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What the leading copy data management vendors offer

Copy management systems from the leading vendors offer unique features that can help IT departments consolidate their secondary storage into a single product.

The market for copy management systems has expanded significantly in the last few years as the benefits of managing so-called secondary data have become apparent. Copy data storage products enable IT departments to consolidate multiple nonprimary data uses into a single platform, saving storage and operational time.

Here, we compare products from the leading copy data management vendors on the market. These vendors include Actifio Inc., Catalogic Software, Cohesity Inc., Commvault Systems Inc., Delphix Corp. and Rubrik Inc. All of the vendors except Delphix focus on general application workloads; Delphix is specifically targeted toward copy data management for databases.

Let's take a look at the capabilities of the products from the leading vendors of copy data management systems, how each addresses the various use cases and what features make certain platforms stand out.

Data ingestion

Most of the leading products have the ability to capture data. Of the six copy data management vendors surveyed, all but Catalogic import data from production platforms into their products. Catalogic, however, manages data in place across a range of traditional storage products from vendors that include Dell EMC, IBM and Pure Storage.

Editor's note

Using extensive research into the copy management market, TechTarget editors focused on vendors that offer well-integrated and automated copy management systems. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys, as well as reports from other respected research firms, including Gartner.

In-place management means Catalogic simply orchestrates the management of snapshots and clones, albeit with application integration, to ensure data consistency. IT organizations that simply want to improve their storage efficiency without deploying additional storage hardware may find the Catalogic approach more appealing than having to support additional storage appliances.

Physical and virtual sources

Across all the platforms, we see the ingest sources of data being derived from both physical and virtual platforms. Rubrik, Cohesity, Commvault and Actifio focus on taking data from APIs that expose changed block tracking data, such as VMware vSphere. This enables backups of virtual machines (VMs) to be synthetically created from an initial full-copy backup and subsequent incremental block changes. Rubrik recently announced support for Microsoft Hyper-V and Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor.

Catalogic, Rubrik, Actifio, Commvault and Cohesity all support native backups from traditional platforms, such as Oracle, Microsoft Exchange and SAP HANA. In this case, the data is taken from existing tools, such as Oracle Recovery Manager or Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service, which provide the ability to create application-consistent backup copies.

Form factors

Actifio, Cohesity and Rubrik all offer appliances for storing secondary data. These products have either scale-out file systems -- such as with Rubrik and Cohesity -- or scale-out object stores -- such as with Actifio -- that are used to retain backups and data copies. Commvault stores data in virtual repositories using existing storage resources. In all instances, the data stored by these products is deduplicated to reduce the amount of physical storage being consumed.

All of these vendors now provide virtual appliance implementations. This enables their products to be deployed as virtual machines and integrated into existing virtual server deployments. Cohesity and Rubrik position the use of a virtual appliance as a way to support edge or remote office computing. Virtual appliances in remote offices can replicate data to physical appliances based in the core data center, providing for off-site protection.

Public cloud support

Taking the ability to deploy virtual instances of copy data management software further, we are now also starting to see the implementation of products for the public cloud. Rubrik, Cohesity and Actifio provide software to directly support public cloud, with Actifio having the widest support of cloud providers.

Initial public cloud support meant using cloud storage as a repository for backup or image data. While this provided benefits in archiving long-term, inactive data -- and reducing the need to buy further appliances -- access to that data was limited to restoring or rehydrating the data through the on-premises appliance.

Now, copy data management vendors support the management of virtual instances in the cloud and the ability to migrate data from on premises into the cloud where required. This provides a degree of mobility for application data and could be used as a tool to temporarily or permanently move workloads to cloud computing.

Use cases: How the leading copy management vendors compare

The use cases for copy data are widespread, and they typically fall into several categories.

Data protection. Copy management systems offer data backup and restore capabilities, either for an entire VM or for the application data itself.

All of the leading copy data management vendors use incremental backup and synthetic full image recovery. In addition, these vendors also offer file-based recovery of content within a VM and application-consistent recovery of application data.

For the appliance-based products, such as Rubrik, Cohesity and Actifio, instant recovery enables the copy data management platform to act as a data store to the hypervisor, enabling a VM image to be instantly started from backup. Data can either be recovered from this image or the entire image can be moved back to production storage. The Commvault product also provides instant VM recovery.

Seeding test environments. All products provide the ability to seed test and development environments in a variety of ways.

As discussed, appliance-based products and Commvault enable instant VM recovery. Actifio and Delphix also provide the capability to obfuscate production data through data masking. This automates the process of updating production data to remove information that could be confidential, such as birth dates or Social Security numbers.

Actifio provides additional features to enable a high degree of automation through integration with self-service automation tools, such as Ansible, Chef, Puppet and SaltStack. Both Rubrik and Cohesity offer APIs that enable their platforms to be driven from scripting environments, such as Microsoft PowerShell.

Remote and branch offices. In most remote environments, deploying a physical appliance is impractical and costly; running a virtual instance is more suitable. But having both primary data and backup data on the same platform is not ideal, so both Rubrik and Cohesity support replication of data from edge devices into the data center core. Actifio also supports replication of data between appliances in primary and disaster recovery locations.

Analytics. All of the leading copy management products provide some form of data analytics. This function could enable users to look at the content of databases and VMs to provide details on application growth or other attributes, such as average VM size. It could also enable users to look at specific file data for requirements such as eDiscovery, compliance or threat analysis.

Additional features

Each platform includes unique features that extend the idea of consolidating secondary storage into a single product.

For instance, Cohesity DataPlatform provides support for native scale-out file systems using NFS version 3, SMB 3 and SMB 2.x protocols. This enables IT departments to consider retiring dedicated file servers or filer appliances.

Cohesity supports the ability to archive, tier or replicate data to the public cloud -- using Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google -- for data protection and cost optimization. The analytics capability of DataPlatform also extends to file data, making it easy to search through content in what the vendor describes as a Google-like fashion. In the most recent release, DataPlatform now also supports object storage through the Amazon Simple Storage Service API.

As the copy data management market matures, we are seeing vendor products come closer together in terms of feature parity.

Actifio provides the ability to back up traditional NAS filers, including Dell EMC Isilon and NetApp Fabric-Attached Storage, through a feature called Big Data Director. This can help eliminate the need to deploy a second set of NAS hardware, as file images can be read directly from the Actifio appliance.

Catalogic Software is the first company to support its software running within a storage array. The company recently announced a partnership with Pure Storage that enables Catalogic code to run within FlashArray//X appliances to manage the snapshot process in conjunction with maintaining application consistency.

Looking across the market, IT organizations can support applications wherever they are deployed, either on premises, at the edge or in the cloud. Platforms such as Cohesity and Rubrik are stronger in the virtual server area, whereas Actifio and Catalogic appear to currently have better support for native applications. Catalogic reduces the need to deploy dedicated hardware for data storage by simply orchestrating array-based snapshots and coordinating these with application consistency. Delphix focuses specifically on databases. Cohesity stands out as the only product to natively support scale-out file and object services.

As the copy data management market matures, we are seeing vendor products come closer together in terms of feature parity. Whatever choice customers make, getting the right platform at the outset is important because, as yet, we have seen no cross-vendor migration technology. This might be something that emerges once the market becomes more saturated and copy data management vendors have to start sharing with the competition rather than replacing traditional backup technologies.

Next Steps

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