Symantec demos bare-metal restore that works

Symantec unveils LiveState Recovery 6.0, a Windows server restoration technology that improves considerably on the basic bare-metal features in Veritas' backup products.

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NEW YORK -- Symantec Corp. unveiled Tuesday the first two products from its year-long merger with Veritas Software Corp.., both aimed squarely at the Windows market.

The most interesting, LiveState Recovery 6.0, is the latest version of Symantec's bare-metal restore software for Windows servers that now provides system recovery to any machine -- meaning that users no longer have to keep duplicate boxes in the wings when one blows up. Symantec demonstrated this feature on stage, recovering a drive and all the system specifications from a "smoking" IBM machine onto a completely different Dell Inc. server.

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"Bare-metal restore has never worked properly; recoveries were 50% successful at best and always painful," said Don Kleinschnitz, vice president of infrastructure management solutions at Symantec. With traditional bare-metal restore, he said you take an image of a machine, copy it onto a CD and put it away in a drawer. "When the machine fails, you rewrite this image to another machine, but that image is substantially out of date with your current data and so your recovery is unsuccessful … LiveState changes this model by taking every bit of data off the disk and keeping it in synch with your current system."

LiveState 6.0 also offers remote management and a virtual conversion feature that lets users add a system image to a virtual machine, and later convert it to a physical system.

A user from a financial services organization, who wished to remain anonymous, is looking forward to trying Symantec's LiveState software. [The Veritas bare-metal restore feature] "is fine if you just want to back up and restore raw disks. The problem is that you have no flexibility of where to restore the data, disks must be the same size, and it also retains any fragmentation that previously existed," he said.

Veritas acquired a company called The Kernel Group in January 2002 for this bare-metal restore technology, which provides the basic functionality available in its Netbackup and Backup Exec products today.

"You could presume this will eventually be replaced by the LiveState suite," said Jerry Gowen, a spokesman for Symantec. "Over 50% of LiveState users are Backup Exec customers," he said.

Clyde Companies Inc., a highway construction company based in Utah, has 40 to 50 Windows servers mainly on Hewlett-Packard Co. Proliant hardware. With LiveState 6.0, the company plans to keep a much smaller inventory of servers and has significantly improved its system recovery times. "We had a 20 GB Oracle database that took less than an hour to bring back online -- previously it would have taken us 50 man hours," said Jeff Griener, director of information technology at Clyde.

However, rebooting a system on a new machine still isn't guaranteed to work every time. "In the unlikely event that retargeting isn't perfect, the software will tell you what driver you need, pop up a browser and take you onto the Web to find that driver," Kleinschnitz said.

Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server

Symantec also took the wraps off its continuous data protection software, code-named Panther, and now less flashily known as Continuous Protection Server.

This product provides hourly snapshots of Windows files and competes head-to-head with Microsoft's newly launched Data Protection Manager (DPM). Both are priced at $950, which includes the server license and agents for three file servers.

For Backup Exec 10 users, an upgrade to Backup Exec 10d, also announced Tuesday, includes Continuous Protection Server at no extra cost. Backup Exec 10d is priced at $795. Continuous Protection Agents are available at $295 each.

Neither company's products support Exchange or SQL Server, and in Microsoft's case, will not for another two years. "We'll be out a year before them with application support," claimed Jeremy Burton, senior vice president in the data management group at Symantec.

That may be so, but if beta downloads are anything to go by, Microsoft appears to have the lead for now. It claims 60,000 downloads of DPM, while Symantec said 30,000 copies of Continuous Protection Server have been downloaded. The race is on.

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