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Backup software vendors -- How they're adapting to disk

With disk playing a bigger role in backup, the three major enterprise backup programs -- EMC's NetWorker, IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager and Symantec's Veritas NetBackup -- are undergoing radical changes.

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CDP and virtualization
CDP and network-based virtualization technologies provide specific benefits that array- and host-based options don't. EMC's RecoverPoint CDP product is based on Mendocino Software's technology and enables users to recover a server to any point in time. Unlike snapshots, users can pick any previous point in time, down to the second, for their recovery point.

Backup software: Core features
Click here for a comprehensive list of core features for backup software (PDF).
EMC's forthcoming NetWorker PowerSnap module for RecoverPoint will integrate with EMC's RecoverPoint technology and give users a central management interface to manage regular backups and RecoverPoint images. Even though the ability to create application-consistent views for instantly recoverable databases at user-defined points in time is already available in RecoverPoint, this new module lets administrators manage these images and backups under the same interface with the same user logins.

Backup software: Disk backup options
Click here for a comprehensive list of disk backup options (PDF).
TSM and NetBackup allow end users to capture desktop and laptop data, with TSM also extending its support to the server level. Tivoli's Continuous Data Protection for Files and Symantec's NetBackup Desktop and Laptop Option use agents that create an initial image of the data on each PC and then capture all write I/Os. Copied writes are then sent immediately to the central NetBackup or TSM server. If the network connection to the server, desktop or laptop is offline, the writes are held in cache and then sent when a network connection is established.

However, CDP backup technologies create some issues. Because each write I/O must be copied, server performance could be affected. Secondly, CDP products don't by default create
Noteworthy new features

While integration with disk is a huge focus for the major backup software vendors, other new product improvements include:

EMC Corp. NetWorker 7.3Directed recoveries. Allows the backup server to restore backed up data to a different SAN-attached client than the one from which the backup was created--useful in the case of server failures or for disaster recovery.

Clone-retention policies. A clone is a copy of a completed backup job that's created for offsite storage. NetWorker 7.3 gave storage administrators the ability to set different retention polices for clones made to disk than for clones made to tape.

IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) 5.3.1TSM Express. Targeted at the small- to medium-sized market, this is a disk-to-disk backup product (with the ability to make copies to tape) that lacks the archive or storage management capabilities normally found in TSM. Initially for Windows; Linux support to follow.

Archive management. Holds data called for by a judge until the data is released by the court. There's also an event-based trigger that, for example, can be set to wait 30 years from the time of an accident until employee data can be deleted.

Symantec Corp. NetBackup 6.0Cold-metal restores. Allows restores to a different set of hardware than where the image was originally made. For instance, if a network interface card (NIC) on the server being used for the restore is different from the original host, the software will detect the different NIC and install the appropriate drivers for it.

SharePoint integration. Only NetBackup integrates with Microsoft's SharePoint.

Catalog backups. Online full or incremental NetBackup catalog backups are now possible.

application-consistent images for databases, so administrators must make sure checkpoints are taken from time to time to ensure application-consistent images. And vendors are just beginning to integrate CDP into their main backup software management console; until the integration is complete, you must manage CDP through a separate interface and perhaps pay a separate licensing fee.

IBM's SVC, its network-based virtualization appliance, gives users another way to support a multivendor storage environment with only one snapshot technology. Snapshot modules from NetBackup and TSM can be used with IBM's SVC. It works in the same way that array-based integration works except that SVC supports different vendors' storage arrays on the back end, eliminating the need to buy all storage from one vendor to gain snapshot functionality. This gives you the flexibility to deploy any vendor's storage array to host snapshots. While the initial setup and configuration process for EMC's RecoverPoint and IBM's SVC appliances can be labor intensive, once the initial setup is completed and documented, the configurations on the initial host can be replicated more easily to other hosts in the storage environment.

Securing the data
When disk becomes the primary backup target, tape can assume its more appropriate role as the medium for portability and long-term data protection. Storage managers are also increasingly interested in encrypting data stored on tape. Liberty University's Mathes, for example, hopes to start encrypting data on tape in the next six to nine months.

For users who now wish to encrypt data, the three big backup software vendors offer varying levels of client-side encryption. While NetWorker and TSM each include encryption with the core product, NetWorker supports only the 256-bit AES option, while TSM is limited to 56-bit DES and 128-bit AES. Symantec users will need to purchase NetBackup's Encryption Option, which includes four encryption levels: 40- and 56-bit DES for customers with legacy encryption needs, and 128- and 256-bit AES that satisfy the more current, stringent U.S. and corporate encryption standards.

NetWorker 7.3 lets each client set a pass-phrase that's used as the key to lock/unlock encrypted data. However, the pass-phrase is needed to recover the data, and only servers in the NetWorker zone in which the pass-phrase was created can recover the data. Pass-phrases in TSM 5.3 are retained by the client and only that client can recover the data. Tricia Jiang, Tivoli's technical attache, warns that client encryption processing will impact that server's performance during backups.

But none of these vendors offers a way to centrally manage encrypted data because there's still considerable debate as to where encryption should occur -- at the host, network or tape drive level -- and who should handle the key management. Managing pass-phrases at either the client/server level or within the zones to which specific servers belong is problematic, as the individual or group who created the encrypted backup needs to maintain and protect the pass-phrase list to ensure they can recover the data at some future point in time. Most users appear willing to wait for industry standards to emerge before widely deploying encryption. "Encryption is definitely not something you just turn on," says Liberty University's Mathes.

Single-instance storage
Another new backup technology that users are viewing cautiously is single-instance storage. Single-instance storage is a data de-duplication technology that stores the same blocks of data together and then creates meta data that lets the blocks be reconstructed. There are no industry standards for data-reduction technologies to date, and data recoveries are potentially time consuming and management intensive. "Most vendors have implemented [data reduction] in a proprietary fashion and charge an absolute premium for this technology," says Health First's Shim.

Symantec is the first and only one of the major vendors to introduce and offer a single-instance storage backup option targeted at the remote office. PureDisk Server is NetBackup's data-reduction technology. Users may install a PureDisk client or server at each remote office to back up the office's data to a PureDisk master server in the data center. Once an initial backup is complete, only changed blocks are captured and sent back to the central office, greatly reducing the amount of stored data and the bandwidth required between the two offices.

However, the major backup software vendors are just starting to respond to the significant changes that cheap disk is bringing to backup and restore. Their products require major changes to stay relevant and support user needs for data security and remote-office protection. Although users shouldn't be in a hurry to abandon their current backup software products, viable alternatives from new startups are rapidly emerging. Stay tuned.

About the author:
Jerome M. Wendt is a storage analyst specializing in the field of open-systems storage and SANs. He has managed storage for small- and large-sized organizations in this capacity.

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