Feature

Review of Computer Associates' BrightStor Enterprise Backup software

Ezine

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Product

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BrightStor Enterprise Backup
Description
Multiple platform distributed backup package
Key features
Portal-based admin tool, works with tape or disk backup
Pro
High throughput
Con
No incremental forever feature
Price
Base price of $4,995; additionalmodules and agents extra
If you watch a lot of television, you undoubtedly have seen the many commercials from Computer Associates Inc., (CA) Islandia, NY, illustrating the need for reliable backup. An executive on his way to a board meeting is relying on information that's only stored in the heads of two junior executives. But they both meet their downfall on the way to the meeting, leaving the senior exec looking silly. The subliminal message: The two junior executives are your mirrored disk drives that were unprotected by backup.

CA must be pretty confident that its data protection product offerings can stand the scrutiny of millions of eyes. Over the past month, my eyes have been reviewing CA's BrightStor Enterprise Backup (v. 10.5) software to see if it can indeed stand the test of real use. Can it work within the time of our backup windows and the breadth of our supported operating systems? Does it have the ease of functionality that we need?

Standardization has leveled the field in backup and recovery software. You will undoubtedly notice similarities between BrightStor Enterprise Backup (BEB) and your current package. That's mostly because of standardization. However, superior performance and ease of use are two aspects of a product that can only be achieved through more efficient use of resources and ingenuity in its GUI design, which I paid special attention to.

After some initial discussions with CA's marketing, product management and engineering staffs, I conducted the rest of this review as if I were a typical customer. I went through CA's general support contacts to resolve any issues.

For installation, plan on a server that offers up to four processors (depending on the number of attached storage devices), a gigabyte of RAM, an additional 9GB hard disk for BrightStor's Ingress database and multiple I/O expansion slots for Ethernet cards and host bus adapters (HBAs). That will do the job for most environments, at least initially (see "How we tested").

Architecture
As with most backup and recovery applications, BrightStor is built around the X/Open Backup Services API (XBSA). This industry standard defines the interface and underlying services between applications or servers which need data storage management for backup and archival purposes. That should provide some level of comfort for users not already familiar with CA as a backup and recovery software provider, as well as lessen the learning curve when porting from other offerings.

CA's backup and recovery offering doesn't architecturally differ all that much from its competitors. Using the optional storage area network (SAN) component, the primary server houses the Ingres database and serves as the traffic light between the distributed media servers and the storage resources on the SAN used to catch the data from its sources. As with most other vendor offerings, this option permits your applications to share storage resources, and allows your administrators to scale the solution to accommodate newly managed backup clients.

Depending on the capacity and availability requirements of the remote client, it can be contacted over IP and its data thrown to a distributed media server on the SAN. Alternatively, you can configure it to be a distributed media server and thus have more direct connectivity to the tape drives on the SAN, yielding greater performance.

One place where CA does break the mold is with BrightStor Portal, a browser-based tool for enhanced monitoring and management. BrightStor Portal can be used to integrate and manage multiple BEB servers. As a result, a complete backup environment can be implemented by a core storage group, and then delegated to departmental staff for day-to-day operations, with the core storage group still having management access to any one of the domains for troubleshooting and other activities.

With BEB, you can create your own domains--logical groups of backup servers that have common security characteristics. For example, the research and development department of your organization can have multiple BrightStor servers belonging to the same domain that are managed separately from the BEB servers supporting your online environment. However, your core storage group can pop into either of the two domains and provide the necessary support. This gives you flexibility when delegating support across application realms and remote locations.

BrightStor can also be used as something of a storage resource management (SRM) tool--you can monitor and get reports on data characteristics such as file types, location and size. And unique to BrightStor Portal is the ability to discover and monitor, but not control, competing backup and recovery offerings, namely packages from IBM Tivoli, Legato Systems Inc. and Veritas Corp. I found this feature worthwhile for organizations porting from, or simply living with, multiple backup products.

How we tested

This was first published in March 2004

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