Bocada clarifies backup picture


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Although no other product provides the same level of functionality or covers as many backup products as BackupReport, it's not the only tool you can use to report on your backups. The remaining tools fall into two categories: products from backup software vendors, and ESM/SRM (enterprise storage management and storage resource management) products with backup reporting functionality.
Products from backup software vendors include:
Brightstor portal supports BrightStor Enterprise Backup, ARCServe, Legato Networker, and Veritas Backup Exec. In its first release, Portal does not aggregate reports from all of the backup products into a single consolidated report-that won't be available until the middle of next year.
Legato networker operations supports NetWorker, and is based on BOM, which they purchased in the last few years. Legato says 7.0 release of NetWorker will contain additional features.
Veritas Advanced Reporter supports NetBackup-but not Backup Exec.
ESM and SRM products include Storage Profiler from Tek-Tools and StorageAlert from Trellisoft. Storage Profiler supports ARCserve, Legato and NetBackup, and has custom reporting tools for each product, resulting in slightly different reports for each product type. Trellisoft is just now adding backup and recovery functionality to StorageAlert. While the rest of their product has a lot of features, it offers limited functionality in the backup reporting area when compared to other products discussed here.

Most backup/reporting is centered on answering the question, "How did backups work last night?" They often do little to help you understand the trends that are happening in your backup system.

What about questions like: Which clients are failing the most often? Which backup servers are failing the most often? How large are my backups today vs. this time last year?

IT departments are always looking for ways to properly document the cost of the services they provide to their internal clients. Current products have no such information available.

Everything changes
All of this changed when I was introduced to a product called BackupReport from Bocada. This report covers version 1.5 of BackupReport. Version 2.0 should be in beta shortly (see "BackupReport 2.0's new features").

But, what makes this product so different? It provides great reports with none of the problems listed above-without requiring you to load any software on your backup server. It does this by using your backup product's native protocols and emulating another backup server.

To use it, you first load BackupReport onto a single Windows 2000/XP system. It will then optionally probe your network and display a list of backup servers that will need to be configured. Some backup products can be automatically added, and some products require the storage administrator to configure the monitoring system as a backup server. For example, NetWorker would require notifying each NetWorker server that the BackupReport system is a valid administrator, and NetBackup would require it to be listed as a server in the bp.conf file. Once that is done, the BackupReport system appears to your backup servers as another backup server they can communicate with. BackupReport then polls each server regularly and stores the appropriate information in its SQL Server database-smaller environments can use the provided MSDE tools.

Once it has communicated with all of your backup servers-regardless of product type-you can report on all backups within your environment by logging into a single place. You can use the GUI on the system where you loaded BackupReport or you can load a remote admin console on any Windows workstation.

An example report is shown in the Success and Failure Report (see "Trends and analysis reports"). This shows how you can run a report for all backup servers and all backup clients or for selected backup servers or clients. Success is noted by a completely green square, and failure by a completely red square. Partial failure is shown as a red and green square. The report lists each client under the server that backs them up. You can then drill down on any particular client to see the backups that were performed for that client. In the screen shot, this has been done for two clients.

Of course, this product can report on the success and failure of your backups-including backups that aren't even configured to run. If a particular client or filesystem is already known to BackupReport and then suddenly disappears off of the radar, it will notify you. This means when you deactivate a particular client's backups for preventative maintenance and accidentally forget to reactivate it, BackupReport will let you know.

Going one step farther, BackupReport can even find hosts that aren't configured as backup clients at all. It starts with another probe of your network. You specify the parameters of the search, including which subnets it should search. It then compares the results of this probe to clients configured in all of your backup servers-regardless of which product they use. It then gives you a list of "orphans," or hosts that need to be backed up, but aren't. This is the tool that I always wanted to write myself, but never got around to it.

Reliability, trends and diagnostics
As BackupReport collects historical data about your backups, it is able to conduct trend analysis studies. The "Trends and analysis report" shows an example of one of BackupReport's many trend analysis reports that illustrates how much of your total storage capacity is coming from each backup server.

BackupReport 2.0's new features
The 2.0 version should be in beta by the time you read this, and it is projected to have a number of new features, including:
Media data capture Capture all available media (library/tape) information from the respective backup products.
Media reporting Provide media reports within BackupReport, including media utilization, media/tape finder and media throughput, extending the current throughput report to the media level.
Backup definition reporting You will be able to report on jobs by backup definition, such as a NetBackup policy or NetWorker group.
Custom reports to HTML All GUI reports will be available as custom reports-with limited criteria-that are exported in HTML format to specified locations based on user-defined schedules. This functionality should allow customers to quickly publish limited read-only web reports to appropriate users without creating custom reports against the database. Customers will also be able to specify HTML style sheets for report generation, insuring that these HTML reports blend seamlessly into a larger IT portal look/feel.
Summary views of reports Monthly and weekly views in addition to the current daily view of reports.

BackupReport allows you to see the source of all of the backup data, how it has grown and how this has impacted each backup server. Reports like these can help the storage administrator easily justify capacity increases in the right places. When are your backups running? How much data is being backed up at different times at night? The load summaries report will help answer these questions.

The billing and compliance report shows you how much you should be billing back to a particular internal client for their backups and shows them how well the system they're paying for has been performing.

Areas for improvement
Although I'm OK with using SQL Server as the database engine, others have requested a Unix/Linux based version with another database. What about a Linux server with a Postgress database? Now that would be nice. It would be also nice if I could use the reporting GUI on my Linux workstation, instead of needing a Windows workstation. As to product functionality, most of the features I've asked for are being included in 2.0, including media reporting, reporting by backup job and increased HTML reporting.

Stands above the pack
There's no other product that can do what BackupReport claims it can do. Although some of the vendors whose products are supported by BackupReport have new reporting products that offer some of the functionality discussed above, all of them support only their product. This simplifies the development process significantly-as they don't have to create an agent for each platform.

This was first published in November 2002

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