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Symantec got my juices going

There are few announcements by major storage vendors that really get my juices flowing, and the ones that reveal major new industry or products trends are the ones I find the most thought provoking.

Symantec’s recent NetBackup 6.5 announcement in mid-June at Symantec Visions was exactly that type of announcement. What especially piqued my interest was this slide, which was part of the press kit that they sent me that illustrated how they plan to architect NetBackup going forward.

While NetBackup obviously will do enterprise backup and restores for a very long time to come, what NetBackup lacked prior to this announcement was any overarching reason for users to get excited about the future of this product. “NetBackup can do SAN backups” or “NetBackup supports PureDisk”  didn’t cut it anymore. These were just product announcements in response to larger consumer trends that Symantec needed to provide in order to remain competitive in the backup software space.

But this announcement is a plan of attack that, if Symantec can execute on, will give them a leg up on most other storage software vendors in the enterprise data protection space. The idea that a company can use one tool to centrally manage the functionality of multiple other vendor’s data protection products is one that companies sorely need, whether they realize it or not.

Positioning NetBackup, a product most enterprises already use in some capacity, in this role allows storage architects to build an enterprise data protection strategy around it. Enterprise companies have too many products coming in from too many sources for storage architects to get into the details and politics of whether an application should use Symantec’s NetBackup or BakBone Software’s NetVault:Backup agent for Oracle. If one product is a better fit for an application than another and the company can centrally manage either one, who cares?

This does not mean by any stretch that companies should now mark off enterprise data protection as solved. The challenge of managing every vendor’s data protection product is akin to what SRM vendors promised just a few years ago. Buy our product and we will manage all of your storage devices. We all are still waiting for that to happen.

Symantec’s challenge is no less daunting. Trying to manage every vendor’s replication, snapshot, CDP, VTL and tape backup product from NetBackup’s central console presents the same challenge. Then, toss in the fact that to do so will likely require some level of cooperation from their competitors. Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

Symantec has the right idea, and even good intentions, as to where to take NetBackup so that it will provide the most value for their customers. But, the road that lays before them is rocky and one that, when traveled before by the SRM folks, has yet to deliver on its promise. It will be interesting to see whether Symantec’s journey proves to be more productive.

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Ambitious, indeed. I can't fathom how someone was able to pitch this to upper management, but they appear to have succeeded. I suspect if Symantec can actually get vendors to open their APIs to allow NetBackup to hook in, this might turn into real products for real people. However, if vendors simply provide a shim or framework for Symantec to write to, I doubt this will get very far. I wish them all the best - as a customer, I'd love to see it happen.
Ahhh, but what if you could get all of the underlying data protection solutions that Netbackup is trying to manage using a single platform? You can leverage a services oriented "Platform" to provide the CDP, VTL, Snapshot, Replication, and Virtualization aspects, and control it all from a single GUI. Once integrated into NetBackup via either an SMI-S standardized interface, or some simple API calls, you have a complete solution for all corporate data services all managed from a single console, TODAY.
I am astonished anyone thinks netbackup is a viable candidate for archiving. I have a site with 30 small servers & back them up to 4 lto3 tape drives. I can't stop NBU from sprinkling 2GB segments of data all over the library, so I have subdivided the servers into groups & use media pools to decrease the impact of this. What happens is that I get multiple dates on the tapes in each media pool in 2 GB pieces. So when I send a tape to permanent off site archives, it includes information from other dates that I may need to perform short term restores. The tapes also include extraneous data - which may be partial - to pique the interest of those seeking to do discovery later, with the resultant risk of complaints about incomplete data sets. What's needed is a means to consolidate data for a particular date to new tapes which ONLY contain that date for a given media pool/policy. All I get from Symantec is basically - HUH?