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Practical advice at Veritas Tech Day

Veritas gathered 200 users together in Boston to talk about upcoming products, technical tips and a vision of utility computing.

At the well-attended Veritas Tech Day at the Sheraton Copley in Boston this week, users from around New England gathered to hear the big cheeses from Veritas discuss subjects such as utility computing, disaster recovery, tips on implementing NetBackup and data protection -- to name a few.

Keynote speaker T.K. Lakshman, Director of Technology Strategy at Veritas Software Corp., set the scene with a presentation on utility computing, which it appears the Mountain View, Calif., company will be pushing more and more in the coming months. After a brief Veritas history lesson, Lakshman broke down the benefits of investigating your applications, servers and storage for areas that are manual-labor intensive. Lakshman's main point was that it's time to automate these areas and stop buying more hardware. No surprises there from a software company.

The two sessions on NetBackup presented by David Little, Veritas Principal Product Specialist, probably garnered the most attention at the event. The first session offered tips on how to design the fastest, most efficient NetBackup environment. "Every backup environment has a bottleneck," said Little. "You just need to find out where it is."

Little recommended that tape drives -- usually the cause of bottlenecks -- should be tested individually and together. He also stressed the importance of understanding the throughput capabilities of your tape drives and not saturating the connection to them. And then you should take a hard look at your network, he added. Some network issues to look out for are unplanned network traffic, a slow DNS server and heavily stressed CPUs on both sides of the connection.

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And there's a reason for all this testing: NetBackup is one tough mother to set up. Michael Allen, systems engineer for Oasis Systems, Inc., a company that does IT work for Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass., said that getting NetBackup up and running involves a lot of hard work and long nights. "Backup Exec was user-friendly, but with NetBackup you almost have to be an advanced engineer to figure it out," said Allen, who took a five-day course on NetBackup and was regularly working until 2 a.m. to set it up. Allen stuck it out and is happier now and looks forward to the next release: NetBackup 5.1. Asked if all data protection software is so strenuous to set up, he said "I hear Legato is worse."

Some of the enhancements users can expect with the next version of NetBackup 5.1 due to arrive in November, are disk staging, synthetic backups and disk-based backup and recovery. Allen, who backs up directly to tape, likes the idea of a getting disk into his backup scheme. "Anything to shrink that window," he said.

A session on disaster recovery filled a large ballroom where Joe Geisken, Veritas disaster recovery principal, Easter Area, gave real-life examples of the benefits, pitfalls and best practices of a business continuity and disaster recovery plan. This session offered the day's most practical advice including everything from creating a "chain of command"during a disaster to the danger of neglecting alternate sites to setting up grief counseling.

Systems engineer Allen said that in his experience "most people don't take DR seriously enough, which explains the high failure rate after most catastrophes. It's crucial."

A session on Linux provided a sneak peak of what's coming up in Veritas Storage Foundation 4.0 for Linux, expected early next month. New features include Cluster Server 4.0, Traffic Director, FlashSnap and Volume Replicator. The company has improved the file system for Linux. However, this iteration will not support SuSE, Red Hat 2.1 or the latest chips from Intel Corp and AMD, according to Dave Carpel, Senior Staff Systems Engineer at Veritas.

He also pointed out one or two shortcomings in Linux that users should watch out for. "SMP scaling can still be a problem as you roll out Linux and there are some memory management and threading problems," he said, but time constraints meant he was unable to provide details on these issues.

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