Tools to fine-tune your backups

Backup and recovery applications typically include reporting capabilities, but they're often rudimentary and provide only basic information on the success or failure of data protection operations. Data protection and recovery management (DPRM) products, an emerging class of monitoring and planning tools, fill in the gaps where traditional backup apps fall short. DPRM tools provide advanced capacity reporting, predict usage patterns and allow performance tuning, troubleshooting and cost management. Here's how to pick the best product for your shop.

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Reports from specialized tools that work alongside major backup apps help you predict usage patterns and troubleshoot issues.


Backup and recovery (B/R) applications do a good job of managing tasks such as job scheduling, tape management, library support, tracking backup data in catalogs and supporting a variety of backup media, including disks. But B/R applications fall short when it comes to advanced capacity reporting, predicting usage patterns, performance tuning, troubleshooting and cost management.

Because backup applications deliver some of these advanced features, especially reporting, storage managers often find it difficult to justify bringing in another product to overcome the limitations of their backup apps. Product choice is highly subjective and dependent on the storage and backup environment in place. Storage managers deploy data protection and recovery management (DPRM) products that best address the needs of their unique requirements and environments, such as increased visibility about backups, compliance requirements, reporting consolidation and a need to cover the entire backup cycle, including snapshots and replicas.

Douglas Bovie is head of infrastructure management at Orange Business Services, a global provider of business and communications services in Eschborn, Germany. Bovie chose WysDM for Backups from WysDM Software Inc. for its cross-domain reporting and predictive analysis capabilities. It gave him reporting data for all elements involved in the backup process, including EMC Corp.'s NetWorker, his ADIC libraries, filers from Network Appliance (NetApp) Inc. and switch ports from Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

A lack of visibility into backups for information technology and business process owners caused Mike Bollman, manager of server and storage operations at Enterprise Products Partners L.P., a Houston-based energy service provider, to use Aptare Inc.'s Aptare StorageConsole.

"We selected Aptare StorageConsole for its early support of [Symantec Corp.'s Veritas] NetBackup 6 and Aptare's apparent close relationship with Symantec/ Veritas," says Bollman.

Key features of DPRM tools
When considering a DPRM tool for your environment, keep in mind the following product capabilities:

Support for heterogeneous products. DPRM tools vary in the number of backup apps and disk arrays they support (see "DPRM products matrix"). While Bocada Inc., Tek-Tools Inc. and WysDM have the largest backup application support, Illuminator Inc. currently supports only Symantec Veritas NetBackup, mostly as a result of Illuminator's reporting focus on replication and snapshots.

DPRM vs. SRM

Storage resource management (SRM) applications haven't lived up to their promise from the late 1990s, namely to be a single tool that manages all storage and backup assets. There are several reasons for this: SRM applications are expensive, complex and a lack of standards limits their capabilities. Element managers and specialized programs, such as data protection and recovery management (DPRM) tools that are good in one area, have done well because they're simpler, less expensive and typically outperform comparable features of SRM applications.

SRM applications are monoliths, with a single vendor implementing all features. However, monolithic application designs are no longer state of the art and are challenged by service-oriented architectures (SOAs) where loosely coupled applications form a larger application framework. "The new trend is to have best-of-breed tools that work together based on an SOA-type architecture," says Nancy Hurley, VP of marketing and business development at Bocada Inc.

SOAs and orchestrating best-of-breed tools aren't without their challenges. "The more tools are pulled together, the more important comprehensive monitoring becomes because it's really easy to lose control," says Stewart Buchanan, the Egham, U.K-based research director for Gartner's IT Procurement and Asset Management Group. However, DPRM tool vendors firmly believe that loosely coupled specialized tools are the future. For example:
The BalancePoint Suite from Akorri Inc. focuses on cross-domain management of IT assets, including storage assets, from a performance perspective. BalancePoint Suite performs both end-to-end performance monitoring and historical performance analysis.

RecoverGuard from Continuity Software Inc. monitors and reports on disk-to-disk data protection using a signature-based approach to ensure that replication and snapshots complete successfully. Unlike Illuminator Inc., Continuity Software is focused on the disaster recovery market rather than the DPRM market.

SANscreen from Onaro Inc. concentrates on change management, change impact analysis and alerting of changes to the storage infrastructure. For instance, if six volumes are replicated from location A to backup location B, and someone adds a seventh volume but doesn't set up the replication, SANscreen would discover the change and alert on the missing replica. Recently, Onaro unveiled SANscreen Application Insight 2.0, which combines storage infrastructure utilization data with application path awareness. With SANscreen Application Insight, infrastructure teams can chart performance over time to see where bottlenecks exist.

Cross-domain reporting. Being able to report beyond the backup app and include all of the elements the B/R process depends on, including servers, network, switches and libraries, is crucial for performance analysis and troubleshooting. "When backups run slow or fail, it's essential to be able to look beyond the tape drive and backup software," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, a technology analyst and consulting firm in Stillwater, MN.

