IBM Spectrum Protect Review

It integrates well with Spectrum Scale

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is for pure file backup. We have used it from back in the Tivoli Storage Manager days. Primarily, backing up Spectrum Scale would be our most common use, but we do use it as the main backup client that we use. Therefore, whatever storage that we are supplying, it is generally the backup solution that we put in along with it.

We are largely HPC focused as a company, so it is still very much focused on hardware. Although, we are starting to see more questions asked about how to utilize the cloud and how to involve it. So, it is coming, but traditionally, we are still sticking with the hardware solutions, such as traditional tape libraries. Larger deployments would be the TS3500s and the TS4500s. Then, there are the smaller products along the same lines where you have got a number of drives and a number of tapes. At whatever scales the client is setting it, we will match the size to their requirements.

How has it helped my organization?

It is hard to say because we tend to go in with a specific project and deploy that project. Therefore, we do not always have visibility on what the impact is. Just that it is a positive experience and it integrates well with the solution that we have provided. However, we do not tend to get to see the before and after of the impact for our specific client.

What is most valuable?

Integration with Spectrum Scale is a large part of it. 

We sometimes use different pools of storage (policy engine in it) in terms of retention. 

What needs improvement?

There is always a balance between the power of the product and the usability of it. There is learning curve to learn how to use it, but it is a very powerful product.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We have our issues with Fibre Channel. but that is the hardware which underlies it. In terms of Spectrum Protect, it runs very well. We have ran it in certain clients for the best part of 10 years, and it runs very well for us. We do not have stability problems with Spectrum Protect. The issues that we do have, it is with the hardware underneath.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

High availability (HA) is a challenge, but we do deploy it in certain situations. We tend to stick to a more traditional scale up model rather than a scale out model, but we have managed to meet our requirements for this, so scalability has not been a problem other than when people ask for HA solutions. Generally, we have managed to meet our requirements.

How is customer service and technical support?

When I used them a number of years ago, the experience was positive. They were always helpful when we had issues and managed to explain what the circumstances were around the issues and how to resolve them. Therefore, the experience then was positive. I have not personally been dealing with the support side for over a year now.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is not too bad. Once you know what you are doing, it tends to be fine. The part we always struggle with is the onboarding process, getting people used to how it works, the specific nuances of the product, the fact that it is always incremental, their retention policies, and the commands to use when you're interacting with it. That is more the challenge that we have with it: The onboarding of new people whether they are internal people to us or clients.

There is quite a steep learning curve to your initial interactions with Protect. Then, once you kind of get into it and get into that intermediate level, the documentation is really good and the resources out there are also good. Thus, once you get over that initial hump, then it is pretty good.

What about the implementation team?

Our clients tend to have an in-house team that at least do the daily check side of it, then back off the support to us. If they are having any problems, any errors coming up, or if the backups haven't run, etc., that is when they involve us. From a day-to-day point of view, we do not tend to be hands-on.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Our clients tend to compare it with NetBackup.

What other advice do I have?

Most important criteria when selecting a vendor: It is often around meeting certain requirements. Our business is usually won on other parts of the project than Protect. While Protect is a vital part of it, the difference is usually around Spectrum Scale, the compute cluster, or other products that Protect is looking after.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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