Veritas raises the bar with NetBackup 4.5


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New GUI interfaces
The pre-4.5 Java interfaces for Windows and Unix left a lot to be desired in speed and functionality. Unix administrators therefore clung to their Motif interface - and weren't looking forward to its removal in 4.5. I've used both the new 4.5 Unix Java GUI and the native Windows GUI, and I honestly don't miss the Motif interface. Both interfaces have been redesigned, and are easier to use. Both GUIs now look almost the same, but you still can't perform multiple select/changes in the Java GUI.

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Upgrading issues
NetBackup's configuration files now contain an MD5 signature
Veritas changed the names of many commands to reflect the new terminology
A new binary database format results in much faster searches, but doesn't support compression of older entries
Some shell scripts may need minor modifications

Instead of having a different window for every function, the new GUIs use the standard Microsoft Explorer-style interface with categories on the left and content on the right. If you prefer multiple windows, you can create an additional window at any time by right clicking on an item and selecting "New Window from this point." One nice feature is when you move from one section of the GUI to another and back, that section of the GUI remembers where you were. For example, if you were currently editing the policy Elvis, then left the policy editor to look at the list of pools, and came back to the policy editor, the Elvis policy would still be active in your screen. One other important feature is that the activity monitor now shows all types of jobs, including verify, duplicate, import, catalog backup and vault runs. Clicking on a restore in the activity monitor also now displays some data behind the restore, including what's being restored and the current status of the tape mounts.

These new interfaces don't suffer from the performance problems of their predecessors. I ran the Windows version of the GUI in California and administered a NetBackup server in Oregon using a VPN connection across the Internet. Performance was more than acceptable given the circumstances. I also used the Java GUI across the same connection with similar results.

If you are an Oracle shop that's resisted using RMAN do to its complex syntax, the Oracle backup and recovery wizards in NetBackup 4.5 may change your mind. Using these wizards, I was able to train several DBAs on how to backup and recover their databases using RMAN - without looking at a single RMAN script. These wizards automate the creation of your RMAN scripts for backup and recovery. You can use many of the features of RMAN without needing to learn its syntax. The recovery wizard guides you through a complete recovery, asking you the appropriate questions, such as whether or not to apply all archive logs, what to do with read-only datafiles, and whether or not to use open resetlogs and recovering to an earlier point in time. Once you've answered all these questions, click OK and your database is restored and recovered to the point in time you requested.

Easy upgrade?
Most users have experienced an easy upgrade. They simply uninstall NetBackup 3.4, install NetBackup 4.5 and then install the first maintenance release. Don't worry about the uninstall removing your current configuration. Just answer "yes" when the uninstall program asks if you are uninstalling as part of an upgrade. It removes the software, but leaves your configuration files.

You must be running NetBackup 3.4 to install NetBackup 4.5. This means that if you're running a previous version of NetBackup (e.g., 3.2), you must upgrade to 3.4 before you can upgrade to 4.5. There's no known way to get around this requirement.

You'll need to have all of your license keys handy if you're upgrading from a version prior to 3.4, You'll need those keys to install NetBackup 3.4 or 4.5. If you believe you have the right license keys, but can't find them, your sales rep can provide you with a temporary evaluation key while you sort this issue out with Veritas.

Those who use the command line interface should be aware the names of many commands have changed to reflect the new terminology. Commands that required the name of a class now expect the name of a policy (e.g., bpcllist –c is now bppllist –p ). The old names and options are still available in this version, but Veritas has said they will be gone in the next version. One annoyance I found was that the man pages didn't work for both names. This is true for users who have written shell scripts using the NetBackup command line interface. Those users will want to test all their scripts against NetBackup 4.5 prior to running the upgrade. Although it appears that most commands are backward compatible to the old commands, some commands have changed both their options and the format of their output.

Another issue to be aware of is that many of NetBackup's configuration files now contain an MD5 signature. If you have scripts that edit configuration files directly, make sure these files don't contain an MD5 signature. (Look for a line that says #VMD5_DIGEST.) If they do, and you edit them without using a NetBackup command or the GUI - you'll render these files useless. For example, if you use vi or notepad to change any of the values in the file /usr/openv/netbackup/db/class//info, the policy in question will disappear from the NetBackup GUI and will no longer run. However, if you edited this file using a NetBackup command, it would be fine.

The binary database format is optional when upgrading to 4.5, resulting in faster searches, and requires less space per file per backup, but it doesn't support compression of older entries. This means users who aren't compressing their catalog should see a decrease in the total size of the NetBackup catalog, but users that are compressing a significant percentage of their catalog will see a growth in the size of their index. Also, if you choose to upgrade your catalog to the new binary format, the conversion process can take a long time for a large catalog.

If you haven't written a lot of shell scripts and seriously customized your environment, upgrading is easy. Even if you did, most shell scripts work with 4.5 with minor modifications. In addition, the NetBackup product management and product development teams are to be commended for what appears to be a solid, feature-packed release.

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This was first published in October 2002

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