Organisations are looking to manage their information resources more effectively. The challenge for vendors is to ensure that they recognise and support the systems that are already deployed.

Over the last 3 years we have seen an increasing trend to consolidate systems, using virtualisation and other tools to get more out of infrastructure investments. But this consolidation has been taking place at different levels, not solely in the data centre.

The net effect is that there are large volumes of data that need to be secured more effectively. Continuous data protection (CDP) is an evolving technology with companies such as EMC acquiring Kashya to deliver these solutions.

The first stage is to ensure that systems are protected against any disaster that might affect system operations at any site. Securing the data to another site meets with the practices of sound system and data management. This has been offered by IBM, HP, HDS and others with proprietary data replication tools.

The challenge for users is whether they will change their infrastructure to compatible disk arrays at each site or live with a mixed vendor environment. Providing high performance remote data replication services is what Topio identified as an opportunity and developed a solution that has gained acceptance with large companies. They are now able to migrate data to other vendors' arrays and protect their data against system failures at the original site.

This service can also be used in other ways. For example, the data protection services can focus into one or two key locations where data is then taken off-line for long term archive. Savings can be realised as all sites once needed tape and off-line systems. Another application is for system testing, where users can take a copy of a live database for testing new system releases, without disrupting the operation of the production systems.

The need for open systems, supporting heterogeneous environments remains as strong as ever. Network Appliance, with its acquisition of Topio, has taken a step forward in supporting the open environment, as consolidated data centres are used to provide complimentary data protection services.

This acquisition will enable Network Appliance to establish a footprint into competitive accounts with the ability to slowly migrate solutions onto their own disk arrays. The company is linking the Topio solution with its own data management tools showing its intent to coexist and even displace competitive solutions as it moves into the data centre.

Whether this will form a key element of an evolving CDP solution, we will have to wait and see. Supporting heterogeneous environments, supported by one of the major players, will make data protection and disaster recovery practices an area that users can tackle more cost effectively.

Hamish Macarthur, Macarthur Stroud International, Tel: 020 8240 6000