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Data backup without downtime

Kate Evans-Correia

LAS VEGAS--Veritas Software Corp., announced Monday a data backup initiative that lets businesses protect critical data without ever having to shut down. The Vertex initiative, announced during the company's Vision 2000 user conference here, combines several of its current storage offerings, including the company's NetBackup data protection software, plus a number of new products.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company's NetBackup product currently has the largest worldwide share in Unix backup solutions with 24% of the market, according to a recent Dataquest/Gartner Group report. Close competitors in this arena are IBM, which has 20% of the market and Legato, with 18%.

According to John Maxwell, senior director, Veritas Data Protection Group, the core of the initiative is "snapshot" technology, the process of making a "point-in-time" data copy for backup and restoration. The ultimate goal of this set of solutions is to make backup windows irrelevant and make recovery windows a fraction of what they are today, said Maxwell.

"We're offering a means to perform backup applications without having to interrupt business," said Maxwell. "Until the advent of e-business, companies could shut down systems to do backup without consequence. Now, 24x7 operations make that impossible. An integral part of this initiative allows backup data to move from disk directly to tape in a SAN environment, without the involvement of the application or database server."

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"With the dramatic growth of stored data driven by the Internet, pervasive computing and e-mail, organizations are quickly outgrowing traditional backup and recovery methods," said John Webster, an analyst with Illuminata, a New Hampshire-based consulting firm. "This initiative promises to provide users with solutions that ensure high-performance backup and recovery operations while maintaining data availability."

The first component of the Vertex initiative, also introduced during the conference, is a new version of NetBackup, NetBackup 4.0, which includes the NetBackup ServerFree Agent.

Designed for a Storage Area Network (SAN) environment, ServerFree Agent combines multiple snapshot backup methods with data movement technology to provide users with increased flexibility and reliability in protecting enterprise environments. Snapshot technology is enabled from either the company's FlashBackup driver or Volume Manager products.

After a data snapshot has been taken, the ServerFree Agent maps the data (linking logical names to physical data blocks) so that its physical location is known, a critical step in producing reliable backup, said Michael Adams, product marketing manager for the company's line of NetBackup products.

When the snapshot and mapping operations are completed, the data is ready to be moved from disk directly to tape via the SCSI Extended Copy Command, a block-oriented command that resides either in SAN hardware devices or in a NetBackup server, said Adams.

While snapshot technology has been available for several years, it really is not used in mainstream environments, said Maxwell. "This is the first time it's being made available at this level and we intend on making this technology mainstream."

Jeff Snelling, senior information systems analyst for Southern Company Service, an Atlanta-based utility company, said that the Vertex initiative could solve all their backup problemsif it works.

Snelling said that his IT organization, which is made up of about 250 servers, mostly Sun and Hewlett-Packard systems, is in the middle of SAN deployment. "We have issues in deployment in that we're not able to recover data in a decent amount of time," he said. In addition, synchronization issues can cause serious problems with the Veritas snapshot software technology they currently use. Snelling said he thinks with these upgrades, it could solve those issues. But, like most users at the conference, he's skeptical.

Other products included in this first phase of the Vertex initiative include the company's hardware and software snapshot products, NetBackup for EMC Symmetrix and Hewlett-Packard's XP 256, as well as FlashBackup and NetBackup for Oracle.

All products included in the initiative's first phase are now available.

Maxwell said the company intends to offer widespread support for all major operating systems, SAN devices, and both hardware and software snapshot technologies. Several companies announced their support for the Vertex initiative and NetBackup ServerFree Agent including Brocade, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, StorageTek and Sun Microsystems.

The second phase of the Vertex initiative will roll out in 2001 when the company adds support for other hardware and software snapshot backup solutions from its major partners.

For more information:

Veritas NetBackup products SearchStorage Editor's Picks on backup

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