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New protocol observed

Network Appliance and PDC release the first data access software and backup tools that comply with the new network date management protocol.

Initial products based on the network data management protocol specification for network-based data storage are hitting the market, with Network Appliance (NTAP) and PDC releasing the first data access software and backup management tools that comply with the standard.

NDMP is a newly created protocol that lets administrators control data as it flows from network-attached storage arrays, or "filers," and tape libraries. Disparate management, storage, and database tools that comply with the standard will be able to manage data backups using the NDMP specification. Currently, most backup software tools are tied to specific hardware configurations, making simplicity impossible in corporate networks.

Network Appliance will offer a version of its ONTAP operating system that is NDMP-compliant in its line of network "filers"--a stripped-down server that is optimized for data access. PDC will follow with a version of its BudTool data backup and restoration software for the Sun Solaris platform that includes NDMP support. It is not surprising that these vendors are the first out of the gate in support of the protocol, given that they are driving the standard.

"It strengthens our product in one of the fundamental propositions of storage, that is, you've got to back data up," said Robert Hamilton, a senior product manager at Network Appliance.

Analysts said the promise of lower costs, increased use of network-attached storage, and high-availability strategies to optimize access to data will drive adoption of the NDMP specification.

"In terms of market acceptance, I think there's a large demand out there," said Jim Hurley, director of operating environments at the Aberdeen Group consultancy. The specification is a key "enabling technology" that administrators can use to lower costs while gaining interoperability between disparate management, backup, and database tools, he said.

Agnes Lamont, a product manager at PDC, said Solaris is just the first platform for the NDMP-compliant BudTool product. The enterprise-class backup package also runs on other popular Unix flavors, such as Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX and IBM's AIX.

The Network Data Management Task Force, the organization which is driving adoption of the specification, now includes about 25 storage, tape library, and backup software vendors. The specification has been turned over to the Internet Engineering Task Force for adoption by that group as well.

An NDMP-compliant version of BudTool for the Solaris platform is now available for $2,495. A version of Network Appliance's ONTAP software that includes NDMP is available for no charge as an upgrade to ONTAP 4.0 users.