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Top 3 questions to identify if an Integrated Data Protection Appliance really is an appliance or integrated

Joshua Stenhouse 3

Since its launch back in May 2017, the Dell/EMC IDPA (Integrated Data Protection Appliance) product range has been something a joke in the industry for not really being an appliance at all. It’s a rack full of kit (AKA the fridge) with multiple components of a legacy data protection architecture stuffed inside, making it the opposite of a modern, simple solution:


But that was then, it’s now July 2018 and Dell/EMC is back with their announcement of the IDPA DP 4400. And this time, it really is an integrated appliance! See:IDPADD4400PICCropped

Other than the cool bezel, we now have the confusion when dealing with Dell/EMC of trying to decipher when is an appliance really an appliance, and furthermore, is it actually integrated? It does protect data, so I’ll let that part of the name slide.

To help you get the truth here are the top 3 questions to ask:

  1. Can you show me a picture of it?
    The adage that a picture speaks a thousand words has never been truer than here. If you can’t see a picture of the appliance, only a rack, then it’s likely not an appliance at all. Anything but the DP 4400 in the IDPA range is 100% not an appliance. It’s the same old hodgepodge of legacy kit and software bought in, bundled and rebadged.If you want an actual data protection “appliance” from Dell/EMC you’re stuck with the DP 4400 which uses the virtual edition of both Avamar and Data Domain. This means you can’t scale beyond 96TB usable capacity without buying a rack of kit or creating multiple silos of deduplication. Worse still, the recovery performance is an abysmal 1,000 IOPS, see page 1 on the product datasheet:


    A modern appliance-based data protection solution should scale-out from 1 to hundreds of nodes without the need for a forklift upgrade or silos of storage. It should also have significantly more than 1,000 IOPs to be considered a fit for purpose solution in even the SMB space.


  2. Is it running a hypervisor?
    This is a great way to get to the core of whether the appliance is truly integrated, or whether it’s a bunch of legacy components virtualized and put on top of a hypervisor in a box. The IDPA DP 4400 is comprised of 10 different software components to manage, including the vSphere cluster it’s running on. Don’t believe me? Check out page 10-11 in the technical product guide:IDPAEmbeddedSoftware truly integrated data protection appliance should run on a single OS without multiple components to manage and it shouldn’t need its own hypervisor. It is radically simpler to manage and easier to scale. Also, any modern future-proof solution should have search, reporting, and cloud integration all baked in. Not a series of additional and/or optional software components.


  3. How many components need to be updated?
    If the “appliance” is running 10 software components then updates are going to be a painful time sapping experience prone to failure, interoperability issues, and it is certainly not integrated. Although, according to the same IDPA 4400 technical document, upgrading IDPA is as simple as this:IDPAUpdatePic
    This would be great, except I find it hard to believe that this upgrades everything from Avamar to ESXi to the Windows operating systems throughout. Ask exactly what the IDPA software upgrade file actually updates if they answer this question with 1!

    An integrated data protection appliance should have 1 code version to manage and 1 software component to update. It’s hard enough managing interoperability of everything else in your datacenter, you shouldn’t have to manage it within the backup stack itself. It’s 2018!

There you go. Short but sweet. Let me know if you heard any humorous answers from a salesperson to these probing questions.

If you enjoyed this you might also want to check out my post on why logical dedupe rates are illogical:

Why logical deduplication is completely illogical

This will help you understand how Dell/EMC get to the mythical 55:1 dedupe ratio guarantee that comes with the DP 4400 (when also purchasing extra support services).

Agree? Disagree? Comment, share, like. Thanks for reading,


  1. Dustin Dustin

    And this is why we switched from Dell EMC Data Protection to Rubrik! :o) Great article showing what is truly under the covers. EMC should have invested into building an appliance from the ground up rather then combining all of their outdated products into one. I will say Data Domain is a solid product, but that is only one part of the all in one solution. Software is a big part of that solution, and I don’t think Dell EMC’s software is up to par with other vendors today.

  2. Andrew S Andrew S

    IDPA is Hot Garbage

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