Feb 9, 2022

Looking Back To Look Ahead: How All-Flash Changes The Data Protection Game

Looking Back To Look Ahead: How All-Flash Changes The Data Protection Game

Posted by

Jeff Harbert

I’ve been in the data protection business long enough to start telling “I remember when” stories. I try not to bore my peers with stories about fighting with “shoe-shining” tape drives, but sometimes you must look back to understand why you need to move forward.

When I started in the industry, tape drives were a necessary evil – disk was too expensive for backup purposes, but tape suffered from mechanical issues, provided notoriously inconsistent throughput, and lacked the ability to restore via random access to the data. When disk vendors started to leverage low-cost hard disk drives along with deduplication algorithms, purpose-built backup appliances (PBBAs) became an economical choice for backups. These PBBAs provided backup-specific features like deduplication and compression while also providing intuitive interfaces and enabled the admins to easily integrate storage into their backup solutions.


For a while, backup admins were happy with their PBBAs – disk eliminated the physical management of tape, provided faster restores for individual user files, and generally simplified the function of backup administration. PBBAs solved some of tape’s biggest issues by providing the right balance of backup throughput, capacity, and cost. In fact, the market for target PBBAs (these PBBAs are a backup target only and do not run the backup application on it) grew to $2.1B in 20191. A lot of companies invested a lot of IT resources into these solutions.

But a shift in the use case for backups has cast a new focus on the PBBA experience. Specifically, the rise in Ransomware attacks has necessitated us to ask the purpose of backups and challenge the very purpose of a “purpose-built backup appliance” – PBBA vendors have done a fantastic job of convincing backup admins that restores do not matter, but the only reason we backup is to RESTORE!

Spec sheets quote logical capacity and backup throughput, but conveniently neglect to inform you that restore speeds may be less than 20% of the backup speed. This issue wasn’t a deal breaker when restores were limited to user files, individual databases or maybe a system or two but what happens when you need to restore entire business units following an attack?

The PBBA restore performance bottleneck means ransomware recoveries can take weeks due to the distributed nature of deduplicated data on spinning disk. To maximize recovery throughput, backup admins must often process the restores in a serial nature (i.e., one at a time) to minimize resource contention. Even then, restores take much longer than the application owners will tolerate.

If resuming normal business operations hinges on recovering from backups, do you really want to tell the CEO that the data protection solution you purchased was designed for backups and not restores?

What if you didn’t have to?

While PBBAs changed the game in the mid-2000’s, today there are better options for meeting both your backup window and your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO). Specifically, flash storage provides the performance needed to restore petabytes of data in hours, not weeks or months. Unfortunately, legacy flash storage systems remain cost prohibitive as a backup target – leading organizations to continue purchasing PBBAs and hoping they never need to recover from them.

Since “hope” is not a viable strategy (experts agree that Ransomware attacks are a matter of “when”, not “if”), VAST Data offers a modern backup solution that bucks the traditional model of PBBAs. VAST's Data Platform solution provides:

  • High Performance and Low Cost. An all-flash, scale-out architecture that can meet stringent recovery time objectives (RTOs) by providing 8x more backup restore performance, at a cost that is 40 percent lower than legacy PBBAs.

  • The industry’s most advanced data reduction, achieved by VAST’s Similarity-Based Data Reduction brings the effective cost of flash in line with HDD-based storage systems.

  • Low Total Cost of Ownership. A 10-year warranty for VAST’s Data Platform provides an industry’s-best total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage compared to the average three-to-five year refresh cycle.

  • Data Protection. The Indestructible Snapshots feature helps companies safeguard data by preventing critical backup copies and snapshots from being altered or destroyed by nefarious actors that are inside or outside of the organization.


PBBAs had their day, but now is the time to modernize your data protection solution to meet your current requirements, not those from 2010. To help you move forward, today VAST announced a new partnership with data protection leader Commvault to provide an integrated, modern backup solution that provides superior safeguards for organizations looking to protect their data from looming cyber threats, disasters or rogue employees. Read the press release here featuring VAST and Commvault executives discuss the state of backup/restore and how flash storage is enabling unprecedented advancements in data protection.

IDC: Purpose-Built Backup Appliances, Fourth Quarter and Year End 2019; 2020 Forecast Assumptions

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