Cross-platform bare metal restore emerges

Bare metal restore goes cross platform.

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It's been about a year since bare metal restore software providers Veritas and Cristie Data Products, Stroud, U.K., introduced software that allows you to restore a disaster recovery image to a different hardware platform than the one it was created on. But already, most customers have come to expect this kind of cross-hardware support, says Peter Shkurko, who heads up Cristie's global business development operations.

Cristie Bare Machine Recovery (CBMR) allows you to restore a system to a hardware platform with different disks, disk controllers and network interface cards, says Ian Saner, a Cristie professional services consultant. To that list, Veritas Bare Metal Restore with Dissimilar System Restore features adds different numbers and types of processors, video adapters and Fibre Channel host bus adapters.

Unitrends Software also plans to announce support for restoring to a dissimilar hardware platform with its BareMetal Plus 2.0 product, due out shortly, says founder and CTO Steve Schwartz. At restore time, the software will present the administrator with a known set of hardware that it can restore to, including drives and drive controllers.

Traditionally, bare metal restore software, such as Norton Ghost from Symantec, has worked by saving a block-level image of your system from which you can boot, thereby sidestepping the process of installing an operating system from scratch, including service packs. But if you want to restore to a dissimilar platform, block-level images don't work, says Saner. Instead of recording the system's image, you need to record the system's data files and the way data is structured on the disk.

All this sounds simple enough, but in actuality, "it's really hard to do," adds Schwartz.

Depending on how large your file system is, bare metal restore to a dissimilar platform can happen in less than an hour, Saner says, compared to several hours without it. The same technology can be used to perform hardware upgrades, such as upgrading from IDE to SATA disk drives, or to do a quick build out of a remote office environment. Dissimilar system restore almost always works, says Saner, although "some systems may take longer to get going than others."

Unfortunately, not all storage administrators are systematic about creating rescue disks or disaster recovery copies of their systems. If you want any bare metal recovery software to work, "you have to back up every time you make configuration changes, including any time you add new software," Saner says.

This was first published in January 2005

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