Vendors have taken two approaches to reach beyond the backup app. Products from Aptare, Bocada, Servergraph Inc. and WysDM report on the full data path within a single application. Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. (with its HP Storage Essentials Backup Manager) and Tek-Tools (BackupProfiler) defer to other modules or products to get to related information. As a component of a larger storage resource management (SRM) application, HP Storage Essentials Backup Manager may require the licensing of additional SRM modules to get all of the relevant information. Tek-Tools defers to other tools within the Tek-Tools Profiler family, such as AppProfiler, ServerProfiler and StorageProfiler, to report on infrastructure components not directly related to the backup application.

Predictive analysis. DPRM tools are changing from backward-looking instruments that help users understand past backups into forward-looking tools that foresee backup needs and problems, such as storage consumption, media storage availability and anomaly detection. All of the DPRM tools we looked at have some predictive analysis capabilities in the form of trending reports. "StorageConsole uses its predictive analysis engine to determine the 'backup heartbeat' for any given environment, and reports and alerts on abnormalities or early hot spots," says Rick Clark, Aptare's CEO. Similarly, WysDM for Backups' Predictive Analysis Engine runs 24/7 to check the backup environment and identify anomalies.

Policy enforcement and real-time alerting. Similar to predictive analysis, alerts are triggered if a policy violation is detected. For instance, you may have a policy to be notified if a server doesn't back up within its backup window for two nights in a row. WysDM leverages its Predictive Analysis Engine to define and enforce policies. "You can configure rules to enforce policies required for compliance," says Alan Atkinson, WysDM's CEO. In a similar manner, Servergraph Data Protection Expert provides a rules engine through its prediction module, while Aptare StorageConsole supports policy-based, real-time monitoring based on exception thresholds across backup domains. "Over time, we will see more focus on real-time behavior and event correlation," predicts StorageIO Group's Schulz.


Click here for a DRM Product Matrix (PDF).

Support for replicas, snapshots and clones. Triggered by snapshot and replication features in storage arrays, disk-based data protection adoption has proliferated and DPRM tools are playing catch up. In many environments, snapshots and replicas are eventually backed up to tape, but "what good is a backup report that shows a successful backup to tape of a replica if the replica itself has problems?" asks Yishay Yovel, VP of marketing and product management at Illuminator. Today, Illuminator Virtual Recovery Engine has the broadest and deepest data protection reporting support for EMC Symmetrix arrays and NetApp filers, abstracting physical copy information from all data protection systems to report on available recovery points for hosts, apps, file systems and their state. Both WysDM for Backups and Tek-Tools' BackupProfiler report on NetApp snapshots and mirrors, although they lack the reporting depth of the Illuminator product.

Exposure analysis and recoverability. Proving recoverability and having provisions in place to detect unprotected data assets has been the focus of compliance audits, especially Sarbanes-Oxley. Backups need to be complete and consistent to be recoverable; a simple "job succeeded" doesn't suffice unless it implies completeness and consistency. To take this a step further, estimating recovery time helps storage managers live up to their advertised recovery time objectives (RTOs).

Service-level compliance and risk and gap analysis are the focus of Symantec's Veritas Backup Reporter. "The backup of an app like SAP may consist of different backup policies for the application, database and files; for the backup to be successful, all related jobs must succeed to claim success," says Erica Antony, principal product manager at Symantec. "Veritas Backup Reporter correlates related backup policies and takes a holistic approach when assessing the success of backups."

Aptare, Illuminator and Tek-Tools also concentrate on exposure analysis and recoverability. "We're comparing hosts in the backup policies with the actual backup and discovering clients that aren't backed up, as well as unprotected volumes and mount points of partially protected clients," says Aptare's Clark.

Business-centric reporting. Aligning storage with business objectives is part of all DPRM tools. Topping the list are compliance reports, triggered mainly by audit requirements of public companies. "Data protection in audits is all about proving that you follow defined policies and that you take [the] best effort to be recoverable," says Nancy Hurley, Bocada's VP of marketing and business development. "Bocada Enterprise 4 maintains all relevant information and delivers the evidence required during audits," she says. Besides compliance, reports on service-level management, cost-management, chargeback and billing are finding their way into DPRM tools.

Product assessment
DPRM tools are constantly evolving, with some products overlapping others in features and functionality. However, each product listed below has carved out its unique niche.

Aptare StorageConsole has a compelling list of next-generation DPRM features beyond backup reporting. Functions include a sophisticated predictive analysis engine, policy enforcement, cross-domain reporting, file-level reporting (currently, no other product does file-level reporting), and a three-tier architecture tailored for distributed and hosted environments. Aptare is working on increasing the backup apps it supports and its lack of disk-based data protection reporting.

