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Purpose-Built Backup Appliance (PBBA): The Ultimate Guide

Purpose-built backup appliances or PBBAs add speed and reliability to backup and restore operations. These devices remain as relevant within a cloud environment as they have for on-premises operations, despite the increasing use of the cloud and proliferation of related technology threatening to make PBBA-use redundant.

PBBAs have been essential foundational components to many backup and recovery functions of organizations globally for over a decade. Despite the increased use of cloud storage services, the PBBA market remains poised for growth heading into the next decade.

What is Purpose-Built Backup Appliance (PBBA)?

A purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA) refers to a standalone disk-based storage device optimized and configured for storing backup data. Such devices can either be targets for incoming data from a backup application or have tightly integrated backup software into their hardware – otherwise called an integrated backup appliance.

As primarily backup data storage devices, PBBAs typically include features such as deduplication, encryption, compression, redundant hardware components, and automated setup and maintenance.

According to the purpose-built backup appliance definition, these devices run their backup-related workloads solely without impacting other servers. Since they are separate devices dedicated only to those workloads, they do not take resources away from other devices handling active storage or apps. Many purpose-built backup appliances easily integrate with the existing architecture. They feature centralized consoles to simplify backup processes, even when several appliances are involved.

Organizations use purpose-built backup appliances for data protection and disaster recovery. Businesses are better able to restore and recover their operations after a malware attack, hardware failures and natural disasters by having devices focused solely on backup.

The Key Features of PBBA

PBBA features that backup appliance vendors typically market include the following:

  • Easy appliance setup and management. These systems usually provide interfaces that automate several aspects of setting up or maintaining the appliance.
  • Multiple redundant hardware components, for example, power and several redundant NICs. These help avoid data loss during a system failure.
  • It enables the deduplication of backup data, both at the source and in-line. Since deduplication removes redundant copies of the stored information, it lowers overall storage costs.
  • Encryption of data at rest. It enables the protection of data presently stored on the purpose-built backup appliance from view should a security breach occur.

What Makes a Backup Appliance Purpose-Built?

A PBBA’s configurations and options are what make a backup appliance purpose-built. They set it apart from other backup appliances and designate them as purpose-built. These distinguishing characteristics include:

  • The ability to specifically store backup data sets using the backup software format makes it impractical to use the stored data for other purposes.
  • PBBA implements a high rate of data deduplication (often 10:1 or more), which also makes it impractical to use the data for other uses other than data restoration.
  • It enables highly efficient data replication (mostly due to data deduplication) and facilitates rapid backup from remote offices.
  • Provides protocol translation (e.g., OpenStack, S3) for data transfer to cloud repositories or “cloud tiering”.

A purpose-built backup appliance system is turnkey (it's ready for immediate use) – whether it’s a particular storage device or a disk array. Its plug-and-play design makes a PBBA easy to configure and add to any existing IT infrastructure.

Usually, an organization would set up a purpose-built backup appliance as a backup data target. In such a case, the backup software would run on a host server to initiate data transfers, schedule backups and automate restores. However, in a PBBA, the manufacturer builds in that software into the backup hardware.

What’s more, it is possible to deploy a purpose-built backup appliance as a gateway device between cloud storage and backup software. Like how virtual tape libraries can allow the interface between disk and tape, a PBBA used as a cloud gateway device allows writing to the cloud. It represents cloud storage as if it’s a local disk.

Smaller businesses can get by using single appliances with a suitable storage capacity. However, enterprise-sized or mid-sized organizations might use multiple dedicated appliances to share workloads and resources. It is possible to cluster the newer generation of machines coming out into one storage pool rather than serving as standalone repositories.

PBBA Purchase Considerations

When looking at potential backup appliance vendors and PBBA options, some basic requirements ensure these systems can function effectively. These include:

  1. Plug and Play
  2. An appliance should function effectively out of the box. It comes with pre-installed backup software and storage hardware designed around specific workloads. Manufacturers also optimize it for speed and efficiency.

  3. Flexibility
  4. A PBBA should have the capability of expanding and contracting defined by the changing needs and wants of a business. A useful purpose-built backup appliance can serve as a single appliance, or the IT department can cluster it with other dedicated appliances so that it shares resources such as deduplication or encryption at rest. Such use can effectively increase an appliance’s lifespan.

    Useful PBBAs offer a broad range of usable capacity to support present and future requirements. Furthermore, they make storage increases and scaling user friendly.

  5. Manageability
  6. In a bid to conserve valuable IT time and staff resources, a backup appliance should offer centralized management and reporting capability via a central console that is easy to use. To further reduce complexity, businesses should consider a solution that enables clients to deploy their software across several appliances.

  7. Additional Features of PBBAs
  8. A PBBA can support new services when needed, making it an invaluable part of a growing organization’s storage requirements. It could enable the management of features such as archiving, e-discovery or snapshot management from a single hub.

