Fewer buying tape libraries, but tape use, disk-based backup, backup apps stay stable

Our SearchStorage.co.UK Purchasing Intentions survey shows spend on tape libraries ebbing but tape use, disk backup, backup apps spend stays stable.

The prevalence of tape as a backup target at European IT shops is holding steady, but fewer people are buying tape libraries. Meanwhile, disk-based backup spend has levelled off, including for data deduplication, and HP is the top vendor in disk-based backup and tape libraries.

Big changes are taking time to filter through in virtual machine backup, with more people now backing up virtual machines via the effectively discontinued VMware Consolidated Backup than previously, despite the availability of newer methods that use the VMware APIs for Data Protection.

Those are some of the findings from the 2011 SearchStorage.co.UK European storage Purchasing Intentions survey, which asked 302 storage professionals representing businesses with an average annual revenue of £896 million about their storage budgets and spending intentions.

The survey results are split into three parts–budgets and disk systems, backup, and the rest. This is the backup section of the survey report. Read on for details on our findings. (For information on how the survey was conducted, see “About the SearchStorage.co.UK 2011 storage Purchasing Intentions survey.”)

Tape holds steady

Use of tape is holding steady, but fewer people are buying tape libraries and those buying them are buying bigger libraries with more slots. Those findings confirm trends that have emerged since the first SearchStorage.co.UK European storage purchasing intentions survey in 2008.

This year 39% of respondents said their use of tape would stay the same while 22.5% expected it to increase. Meanwhile, just under 36% said they expect their use of tape to decline this year. Those figures mark no appreciable change from 2010 and 2008.

But, more respondents (63%) won’t buy tape libraries this year than last year (56%). That figure has crept up historically, as a mere 52% declared no plans to buy tape libraries in 2008. Meanwhile, 30% said they would buy between 1 and 10 tape libraries in 2011 and that also is less than last year’s figure of 39%.

The size of libraries being bought has remained steady over the last two surveys, but has increased over 2008 levels. The average number of slots in libraries bought in 2011 is 96 while last year it was 97.5, up from 81 in 2008.

Among our survey’s respondent, HP was most frequently cited as the tape library vendor of choice, with 28% purchasing from the company or intending to in 2011.

HP retained the top spot from previous years, but saw a slight decrease in percentage for the second survey running, having scored 32% in 2010 and 35% in 2008.

Second place went jointly to Dell and IBM (16% each)--a reasonable result for Dell, which scored around the same as 2010 (14%), but something of a slump for IBM, down from 25% last year. Looking back over the three surveys, however, this year marks a stabilisation for Dell, which held second place in 2008 with a 21.5% citing it as their tape library vendor.

Oracle/Sun tape library products were cited by 11% of respondents, the same as last year. Meanwhile, Quantum/ADIC products are the choice for 10% of readers in 2011, which marks an improvement on last year’s 5%.

Price is the key factor by a small margin in how respondents choose their tape vendor (23%), which is an increase on last year’s figure of 14%. Technical support was last year’s key purchasing factor at 25% of respondents, a criterion that has dropped to 14% this year.

Disk-based backup

Spending on disk-based backup will remain stable, and disk caching remains the most popular way of doing it. Meanwhile, the uptake of virtual tape library and data deduplication devices seems to have levelled out.

The largest number of respondents (43%) currently use disk cache for disk-based backup. Next most common was the VTL (20%) with data deduplication (19%) and CDP (15%) behind that. This year’s figure for data deduplication is little changed from last year’s 18% but marks a plateau after rising from 4% in 2008. Supporting that trend is that 26% report an increase in spending on backup data deduplication products in this year’s survey, down from 34% last year.

A little more than one-third plan to increase spending on disk-based backup in 2011, although the greatest number of respondents (39%) will spend the same this year as they did the year before. For 15%, the spend on disk-based backup will decrease this year. Those proportions are not significantly different from last year.

We asked readers who their main vendor is for disk-based backup products, and again HP was chosen by the largest percentage of respondents (25%). That marks a significant increase over its 15.5% in 2008.

Symantec is second this year with 11%, down from last year’s figure of 17%.

Meanwhile, this year Dell and EMC are jointly in third position, with 10% of respondents each. Last year Dell and EMC level-pegged at 9%, so not much change there. NetApp and Quantum each scored 5%.

Backup apps

Spending on backup applications is another area that has remained stable since last year. About half think it will be the same as 2010, while a quarter predict spending on backup software will increase in 2011.

Among survey respondents, the most popular backup product vendor in 2011 is Symantec, which is the choice of 37.5% of respondents and is a decrease from last year’s rating of 49%. HP is second with 17.5%, up from 8% in 2010, while EMC is third with 14%, having barely registered in 2010.

In the backup software space, features are key to spending choices, with 42.5% of respondents citing it as grounds for purchase of a vendor’s product. Supplying other software and tech support tie on 15% as the second most important reason while price is the key criterion for 14% of backup software buyers.

Backing up virtual servers

The way our readers back up virtual servers is changing. This year’s results indicate a decline in the use of traditional backup for virtual servers and greater use of VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). This is despite VMware effectively discontinuing VCB, with virtual machine backup now most efficiently handled by a mainstream backup product that uses the VMware APIs for Data Protection, released in 2009. That’s the theory anyway, but our survey found a relatively small number use the VM backup features of mainstream backup apps.

What we’re seeing in the user community is a lag behind a relatively fast-moving set of product developments. It’s possible that use of traditional backup methods was superseded for many by VCB over the past 12 to 18 months and, while better methods of VM backup now exist, users are happy to stick with what they have until the next product refresh.

So, in 2011 VCB is the method of VM backup indicated by the largest number (24%) of respondents. Traditional backup is the next most common method (20%). Those figures indicate a significant change from 2010, when 35% used traditional backup and a mere 13% used VCB.

In 2011 15% use a VM-specific product, which is little changed from 2010, while use of backup product VM options (12.5%) comes in behind that.

When we asked readers about the biggest challenges they face in backing up virtual servers, two emerged as bringing the most headaches: complexity and a large volume of data to be backed up, each at 21.5%. For 20%, file access is the most challenging issue.

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