Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Greetings from the Data Protection Summit

I've been going to fewer and fewer trade shows, conferences, and expos. The reason: I see mostly the same folks (nice though they are) and the same gear. I have the same conversations about mostly the same stuff. Storage conferences in particular are dull with endless rows of storage systems, mostly disk systems, that all look the same. Usually someone tries to convince me that their new disk system is faster then anything ever known. Okay, sure. Whatever...

However, I decided to go to the Data Protection Summit in Irvine even though it's a new event. I like focused conferences especially about the very thing I write about the most. As can be expected with a new conference, turnout was not what everyone wanted but the sessions were high quality. On the vendor side, there weren't any of the giant three-letter-acronym companies. Instead, there were mostly smaller companies that focused on one or two innovative (or so they hope) products.

So here are my impressions of what the conference had to offer:

  1. Gobs of storage security “platforms”. More concentration of storage security than I've ever see before. There were more encryption devices displayed then people in the sessions. The problem with these devices is that they all look and act the same. I think it would be hard to decide on a vendor given the sameness of the products.

    Note to vendors: People don't buy based on small differentiators especially when they can buy from a large full service vendor instead.

  2. Where was everyone else? With the emphasis on encryption so strong, there was little room for other forms of data protection. Hardly anyone was showing good old-fashioned data protection solutions, tape or disk. ILM, traditional backup and restore, CDP, etc. were talked about in the sessions but no one was showing them. It is a strange disconnect between what was discussed and what was shown.

    This tells me two things. First that in minds of small vendors at least, all the other forms of data protection have jumped the shark. No matter that backup systems are what people are buying. It's just not interesting enough to get the VC's to invest in you. Second, old-fashioned backup is still interesting enough to talk about and (more importantly) buy. It's just not as much fun to see. Everyone talks about the new Fall Out Boy album but secretly listens to Bruce Springsteen.

  3. Compliance Rules! If security didn't get your attention then regulatory compliance sure did. No matter what the subject, it always came up. Vendors, analysts, and IT folks all had something to say about it (me included). It's so worrisome even though it only represents a small part of what is wrong with data protection. It just goes to show that lawyers can scare the snot out of anyone, even seasoned IT people. Most of us would rather face an angry mob of end-users whose data was dumped down the drain than be deposed by an attorney.

    We can all imagine the opposition lawyer, dressed completely in black and hissing “Where are the tapes” like Darth Vader. Sends a shudder down your spine, doesn't it?

  4. Your own private DR site. I saw something really cool from a company called VaultStor. It was a standalone, self contained, D2D system in a fireproof and waterproof vault. It's a DR center that fits in a closet. It's a great solution for small and remote offices where it is terribly inconvenient to build a protected data center. Often in those cases the device are left vulnerable to physical disaster. Or the data is left vulnerable to any kind of disaster. VaultStor is a great idea. My thanks to Tom Rauscher of Zetera for pointing them out to me.

  5. From The “All Talk and No Action” Department. There was a lot of gabbing about protecting mobile data but few solutions. Everyone admits it's a problem yet there didn't seem to be too many good ways to address it. Most of the solutions were geared toward protecting mobile data from prying eyes but not from total loss.

    There seems to be this fantasy land where laptops hold no useful information that isn't backed up on a corporate server. In this wonderful place, the CEO has never dropped his laptop down a flight of stairs and a salesperson never accidentally erased the customer proposal that was written in the hotel the night before. Lovely place. I want to live there.

And there you have it. The first Data Protection Summit has come and gone. It yielded, for me anyway, some interesting insights into where the industry is heading. So, despite the low turnout, there was a lot of value in it.

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