Dell bundles backup software, eyes further development

Dell embarks on the path of becoming a full-fledged storage software vendor

Dell is organizing the backup software products that it has acquired in the past two years into a coherent portfolio, bundling three of its storage software products into a single package to simplify licensing for the enterprise.

"We have a new approach to data protection that is driving down the costs," said Michael Grant, head of software product marketing at Dell.

The release is a precursor to Dell delving more deeply into the market of storage software, not just as a vendor but as a developer of new technologies. "We're making a pretty big investment in data protection," Grant said.

The new Backup and Disaster Recovery Suite contains popular Dell backup programs, AppAssure, NetVault Backup and vRanger. Dell acquired each of these programs through company acquisitions in 2012.

Each application performs a slightly different function, Grant explained.

AppAssure creates fast backup snapshots of a system. It makes image-based snapshots of server and infrastructure software, and can make a full backup of a system within a few minutes.

AppAssure was originally developed by a startup company of the same name, which was purchased by Dell in 2012.

NetVault is the company's Swiss Army Knife of storage software: It can copy and store data from and to a wide variety of platforms.

"NetVault writes from anything and can read to anything," Grant said.

NetVault was originally developed by AT&T and later acquired by Quest Software, which Dell also purchased in 2012.

vRanger, also developed by Quest, is aimed at covering the virtual realm in data centers; it makes backup copies of both VMware and Microsoft Hyper V-based virtual machines.

The idea is that organizations will use all of these programs in various capacities in a tiered backup architecture, Grant explained.

Critical systems should be backed up so they can be restored as quickly as possible after an interruption, Grant said. This is the work of AppAssure, which can back up and restore applications in-house, in a virtual environment or in the cloud. NetVault can restore all the other applications and data, no matter the platform. And vRanger offers additional coverage for virtual resources.

The package "is very customized to what you need," Grant said. "You can get a new level of resiliency from using this package than from using a one-size-fits-all backup package."

Despite being packaged together, the programs have not been configured to work together yet, Grant admitted. Dell is integrating the programs, though, and expects that future releases will be more coordinated.

"We exposed the [application programming interfaces] across the board for all three of these products and we're now building a Web interface to manage this," Grant said. "As our road map evolves we'll integrate all three of these in different ways."

Dell has also started devoting more internal resources to developing advanced storage technologies, Grant said.

"We've gotten into the intellectual property side of the data protection business just in the last 24 months. Prior to that, we just resold other companies' products," Grant said.

The emphasis on developing new backup software falls in line with the company's plans to expand its software portfolio, a priority at least since Michael Dell returned to the CEO position in 2007, said Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT.

The purchase of Quest software for US$2.4 billion signalled the company's intent -- Quest had considerable expertise in infrastructure management software. Dell installed Quest's former CEO, John Swainson, as president of Dell Software.

"A primary focus of [Dell's] efforts has been to integrate increasingly sophisticated software solutions and services across its entire product portfolio," King wrote in an email. "These new storage offerings for data protection, back-up and recovery qualify as the latest additions to Dell's growing portfolio of data center solutions. But they also cast light on the company's continuing software-centric strategy."

The company is up against some serious competitors in this space, however: IBM, Symantec, EMC and HP all are leaders in this field, according to Gartner. Smaller companies such as Veeam and Actifio are bringing new technologies to this market as well.

Pricing for the suite is fairly simple. It is based on the amount of data backed up, using any of the applications. Tiered pricing starts at $5,000 for each terabyte stored, with the price-per-terabyte decreasing as more data is stored. Storing 250 terabytes of data, for instance, would cost $2,250 per terabyte.

Each software product will also continue to be available for purchase separately.

Grant did not know at what point it would be less expensive to license the suite rather than individual components.

"Generally speaking, you'll find the broad-based price-per-terabyte at the starting point to be less expensive if you deployed all three of these products, [which are sold] by agent, by component, or by socket," Grant said.

The Dell Backup & Disaster Recovery Suite will be available by the end of September 2014, both from Dell and its partner channels.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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