Hands-On Review: CommVault QiNetix


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QiNetix Aims to Move Mountains (of Tape)

Product snapshot

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CommVault QiNetix second generation.
Backup and recovery analysis and reporting tool.
Key Features:
Provides information to improve media usage and administrator productivity.
Well-integrated architecture that's easy to use.
Procedures are not very flexible, and straying from them can cause difficulties.
$34,085 as configured for the test.
Root canal, IRS audits, college tuition payments, and backup and recovery (B/R) may well top the list of least-favorite events among storage administrators. In fact, B/R ranks among the most problem-plagued areas in surveys of IT organizations. It's also among the top three storage spending priorities for IT groups, which should provide an economic incentive for vendors to provide fresh products to improve B/R operations. CommVault Systems Inc.'s QiNetix, with its storage resource management (SRM)-like approach to this problem, is a good example.

Diogenes Analytical Laboratories Inc. estimates that nearly two-thirds of storage management efforts are directed to B/R. In terms of capital expenses, the acquisition costs of B/R software, tape libraries and tape devices are fairly obvious. The hidden budget-killer is the media itself, as those $60 to $80 tape cartridges add up quickly. Organizations that manage tens or hundreds of thousands of tapes are likely to spend more on media and media management than on everything else in their B/R budgets.

Assessing the costs of B/R
A high B/R job failure rate is typical, which is why it's a labor-intensive endeavor. Diogenes Analytical Labs estimates that nightly B/R job failure rates range from 5% to 20%. Storage administrators must perform "triage" on failed jobs each day to determine the cause of the failure, rectify the situation and determine when to re-initiate the job based on how risky it is to leave data unprotected. Moreover, tapes must be manually rotated in and out of the libraries, moved to off-site vaults and have scratch pools replenished.

Costs associated with media are more insidious. Our estimates show that most tapes are only 60% to 70% utilized, while 85% to 90% constitutes best practice. Low utilization is usually caused by two factors. First, improper grouping of jobs (i.e., jobs requiring unique media vs. those that don't) may cause overuse of unique media and yield unfilled tapes. Second, inaccurately grouping jobs with dissimilar expiration dates may result in media being retained for long periods to preserve only a fraction of the encapsulated data.

An effective B/R application should accomplish three goals:

  1. Reduce job failure.
  2. Reduce manual "triage" of failed jobs, or at least the impact of the failures.
  3. Improve media-use efficiency.

CommVault's QiNetix second-generation product is designed to improve B/R efficiency through reduced job failure and faster restore times. Because it's integrated with CommVault's Galaxy B/R product, it doesn't operate with other B/R products. Our tests were designed to determine how well QiNetix can solve the B/R imperatives vs. standalone B/R products.

Setting up the test
QiNetix is positioned as a foundation comprising five components:

  • DataMigrator for hierarchical storage management (HSM)
  • DataArchiver for B/R-related activities
  • Quick Recovery for volume snapshots
  • StorageManager for trending and reporting on primary storage
  • QNet for chargeback and costing

Our tests focused on the reporting aspects of the product, the most useful element for improving storage operations. QiNetix is built around the CommServe console, which installs on a Windows server ideally dedicated to the product. The installation included a SQL Server database that stores configuration details. The CommServe console is similar to other storage resource management (SRM) architectures; it gathers information from the storage elements using data agents on managed servers. The data agents must be installed on any system that has connected storage to be backed up. Supported storage environments include internal storage, direct-attached storage (DAS), storage area networks (SANs) and network-attached storage (NAS).

This was first published in January 2005

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