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Fine print on NetBackup recovery gives some users pause

Symantec revealed more details about NetBackup's new object-level recovery. Specific requirements for using the features, such as Windows NFS, have dimmed some users' enthusiasm for the products.

LAS VEGAS -- During the Symantec Vision conference Wednesday, Symantec Corp. officials disclosed some of the fine print associated with their new granular recovery software for SharePoint, VMware and Exchange. The big surprise was that disk-based backup and Windows NFS were required for the Exchange and SharePoint modules.

Brian Smith, NetBackup product manager, said the granular recovery for SharePoint and Exchange will require Windows NFS on SharePoint clients, specifically the version for Windows Server 2003 R2, SP2. "There are various fixes and improvements Microsoft made in that version that make it our minimum requirement," he said.

Granular recovery for SharePoint is available with NetBackup 6.5.2, with support for Exchange expected on version 6.5.3 later this year. It allows for quick recovery of individual documents, files, emails and virtual machines, or an entire system.

During the object-level restore process, the NetBackup media server mounts a virtual file system using NFS, then uses the NFS protocol to send a single file back to the production server. Smith said Symantec chose to require NFS on Windows clients rather than port CIFS to its Tier 1 media servers, which are based on various flavors of Unix.

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CIFS is native to Windows systems, while NFS was developed for Unix and requires installation of an NFS client to work with Windows.

"This is a concern," said W. Curtis Preston, vice president of data protection at GlassHouse Technologies. "An NFS client isn't the worst thing in the world, but it fuels the perception among some Windows users that Symantec is a Unix company trying to support Windows."

Some users already choose to run Exchange and other databases on NFS for management purposes, but those at the session who aren't already running NFS said the requirement creates an additional headache. Many companies have standard software frameworks in place, and the addition of Windows NFS could send them back to the drawing board for testing. Some wondered why Symantec didn't just use the streaming capability it already has between Exchange and its media servers. Smith said it's because granular recovery for Exchange requires a file protocol.

"I'm not a fan of [this approach]," said Nick McFarlane, systems administrator for QBE Regional Insurance. "We don't use NFS at all in our environment, and this would add a level of complexity we don't need."

Symantec also drew some heat because its granular recovery for SharePoint and Exchange will require disk-based backup. It requires disk because the granular restore process uses random file system I/O. "It's the first backup and recovery functionality I know of that requires disk devices," Preston said. "That's a significant thing."

The first release of granular recovery for SharePoint has other restrictions. It only supports documents now. Adding support for sites, discussions, lists and surveys is "a top priority" for future development, according to Smith. The first version of granular recovery for SharePoint also will not support redirection of files from one document library to another -- files must be restored to their original locations.

VMware fine print -- Recovery for Active Directory and Hyper-V coming

Granular recovery support for VMware hosts operates differently from the support for semistructured applications. While SharePoint and Exchange granular recovery runs on top of the LAN-based standard client for NetBackup, the VMware version uses the SAN-based enterprise client and its associated FlashBackup snapshots.

Unlike the SharePoint and Linux versions, granular recovery for VMware will support only Windows media servers because it's part of NetBackup's VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) integration, and VCB currently only supports Windows.

Granular Recovery for Active Directory and Hyper-V are on the roadmap, probably for version 6.5.5 due out in the first half of 2009. The Active Directory module will also run on the standard client like the SharePoint and Exchange versions. Hyper-V will use FlashBackup the same way the VMware module does. In the Hyper-V edition, files and applications will be quiesced by the granular recovery software through VSS integration, Smith said.

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