Veritas fixes Backup Exec scalability problems

Backup Exec Version 10.0 includes a central control server that allows users to manage and administer multiple instances of the software instead of discrete servers.

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Veritas Software Inc. has eked out some time in the middle of its mega-merger with Symantec Corp. to address its large installed base of Backup Exec users, fixing some important scalability issues that have plagued the product since its introduction a decade ago.

At an international press and analyst event in New York City this week Veritas unveiled Backup Exec Version 10.0. A key improvement in the new software includes a central administration server option that enables users to build and manage a larger installation of Backup Exec. Until now, each version of the software would have to be managed as a discrete server -- an administrative nightmare for users.

"Now from a single point you can monitor and administer a larger environment," said Pat Hanavan, senior director of product marketing at Veritas. The central administration server option scales to 30 servers and has been tested to 140, Hanavan said. He admitted that the company has lost ground to competitors because of this scalability problem. "We purposely left a hard demarcation point between the products [Backup Exec and the higher-end NetBackup], but competitors exploited that gap … It became increasingly difficult because of inefficiency issues to stay with Backup Exec, and customers had to change to another product."

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One such customer was Maricopa County in Arizona, which had been using Backup Exec for years but finally gave up on the product at Version 8.6. "We'd put many servers into a job, and if there was an error with one of those servers it would stop the entire job and all the servers would miss out," said Marty Scott, manager of the network solutions group, part of the county's Office of the Chief Information Officer. At about 80 servers, Maricopa County started experiencing major failures and began to look elsewhere for help. "Veritas didn't look at us as a potential large player for NetBackup, which is when we discovered CommVault," Scott said.

With the improvements in management and administration afforded by CommVault's backup product, Maricopa County was able to cut its backup window in half to 15 hours. "I can't say I would be comfortable looking at Backup Exec again," Scott added.

Another user, Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., switched from Backup Exec to EMC Corp.'s Legato Networker, for price and support reasons. "Veritas was killing us on maintenance charges," said Tony Escobar, manager of data center operations at Pepperdine. "EMC knocked 83% off its list price in exchange for us being the first client to step up and say we liked its merger with Legato … From a functional standpoint there was no reason to switch, but we were out for the best deal," he said.

Pepperdine was paying $28,000 a year for 65 Backup Exec clients. EMC bettered this with a three-year contract, plus an additional 100 clients for $70,000, saving the university $8,000 over three years. Escobar said the poor support from Veritas also contributed to his decision to switch to Legato. "We had to go through our StorageTek rep to get a Veritas license … he was quicker than our Veritas guy who didn't seem to want our money." As for as being locked in with EMC, Escobar said he feels better with one finger to point in the event of any problems, and is ready to switch at any time if EMC also tries to catch him on maintenance changes.

Backup Exec 10.0 improvements

Pete Gerr, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, confirmed that Veritas "took its eye off the ball" with Backup Exec, and companies like CommVault Systems Inc. and BakBone Software Inc. took advantage of this. However, he believes the new central administration server option that can perform installation, setup and configuration of jobs for any of the managed media or backup servers under its command, is a significant advancement to the product.

Other improvements in Version 10.0 include high-availability support for Linux, a QuickStart entry-level package to be sold exclusively by OEMs and expanded disk protection features for disk-to-disk-to-tape backup. In prior versions of Backup Exec users had to manually copy data from the staging disk to tape for archival purposes. This is now automated. Support for synthetic full backups is new, as is off-host backup, which is aimed at users running Backup Exec on the same server as another application, like Exchange. To free up the resources on the server to handle the application, Veritas has divided up the work of Backup Exec, parceling off some of the functionality into an agent that can run on a backup server. "This minimizes the performance impact on the application server and the network," according to Veritas' Hanavan.

Price changes

In an effort to stay competitive, Veritas has bundled some of its products together and is offering price cuts to users that are willing to buy its suite of products. Backup Exec Suite, which includes Backup Exec 10.0 plus Storage Exec 5.1 (formally StorageCentral) and Replication Exec 3.1 (formally Storage Replicator) is available for $4,280, which is $500 off the price of each of these products sold discretely, with an additional year of free maintenance and support. The full suite only has the core features of each product.

"Our price list had 40 things on it; now it's down to 10 or so, which should be simpler for everyone to understand," Hanavan said.

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