Purpose-Built Backup Appliance Market

Organizations have used purpose-built backup appliances as foundational components for their backup and recovery infrastructure for more than a decade. The following numbers, as per IDC, illustrate the essence of PBBAs:

  • In 2018, the data replication and protection market reached approximately $8.9 billion, and the Purpose-Built backup appliance market was $3.6 billion.
  • In 2019, the data replication and protection market grew to approximately $9.2 billion, and the purpose-built backup appliance market grew to $4.1 billion.

Despite its size, the purpose-built backup appliance market is relatively specialized, with a limited number of participants. Since the pioneer of the market about 15 years ago, it has seen considerable growth and experienced several developments. For instance, of late, PBBA devices are evolving to address hybrid data protection issues using faster data restoration plus secondary use cases.

Changing market requirements and the evolution of technology have necessitated most of these developments. For instance, from the example above, the demand for cloud computing and hybrid systems necessitated the PBBA evolution.

Unlike cloud gateway devices that only store data for short periods (primarily used as data transfer buffers), the design of PBBAs allows them to retain data throughout the data backup’s life. They also facilitate rapid data restoration.

Properties and Applications

The disk-based PBBA backup and restoration solution has the following segments:

  • Components – includes hardware and software
  • Enterprise – large or small and mid-level enterprises
  • System – open and mainframe systems
  • Industrial vertical – BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), Telecom and IT, healthcare, education, manufacturing, government, energy, utility, as well as travel and hospitality

PBBA Market Outlook 2019 to 2024

The PBBA market valuation reached over $4 billion in 2019. Expert reports expect the industry to grow to a value of $8.6 billion between 2020 and 2024, with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 10.6%. This growth is due to a rising focus of organizations on data protection, backup and restoration infrastructure.

The growth will occur due to increasing focus and awareness of enterprises on data protection, backup and recovery infrastructure. It will also happen because of its role in helping businesses restore functions and operations quickly after an attack or data loss. Data security protocols like the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the growth of the IoT market are also drivers of the purpose-built backup appliance market.

The manufacturing vertical held one of the most considerable CAGR due to the creation of large volumes of business-critical data daily by companies. It includes engineering drawings and product documentation to product pricing and costing. Hence, manufacturers need to have on-premises purpose-built backup appliances.

Backup Appliance Market Share and Analysis

Market drivers of the PBBA industry include continuous advances and backup techniques, a massive information boom, a shift to cloud storage and computing, and other related technological advancements. Another considerable market driver is the growing focus of organizations and businesses on data protection, backup and recovery setup.

The leading market region is North America because of its enterprises’ growing need for data storage. However, experts expect Europe to grow at a faster pace compared to other areas due to government rules and regulations concerning data protection and security, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

On the other hand, the Asia Pacific region will overtake all other areas to become the leading market because of the soaring awareness amongst its member enterprises concerning data backup, recovery and protection.

Purpose-Built Backup Appliance Market Trends

Initially, PBBAs were replacements for tape storage. Numerous organizations switched to disk-based appliances in the last two decades as a result. The purpose-built backup appliance market, therefore, enjoyed fast and robust growth, which remained steady through 2016. The market dipped slightly in 2017 and regained in 2018 and 2019 as per IDC data.

The 2017 market dip is attributable to a radical market shift towards the cloud and hybrid systems. During the period, many businesses moved away from entirely hardware-based and on-premises PBBA systems.

However, 2018 saw a rebound and renewed interest in PBBA solutions attributable to an increasing focus of companies on efficient data protection and recovery, the rising market for IoT, and stringent data protection and security regulations like the GDPR policy. Other trends include:


  1. Lucrative PBBA Hardware Components
  2. Hardware components will have a higher backup appliance market share moving forward compared to software. Hardware is replaceable and repairable when it gets damaged or worn. With the expansion of businesses resulting in increased implementation of PBBA, enterprises will have to purchase new purpose-built backup appliances to either build new systems or replace worn-out ones.

    Therefore, PBBA hardware will become more lucrative than software because the market typically associates costs with the appliance’s capacity and the features it offers in data backup and recovery.

  3. Manufacturing Vertical Will Lead the PBBA Market Moving to 2024
  4. The PBBA is critical for processes involved in manufacturing. There are government and industry regulations in place for the protection and backup of purpose-built backup appliances in the sector. There is a manufacturing boom in technologically advancing countries like China, India and Brazil due to government support initiatives like foreign direct investments. These factors will help drive the backup appliance market share.

  5. Open Systems to Have a Higher Backup Appliance Market Share
  6. Various backup appliance vendors come up with open system computing platforms with open software and hardware standards. Open systems that support PBBAs are easily adaptable to any IT environment. They also have a lower price.

