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Anatomy of an upgrade: Veritas NetBackup 6.0

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In previous versions of Veritas NetBackup, client backups couldn't run when backing up the catalog, which meant users had to schedule a time during the day to specifically back up their catalog. With Veritas NetBackup 6.0's hot catalog backup feature, a catalog can be backed up at any time, even when multiple client backups are running. This makes scheduling easier and it's much less tedious to back up the catalog more frequently.

To enable this new feature, Symantec rearchitected Veritas NetBackup, moving from a flat-file catalog to a Sybase database catalog to improve scalability. In the old flat-file environment, users had to read through the files to find the information they needed; the Sybase database architecture lets them perform queries against the catalog. "It allows them to scale up to much larger environments," says Matt Kixmoeller, Symantec's senior director of product management, Veritas NetBackup.

Acxiom Corp., an IT services company in Little Rock, AR, upgraded from Version 5.1 to Version 6.0 Maintenance Pack 1 (MP1) on March 21. There were additional scripts to convert everything from flat files to the database format, but that was the least of their worries, says Mark Lutgen, team leader, Unix engineering at Acxiom. It took the company 20 hours to back up a 50GB catalog, a process that would normally take 90 minutes. A bug in the integration between the vaulting feature in Veritas NetBackup--which automates the process of shipping tapes offsite

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to a disaster recovery (DR) facility--and the hot catalog backup feature caused the vault to keep running, leaving Acxiom no time to run its backups. It also meant the company had to hand-pick the tapes to be sent offsite.

Acxiom had "major issues with MP1," says Lutgen. "Symantec allows you to run powerful commands against their catalog, but you better know what you're doing or it can cause corruptions."

Acxiom also ran into configuration issues during a DR test at its recovery center that delayed client restore by several hours. These problems were related to another new feature in Veritas NetBackup 6.0, the Enterprise Media Manager (EMM), which consolidates Veritas NetBackup media and device databases onto one server to simplify recovery in a DR scenario. One issue had to do with some aliases Acxiom had configured at its home site that weren't configured at the recovery site. The other issue was a switch set in the EMM database that indicated Veritas NetBackup was in an upgrade process and prevented further configuration (adding devices such as tape robots or tape drives). To their credit, says Lutgen, Symantec technicians resolved the problems during Acxiom's DR test. "The problems were 6.0 related ... the fix involved us issuing commands against the new database," he adds.

Fortunately, MP2 was released a week after Acxiom installed MP1, which fixed the catalog backup and vault bug the company discovered. "We are operational and in no rush to upgrade to MP3," notes Lutgen.

Version 6.0 changes the catalog recovery process of Veritas NetBackup so significantly that many customers are still performing an offline (cold) catalog backup in case the online catalog recovery doesn't work or, worse, causes data corruption issues.

This was first published in September 2006

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