowerProtect Data Manager supports the latest PowerMax models. Storage Direct Protection uses snapshots to track changes in primary storage block data, sending only unique blocks to Data Domain appliances. With this software update, backups can see speeds up to 46 TB per hour of multiple storage arrays, and a single recovery can see speeds of up to 21 TB per hour, according to Dell.

Storage Direct Protection has features such as full restore to either the original PowerMax system or an alternative, optional cyber vault integration as well as centralized management and orchestration. The software update will be available globally in the third quarter of 2024, according to Dell.

AI in Apex

Dell Apex customers who need advice or guidance on how to operate or manage their cloud backup services will now have access to Dell Apex Backup Services AI.

The new generative AI (GenAI) assistant is available today and offers a conversational interface to ask questions about Apex backup environments, get guidance for ransomware recovery and generate reports or audits.

The AI service, according to Dell spokespeople, is a white-label version of Druva's Dru GenAI copilot service, which debuted last fall and is built on the Amazon Bedrock GenAI platform. The Apex Backup Services AI is currently limited to AWS cloud-native Apex customers.

GenAI assistants or copilots can help underskilled or understaffed IT teams answer support or operations questions, said Mike Matchett, founder and analyst at Small World Big Data.

A new challenge from services such as Dell Apex Backup Services AI is understanding who is liable for accuracy, he said. Would AWS, Druva or Dell be responsible if the AI makes a wrong statement, or would liability for client harm fall to the customer?

"If [ownership] starts to become opaque and multi-layered, does the user have any recourse if things go south?" Matchett said. "The consumer can dangerously become part of that supply chain for clients. Who becomes liable if it starts giving bad advice?"

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware, and private clouds. He previously worked at Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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