  7. SMEs to Have Higher Growth Rate than Large Enterprises
  8. Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises are getting a boost across many countries globally, with numerous initiatives that support their growth. Policies like reducing corporate tax and providing low-interest SME loans will drive a higher PBBA growth rate among SMEs.

  9. APAC to Become the Largest PBBA Market by 2024
  10. Developed and developing countries like Japan, India, China, among others, lead the APAC market region. It is a promising purpose-built backup appliance market due to factors such as the growth of SMEs and growing economies. The rise in APAC’s economic infrastructure will also directly impact the market as will the presence of major companies, a healthy supply side, robust industrial development demand and financial capability.

The Importance of PBBAs

PBBAs primarily solve challenges associated with the backup and restoration of data. They are specifically useful for all types and sizes of companies, from startups (experiencing rapid growth) to large scale enterprises.

The primary benefits include:

  1. Backstopping Unreliable Tape Media or Hardware
  2. Tape hardware is highly mechanical and it is more error-prone compared to disk arrays. What’s more, it is easy to lose, steal or break tape media, or have unrecoverable errors. Therefore, organizations turn to PBBA solutions as their primary backup target to reduce failures in backup and restore functions due to tape-related problems.

  3. Speeding up Data Restore
  4. Because PBBAs are random-access devices, they can restore individual files rapidly compared with the time required to load, search, mount and stream a tape. Tape media is incredibly slow in cases where an organization moves it to an offsite location. In such cases, the recall process can take hours or even days to complete.

  5. Storage Efficiency and Cost Reduction
  6. Thanks to the data duplication capability of backup and storage appliances, PBBAs intelligently optimize data to reduce the space required for backups. They are also resilient compared to other alternative forms of backup devices.

  7. Utilising Hybrid Cloud Storage
  8. PBBAs allow organizations to utilize the ingenious nature of hybrid cloud services. Businesses can use the hybrid cloud by combining an on-site backup appliance with an integrated cloud backup service. It ensures that, should something go wrong with an on-premises backup, there is a secondary backup available.

  9. Managed Services
  10. Managed service PBBAs refer to when a service provider supplies all the complexities related to backup and restoration services. These services are especially helpful for startups and small-sized companies that cannot yet afford to formulate their backup and restore strategies from scratch or by themselves.

    Many companies cannot afford to transform their IT departments into a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” that can handle IT-related solutions in-house. As a result, these companies rely on outsourcing many of their more intricate and complex work to experienced backup appliance vendors.

    In such cases, hiring a managed service PBBA is more beneficial to such companies than building, configuring, managing and maintaining their backup strategy.

  11. Other Benefits
    • Protect data at rest from attacks, theft or breaches
    • Create backup data copies to remote sites or receive copies from these remote sites for disaster recovery
    • Remove redundant data within individual files
    • Remove redundant backup data files to save space
  12. Purpose-built backup appliances function as more than mere repositories for backup data. Typically, they have data protection and storage capabilities that increase security and efficiency. For instance, they:

    Of course, PBBAs and tape media are not mutually exclusive. It is common for organizations to write one copy of their backup to a PBBA and create a second copy on tape (also known as disk-to-disk-to-tape or D2D2T). It offers the advantages of rapid on-site data restoration using a PBBA plus the safety of offsite tape storage for an organization’s disaster recovery or assured data survival.

    Organizations can carry out the process above, either serially or in parallel. Recently, some organizations have started copying their data to the cloud using a disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C) architecture. The approach offers similar data management benefits as D2D2T; however, it eliminates the need to handle tapes.

PBBA Shortcomings

The main shortcoming of using PBBA is that the system only serves one purpose: backup and recovery. The data stored within is deduplicated (stored in data fragments and spread across numerous blocks). The appliance also stores data in a backup software proprietary format. As such, it is not available for additional purposes, such as analytics.

Additionally, the time required to rehydrate data (reassemble fragmented data blocks into complete ones) may impact restore times.

Fortunately, the PBBA industry responds to these shortcomings by adding flash storage capabilities and different architectural elements to speed up data restores and open up stored data to secondary use cases.

The Bottom Line

The purpose-built backup appliance refers to a disk-based solution that enables the backup of data that comes explicitly from a backup application. Organizations deploy PBBAs in standalone configurations, and their designs can improve backup processes by decreasing the backup and recovery windows across multiple operating platforms and applications.

Furthermore, these appliances have less sensitivity to network latency (delays in data communication) than tape-based solutions since they are disk-based. Their primary use is data protection and disaster recovery. They also provide enhanced security for disaster, hardware failures and malware attacks.

PBBAs are now cornerstone data protection technologies for numerous organizations looking to optimize their backup and restore operations. At over $4 billion in revenue value, the purpose-built backup appliance market represents roughly one-third of the total amount that organizations spent on backup and recovery infrastructure in 2019.

PBBAs remain relevant in cloud environments by providing rapid on-premises data restoration and replication even though their original design was to solve tape-related problems.