BakBone has recently introduced three new NetVault-branded products which are not backup applications. The are Netvault Report Manager for Disk Space, Report Manager for Backup, and NetVault Replicator. Why is BakBone moving beyond its core backup product space?

Chris Ross, GM and VP EMEA at BakBone, was asked what is BakBone's market and business like?

He said: ""BakBone is growing, but it's not growing as fast as we would like- replacement business, not green field sites. The backup market is not growing as fast as it used to - only five to six percent a year."

We might conclude that the backup software market is pretty saturated. There are lots of suppliers and customers stick with their supplier because a new backup supplier's software cannot restore files from an old supplier's tapes. So growth for a pure play backup vendor is strictly limited.

Its strategy has not changed in outline. Ross said: "We aim to increase market share in the business continuity and the data protection market." But the way it is going to achieve this has changed.

What BakBone has done is to look at growth rates in associated markets. According to Ross: "The replication and archive markets are growing much faster (than the backup market)." Multi-server backup reporting is also doing well.

And the result? Ross said: "So we have expanded into replication and reporting."

NetVault Report Manager provides reports from all of a customer's Bakbone backed-up servers. As the company's web page states: "NetVault: Report Manager provides file system and backup reporting for single or multi-server environments from one common interface. Tight integration with NetVault: Backup and disaster recovery technologies offers a single view into storage operations allowing users to proactively manage today’s growing storage and data protection environments as a whole."

What BackBone hasn't done is enter the heterogeneous backup reporting market as Bocada and WysDM have done. Nor has it entered the archive market. But it has entered the replication market. The entry has been based on the $5 million acquisition of Constant Data in November, 2005, and its product Constant Replicator. This used mirroring to maintain file and data synchronisation between two or more sites.

Renamed as NetVault Replicator, it provides fast, real-time mirroring over standard IP networks to one or more servers anywhere on the network. It is an interesting product because it has a new take on the synchronous versus asynchronous replication situation. BakBone says it uses hybrid real-time replication.

Generally synchronous replication products have data written to the primary system and then copied over a link to a secondary system. Once both writes are completed and the two systems files are synchronised then the application continues.

Asynchronous replication differs in that data is written to the primary storage system and the application continues. The write to the secondary remote storage system takes place later and does not hold up the application while it is taking place.

WAN latency generally prevents synchronous replication taking place over WAN distances where asynchronous replication is often preferred. A problem with asynchronous replication is that an application system crash will lose data that is waiting to be sent to the remote site. Data protection is not as good with asynchronous replication.

Ross explained that BakBone's hybrid replication writes data to the primary system's disks and then tells the application to continue. But it also immediately sends the data to the remote site thus reducing the risk of having unprotected data. It spoofs the application that asynchronous replication is taking place.

As a BakBone white paper states: "Applications do not have to wait for the data to be written twice, yet data changes are replicated to a secondary site as quickly as possible." Thus BakBone's product means that apparent synchronous replication can be enjoyed across WAN distances.

We asked if de-duping a feature of the hybrid replication product. Ross said: "No. We use check-summing to identify changes and transfer the changed bytes only."

So now BakBone has three products, each with their own interface. Ross acknowledged this: "Currently there are different user interfaces for the products. Over the next eighteen months we will progress to one user interface with intelligence between the applications."

At present; "There is some integration between backup and reporting. There will be more." The same is true for backup and replication with more integration coming.

In the future replication vendors might take a leaf from the Wide Area File System (WAFS) vendors books and start adding network acceleration techniques to reduce the effects of network latency. Bakbone will undoubtedly continue its product development work as it strives to build its replication customer base.