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What you will learn from this tip: Backup reporting tools help track backup failures and determine their causes. Some tools can identify weak links in your backup processes where there is potential for failure.
Backup/recovery (B/R) reporting tools emerged as a category in 2000-2001, driven by new vendors that have provided most of the innovation and momentum in the market. The newest B/R reporting tools are multivendor solutions rather than product-specific solutions. Also, they can be found in storage resource management (SRM) products and integrated products.
Among the multivendor products, Bocada Inc. can probably be credited with pioneering the backup reporting market. It has since been joined by other vendors, including Servergraph, SysDM Inc., Tavata Software Corp. and Tek-Tools Inc. In the next three to five years, you can expect some consolidation, most likely resulting from the acquisition of smaller vendors by larger ones.
A second group of storage companies, including Computer Associates (CA) International Inc. and Veritas Software Corp., offer multivendor B/R reporting modules as part of a larger SRM product suite. In fact, backup reporting sits somewhere between B/R management and SRM. Backup reporting tools are logically a subset of SRM, but are tightly linked to B/R. SRM products may cost substantially more than pure-play B/R reporting products, but they also offer broader capabilities for reporting and trend analysis on disk arrays, tape management and so on.
The third group of products includes those integrated with a specific B/R product. In some cases, such as with CommVault Galaxy, from CommVault Systems Inc., and Veritas NetBackup, the B/R reporting function is a separate module available for an additional cost. In other cases, such as with CA's ARCserve, EMC/Legato's NetWorker and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), the reporting module is included with the base B/R product. CommVault's QNet product is packaged somewhat differently. It's part of the firm's QiNetix SRM product; however, it's specific to CommVault's Galaxy backup application and tightly integrated with it.
In general, integrated products offer fundamental functionality such as event notification, success/failure reporting and summarization. QNet extends this functionality by including capacity planning, predictive analysis, B/R costing and a recovery readiness check. IBM's TSM module includes health monitoring, extensive reporting and a disaster recovery (DR) Manager. While this functionality may meet the day-to-day needs of many organizations, SRM and multivendor products take B/R reporting to the next level.
Several vendors tout their products as either agent or agentless architectures, and there are benefits and limitations to each. An agent architecture distributes a portion of the reporting application to various devices and allocates the workload across the infrastructure. In addition, distributed agents can continue to collect data, even if the central server is unavailable. An agentless architecture eliminates the hassle of installing and maintaining agents on hundreds of devices. Which solution is best for an IT organization depends on the specific situation and personal preference.
When should you consider an integrated product, a multivendor product or a SRM tool? Here are some rules of thumb:
- If your shop is standardized on a B/R vendor that offers integrated reporting, start there. It's often free and will give you a good feel for what you need, like and don't like before shopping for a reporting tool.
- If you're ready to tackle a broad range of storage management reporting beyond B/R, consider an SRM tool. SRM products are more complicated and generally more expensive, but the payback of an integrated product is often greater than a B/R tool; SRM products also have other long-term advantages.
- If you have numerous B/R applications, don't want to tackle SRM or want to pursue best of breed, you should consider a multivendor solution.
- If you have three or more B/R applications (some firms have as many as six), you should consider consolidation to reduce training and maintenance costs.
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About the author: Phil Goodwin is president of Diogenes Analytical Laboratories Inc. in Boulder, Colo.