Bocada Enterprise 4. Strong backup app support, a highly scalable architecture, an extensive list of historical and trending reports, and an impressive list of Fortune 500 accounts distinguish Enterprise 4. However, it trails Aptare and WysDM when it comes to next-generation DPRM features like predictive analysis, policy enforcement and real-time reporting. Bocada plans to add reporting for replicas and snapshots later this year, and a Web services API that supports service-oriented architectures.

Which backup reporting tool is the best fit?

The ability to verify the success of backup and recovery (B/R) applications is the top priority of any IT organization. Backup reporting comes in three flavors:

  • Reports integrated in B/R applications
  • Data protection and recovery management (DPRM) tools with multivendor B/R application support
  • Storage resource management (SRM) applications with integrated backup reporting
If your company has standardized on a B/R product, the integrated reporting option may suffice or you may opt for an advanced reporting add-on from your B/R vendor. If you have multiple B/R products deployed, a DPRM tool with multivendor B/R support may be your best bet. For a complex storage and backup environment, an SRM product might be best. Finally, if your backup environment has grown organically over time, B/R consolidation should be part of your strategy.

HP Storage Essentials Backup Manager. One of the many modules in the HP Storage Essentials SRM suite. Although it can be licensed separately for backup reporting, it depends on other Storage Essentials modules for cross-domain reporting. A limited number of backup products are supported and there's a lack of next-generation DPRM features. "Typically, you look at Storage Essentials Backup Manager if you're looking for an SRM tool that also does backup reporting," says StorageIO Group's Schulz. "But if you're only looking for a DPRM tool, you probably would look somewhere else."

Illuminator Virtual Recovery Engine 4.1. Illuminator approaches data protection management with a focus on disk-based data protection reporting and recoverability reporting. Virtual Recovery Engine is a leading-edge product when it comes to reporting on replicas, clones and snapshots. Although it currently supports only EMC Symmetrix and NetApp filers, its open architecture should enable Illuminator to grow the number of replication products it supports. Illuminator's current shortcoming is the limited number of replication products and backup apps it supports.

Servergraph Data Protection Expert is a comprehensive tool focusing on real-time reporting and flexible report presentation through easily configurable reporting dashboards and custom message boards. Servergraph, a division of Rocket Software, is able to leverage other Rocket Software products, making it a viable DPRM player with a product that has evolved beyond historical reporting.

Symantec Veritas Backup Reporter. This product's focus is on trending and analyzing historical backup data to ensure backups occur in line with defined policies. For real-time activities like monitoring the backup environment, Symantec defers to Operations Manager in Veritas NetBackup 6 or equivalent modules in other supported backup apps. Although Veritas Backup Reporter was designed for NetBackup, it supports other backup apps.

Tek-Tools BackupProfiler. A part of the Profiler family, it addresses storage reporting and management needs beyond backup. Extensive backup app support, the ability to report on NetApp filer snapshots, and a comprehensive list of historical and real-time reports make BackupProfiler a competitive reporting offering. "Tek-Tools is very broad when it comes to backup and infrastructure reporting and management, but the tools don't go as deep on data protection reporting as some of the other tools," says StorageIO Group's Schulz.

WysDM for Backups. This product has cross-domain reporting capabilities, and a predictive analysis engine capable of carrying out complex logical and mathematical operations on data to spot trends and proactively alert on future error conditions. "WysDM goes very deep when it comes to backups, but they need to expand to replication," says Schulz. WysDM for Backups and Aptare StorageConsole are the two products in this roundup that have expanded the furthest beyond backup reporting.

Backup application reporting features
DPRM tools supply some of the reports and features that major backup vendors can add fairly easily to their apps. For example: BakBone Software Inc. offers the NetVault:Report Manager family of reporting tools, but they report only on products within the BakBone NetVault family.

EMC opted against developing its own DPRM tool and instead licenses and resells WysDM for Backups as EMC Backup Advisor (EBA), a heterogeneous, highly customizable enterprise reporting tool. With EMC NetWorker Dashboard, EMC offers an optional scaled-down version of EBA for EMC NetWorker customers. Unlike EBA, EMC NetWorker Dashboard isn't customizable, comes with approximately 150 reports and works only with EMC NetWorker.

IBM Corp. depends on the reporting capabilities in Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), which is limited to mostly operational reporting. For more advanced reporting, IBM defers to third-party tools like Bocada and WysDM. "We're actively looking at features of other DPRM tools to get more trending reports," says Tricia Jiang, technical evangelist for TSM products at IBM.

Symantec has developed its own DPRM tool with Veritas Backup Reporter, which has its roots in the Veritas CommandCentral Service.

DPRM is evolving from passive reporting tools to proactive instruments that help storage managers better manage their backup environments with features like predictive analysis, cross-domain reporting, real-time monitoring and alerting, and reporting on the complete backup cycle. Although all of the tools are works in process to some degree, Aptare StorageConsole and WysDM for Backups appear to have the edge when it comes to next-generation DPRM features beyond reporting; the Illuminator Virtual Recovery Engine has the lead in disk-based data protection reporting.

This was first published in July 2007

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