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Anatomy of an upgrade: Veritas NetBackup 6.0

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Experts advise users to delay upgrading
Symantec Corp. isn't the first company to rearchitect its product from a flat-file to a database architecture. Microsoft Corp. attempted a similar feat with WinFS, in which it was integrating unstructured data into a relational database. WinFS reached beta after several years of development, but Microsoft canned the project in June 2006. In a blog posted on the Microsoft Web site, the company announced it would no longer be "pursuing a separate delivery of WinFS," instead choosing to integrate it into the next release of SQL Server.

"Converting a basic file system into a more organized structure

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like a database is no mean feat," says Ash Ashutosh, CTO of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s storage management software group and founder of AppIQ. "Everyone understands files, but databases are a whole different beast," he says. "The tools are a lot geekier."

In Symantec's case, the company picked the Sybase database because other Symantec products use it, but also because Sybase made its product look like a file system to the app, according to Ashutosh. He says this would have meant fewer changes to the Veritas NetBackup code, but significant testing between NetBackup and the Sybase database. Ashutosh says Symantec should have kept Veritas NetBackup Version 6.0 in "QA and test for a good 24 months." Symantec shipped NetBackup 5.1 on June 7, 2004, and NetBackup 6.0 on October 3, 2005. (HP's OpenView Storage Data Protector product competes with Symantec's Veritas NetBackup.)

According to industry analysts, all software companies, especially the larger players, are under considerable internal pressure to meet release dates that have more to do with meeting quarterly earnings than releasing a solid product. There's also pressure from customers demanding new features. The upshot is buggier software. Experts advise not to upgrade to a new release until absolutely necessary.

Growing bug list
The list of bugs goes on and on. So far, Symantec has fixed 100 bugs in MP3, which a spokesperson says "is very typical for a quarterly maintenance pack and a product that has as many capabilities and supported components as NBU [NetBackup]." It's no surprise many users are holding off upgrading to Version 6.0 on the advice of Veritas NetBackup resellers, who are telling people to wait until Version 6.5 (expected in the first quarter of next year) for the product to become stable (see "Experts advise users to delay upgrading," at right).

Symantec declined to comment on how many bugs it has discovered in Veritas NetBackup Version 6.0. "We don't get an accurate report on the number of bugs," says the firm's Adams. "When any new release comes out, there will be any number of bugs ... We never got any highlight that there were any more [bugs] with [Version] 6 than with previous versions of NetBackup."

"There are substantial leaps forward [in Veritas NetBackup 6.0]," adds Symantec's Kixmoeller, "but it's important to realize they're substantial changes, and it takes some investment on the customer's part to learn about the new tools and properly plan for the upgrade."

A former Veritas engineer who quit Symantec in March because of the Veritas NetBackup problems, says Version 6.0 was probably released too early and was still essentially a beta product.

"There were several Sybase bugs, with config files getting spontaneously corrupted; the worst part was that the techs weren't adequately trained on Sybase to understand the problems," she says, preferring to remain anonymous because she still works in the industry.

This was first published in September 2006

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