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Sizing up the software

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Almost without exception, every major backup software vendor refers to its feature product as enterprise class backup software and refers to other products that complement it as midtier or entry-level backup software. Veritas provides an excellent example of this. For what it classifies as their enterprise class, it offers its NetBackup product. In the midtier market, it offers Backup Exec and for the user running software on an individual workstation, provides a link to Sonic Solution's Backup MyPC product.

Yet the definition and scope of each of these products vary from company to company. Computer Associate's David Liff says these different definitions of tiers of backup software are largely irrelevant to CA. The only definition of enterprise that matters to CA in the field is the one the customer uses--whether that means one server or 10,000 servers--and that's the one they use for that account. IBM takes yet a different view, saying that Tivoli Storage Manager can meet the needs of any size organization.

Unfortunately, these definitions do more to obfuscate the terms than clarify terms. While no clear or industry standard definitions for enterprise, midtier or entry level exist, here are some general guidelines:

Entry Level: Will generally only backup the workstation on which it resides. Usually intended for the individual Windows or Linux desktop. Samples of products include: Sonic Solutions Backup MyPC and Peer Software's PeerSync.

Midtier: Characteristics of this class include the ability to do backups of multiple servers of varying OS platforms supporting different vendor's databases. This tier usually provides a central management console permitting administrators to connect to the individual servers to configure the backup software for backup functionality. They generally feature the ability to back up Unix and Windows platforms as well as providing agents to do hot backups of the databases residing on the individual servers. Products that typify this class include Veritas' Backup Exec and CA's ARCserve.

Enterprise: This tier generally contains a subset of products supporting the features of the other two tiers, plus offers a variety of advanced functions that may vary significantly from vendor to vendor. Advanced functions include vendor-dependent or independent snapshots, advanced tape media management functionality, the ability to integrate with SAN or NAS storage devices and the ability to do policy-based storage management. Products that typify this category include Tivoli Storage Manager, Veritas NetBackup, and CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup.

Veritas NetBackup
According to Jerry Hoetger, Veritas' senior manager of product marketing, NetBackup differentiates itself from its competitors in four important ways. First, NetBackup can stream data from multiple backup jobs to a single tape drive, or in the case of large backup jobs from a single server, spread the backup job over a number of tape drives, increasing the speed of the backup.

Second, NetBackup delivers a three-tier architecture. The first tier is called Master Server, and acts as the operations center for the product and schedules and tracks client backups operations. The second tier permits an organization with large databases to back them up on the server where they reside, while also enabling them to back up other clients systems on the network. The third tier is the client agents that back up server and workstations.

Thirdly, NetBackup differentiates itself by offering options to utilize the latest storage technologies. In the storage area network (SAN) space, for example, it offers a shared storage option (SSO), which keeps backup traffic on the SAN and reduces the backup traffic that normally would be introduced into the LAN environment. In the network-attached storage (NAS) space, it offers a network data management protocol (NDMP) option that controls backup and recovery functions for NAS systems supporting NDMP.

NetBackup 4.5--the latest edition--offers a fourth differentiator: Global Data Manager. This provides a GUI that shows a single view of the entire NetBackup backup and recovery environment, provides real-time reports and lets an administrator drill down to a specific location anywhere in the world.

CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup
CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup also offers key features such as data staging. Though some other vendors offer this feature, data staging is becoming increasingly important because it gives administrators the option to move data to a secondary location before moving it off to tape. Unlike NetBackup's similar option, this feature works independent of a Unix or Veritas file system. Data copies can be scheduled to occur to minimize server and application performance hits while increasing the availability of data before offloading it to tape.

In SAN environments that include Windows and Unix platforms, BrightStor Enterprise Backup enables cross platform device and media sharing. This allows administrators to store both Unix and Windows data on the same tape media. It also allows the sharing of tape libraries and other SAN storage devices without the need to dedicate these devices to one OS.

Nipping at the heels of these three vendors with their backup software products are new and existing players such as CommVault, Innovation Data Processing (IDP), and Legato. CommVault's Galaxy 4.1 recently grabbed a Gold award for Storage magazine's "Best Storage Products of 2002" with two cutting edge features. One was its ability to view all backup media from a logical view as opposed to a physical device view that many of its competitors do. The other was how it backed up to disk. Unlike many of its competitors that back up data sequentially, and consequentially will run slower when backing up to disk, it backs up data to disk randomly, thereby capitalizing the inherent strength of disk.

While a disk performs better when data is randomly scattered on the disk, just the opposite is true with tape: It performs better when the data is laid out sequentially. For example, take the following two number sequences: 2 4 1 7 9 3 6 5 8 and 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9--a disk would read the first set of numbers faster than tape.

IDP offers the FDR/Upstream product. It's one of the few other products on the market that offers organizations the ability to manage their open systems and mainframe backups with a single product. It includes extensive support for Windows, Novell, Unix and Linux platforms and it may even be configured to use ESCON and FICON connected network channel cards that provide a mechanism for connecting open systems to IBM mainframes.

Legato also offers a variety of other options in addition to its core Networker product to ensure uptime and availability. Its add-on Octopussy product provides real-time data replication for Windows servers without the use of specialized or proprietary hardware. Its SnapImage module provides the ability for Sun Solaris and HP-UX operating systems to use NDMP to perform block-level image backups for large file servers.

This was first published in March 2003

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