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Enabling the SAN for serverless backup

In 2001, serverless backup will become the standard for backups of large amounts of data when the backup window is essentially non-existent. Several companies (Veritas, CA, CommVault, Legato) have released or are about to release backup software that can virtually eliminate its impact on the server to be backed up. What all of these products need, however, is an enabler. In a storage area network, that enabler is an engine with the ability to receive and process an Extended Copy command. This engine is more commonly known as a data mover. What IT managers need to know is that the performance and feature set of that data mover is directly related to the speed and ease-of-use of a serverless backup application.

Data movers come in three flavors: specially built servers, native Fibre Channel tape drives, and storage routers.

The server-based option can be very powerful, but interoperability beyond a single serverless backup application and cost are an issue.

Native Fibre Channel tape drives seem like the logical place to support Extended Copy, yet the performance required to keep the drive streaming at full speed will raise the cost of the drive beyond the value of the benefit. It should also be mentioned that tape drive manufacturers are new to Fibre Channel, Extended Copy and its plethora of interoperability issues. Today, there are no generally available tape drives that can natively be data movers.

The best data mover option is a storage router, and the reasons are simple. Most storage router products already have multiple years invested in SAN and backup application interoperability testing and their data mover functionality is available today. Not to mention that storage routers have Fibre Channel-to-SCSI bridging capabilities and the fact that their price/performance numbers are head and shoulders above the rest.

About the author: Chris Bukowski works for Chaparral Network Storage.

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