Home > Tech Field Day, VFD4, Virtualisation Field Day > CommVault: We’re not just a backup company but we don’t like telling you

CommVault: We’re not just a backup company but we don’t like telling you

April 8th, 2015

I was very fortunate to attend Virtualisation Field Day earlier this year. One of the companies presenting was CommVault who bill themselves as a “data” company.

They spent the majority of their time at Virtualisation Field Day going through all the details of how they can do backups and restores and to be honest it was rather dull. Backups are hugely critical to your infrastructure and just like insurance you don’t want to find out you are not protected when it is too late. The thing though is backup nowadays is such a utility service. It would be unfair to say that backups haven’t evolved because they have particularly with virtualisation but ultimately you are still taking a copy of your data and storing it remotely from your live data. The what hasn’t changed much even if the how has.

This makes talking about backup a difficult task because your audience always certainly knows what backup does and generally how it works even if your tool may have a few differences. Being able to back something up and restore it is a given, being able to mount backups of VMs and restore files within those backed up VMs is now a given as well however your backup vendor choses to do it.

I feel CommVault did itself a disservice at Virtualisation Field Day which is evident by the lack of post game talk and analysis about their solution compared to some of the other presentations, proof that backups are not sexy.

However I feel that CommVault has an interesting story to tell if they could just elevate themselves from the backup bandwagon.

CommVault Simpana’s USP is not in the backup but in the use and analysis of the data that has been ingested. I use ingested deliberately to make the distinction between it just being a backup used to recover something some time in the future. Companies are being asked to do more and more with their data, some of it is in live databases or files but a huge amount is actually archive data, old log files, old emails, old text messages, old voicemails, old x-rays, old files. Companies are often required legally to keep this old stuff around for a long time and you know how this is stored, in a completely separate copy from backups. Emails are journalled by product x. text messages by product y, voicemails by product z. These products may be even separate companies with completely separate data formats, there’s no way you could search across them.

If you could bring this all together and have it searchable across formats then that would be very useful. A hospital may need to track everything a doctor did regarding a particular patient who is suing the hospital. They want to see all old x-rays taken, all hand-written notes the doctor made, all voice calls the doctor made to the patient via the switchboard as well as mobile phone, camera footage in the operating theatre, prescription information from the pharmacy. You get the picture. How long do you think it would take the IT staff to gather this with segregated data sets to hand to the investigators/lawyers/auditors. If you had ingested all this information into a common storage platform, searching would be far far simpler and yeah of course you could restore a deleted file or even a whole VM as well.

Well, this is what CommVault Simpana intends to do with its content store and to me that is far more interesting than boring backup. The buzz words are on their side, its Big Data analytics, using your backups as the source data. Simpana is built as a single single platform for its integrated data and information management and has individually licensable modules to analyse, replicate, protectarchive and search your data.

I appreciate CommVault was presenting at Virtualisation Field Day and felt they needed to highlight the backup features of their product but that isn’t going to make anyone excited.

Ask anyone who’s heard of CommVault what the company does and the answer is a vague “backup product””. Their marketing message needs to change from backup centric to: look, of course we can protect your data with backups and restores but look here what we can also do for you as we have a copy of your data. Their demos could be so interesting showing searches across disparate data sets playing the role of lawyer, forensic investigator or compliance officer uncovering meaning in the data that would be very difficult to find elsewhere.

I sincerely wish CommVault good luck as I actually think they have a product that meets a huge need, they just don’t always like telling you its not just a backup product.

Gestalt IT payed for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Virtualisation Field Day but didn’t pay a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

  1. April 10th, 2015 at 05:24 | #1

    I hate that my first comment to your blog will come across as negative and defensive, but I found this blog post to be rather insulting to an entire swath — a very important swath — of the IT industry, so I just couldn’t help but reply.

    You said their presentation was boring. I’d say any particular part of technology is boring if you don’t follow it. I find virtualization and networking boring, and “backup” exciting. Just because you don’t personally find it exciting doesn’t mean it’s boring. It just means it’s boring to you.

    You say backups are just a “utility service.” I’m not sure what that means. If by that you mean that everybody has them and they’re like electricity and water where you just turn the knob/switch and they’re on, then I couldn’t disagree more. “Backups” in the broadest sense are harder than they’ve ever been and they are anywhere near from being a utility. (Do you know how to backup 1 PB database in a way to give it a 1 hour RTO and an RPO measured in minutes? Good luck with that.) I worked for 8 years at a major consulting company that did all kinds of consulting. You know what the most common thing we started with was? That’s right. Backups. Everybody’s backups are broken.

    Then you say that backups are just “taking a copy of your data and storing it remotely from your live data.” Yeah, and virtualization is just some software pretending to be hardware, and networking is just moving bits from one box to another box.

    Seriously, dude. While backups don’t get the attention that virtualization does, they have absolutely advanced in the last few years and decades. Anyone who thinks they haven’t doesn’t know much about backups. But that’s probably because they’re boring.

    • Julian Wood
      April 13th, 2015 at 13:20 | #2

      @W. Curtis Preston

      Thanks for commenting, I actually agree with many of your points and the post was not a criticism of what the backup industry does but what CommVault decided to present at Virtualisation Field Day.

      A lot of what backup does could be considered a utility service, by which I mean bog standard backup and restore of normal files and VMs in a general use datacenter. There are many many products in the market place that do this and they all allow basic backup and recovery. Of course some products do a lot more and there are particular products that can do amazing things like backup a PB of data with the RTO and RPO you use as an example which would certainly be very far from utility and extremely interesting but this wasn’t the type of functionality that CommVault was highlighting. They decided to only talk about the parts of their product that I felt were the utility parts and not very exciting when in fact they do have a very interesting product that does a whole lot more which I wish they had talked about.

      Talking about virtualisation then a comparison I suppose would be to make a general statement that hypervisors are also commodity. There are a number of hypervisors that can host VMs and do a good enough job. However some hypervisors are fantastic at running extremely latency sensitive applications or huge monster VMs or support advanced storage or advanced networking or massive scale. The basic set of hypervisor functionality may be commodity or utility but the extended features certainly are not and that is why customers purchase your product, the same goes with backup.

      There are boring bits in all of IT from storage to networking to virtualisation to backup, it’s the innovation and expertise that companies build on top of the boring bits that generate interest and revenue and elevate a backup products from being a utility. Commvault had a great opportunity to talk about way more than the boring bits and I think they missed the opportunity.

  2. Tanya williams
    September 7th, 2017 at 18:11 | #3

    Would you be interested to acquire an email lead list of CommVault Simpana Users, which contains business information along with contact details of key decision makers?

    Titles available :
    • CIO, CTO
    • SVP, VP of IT
    • Director of IT
    • VP Engineering, Manufacturing, Operations
    • Director Engineering
    • Product Management Specialists

    The list includes complete contact information such as Contact name, Email address, Business Title, Company name, Phone number, Mailing address along with detailed business information.

    Please let me know if there is someone else I may contact regarding our contact database. Alternatively, I would appreciate you passing this along to right person responsible for making such decisions.

    Best Regards,
    Tanya Williams

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