By Kevin Komiega
Aiming to ease the management burden of embattled Windows administrators, Symantec launched a pair of backup-and-recovery products and for the first time entered the world of continuous data protection (CDP).
The key benefit of CDP is instant access to file data from virtually any point in time. Traditional backups must be done during a specific window of time and involve a combination of full, incremental, and differential tape backups, which can be complex and difficult to manage. With the new Backup Exec 10d, including Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server, files are protected continuously by saving file changes to disk. The software allows end users to recover lost, corrupted, or overwritten files through a “Google-like” interface without submitting a support ticket to the IT department.
“Google-like” is a good description of the file retrieval process because that’s exactly how the interface behaves. If a user mistakenly deletes or loses a given file, he/she simply accesses a Web-based interface and then types the file name in the search field. Any and all versions of the file matching the search term appear as hyperlinks, and the file can be retrieved with a simple click of the mouse.
For administrators worried about users damaging, deleting, or otherwise fouling up back-end directories or file structures, the file retrieval capability can be customized and secured through standard Windows login credentials. “All they can do is find what they need to get back and then get it back. They can’t get the boss’s files or information,” says Michael Parker, senior product marketing manager for Symantec.
Backup Exec 10d puts agents on file servers that continuously capture file changes. Symantec utilizes Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to take snapshots of data sitting on the Backup Exec server, allowing for storage of multiple file versions over a pre-determined period of time. It also allows for the migration of data off the file server to tape for archival or disaster-recovery purposes.
Using CDP does raise several questions related to resource utilization. For instance, how much bandwidth will the application use and how much disk capacity will the continuous backups require?
According to Symantec, bandwidth utilization for continuous protection is minimal because bandwidth limits can be imposed on each protected server based on business needs. From a capacity perspective, the original source server will require a 1:1 capacity ratio with the Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server.
“The snapshots are based on changes that take place. Customers won’t need to buy two or two-and-a-half times the storage capacity to take advantage of [CDP],” says Brian Greene, senior product manager at Symantec.
Dave Russell, research director for storage software at Gartner Inc., says resource utilization will not be an issue for most customers using the advanced features of Backup Exec 10d, but that CDP is not going to be for everyone. He adds that users may want to be selective in using the technology by viewing it as another service level for data protection and recovery of critical files.
True versus near CDP
Meanwhile, debate continues on what constitutes true CDP and what’s just near CDP. Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with the Data Mobility Group consulting firm, says the definition of CDP is the capture of every block- or file-level change.
“True CDP is when every single change I make is recorded, and then I can go back to [multiple] previous versions of the data,” says McAdam.
Microsoft originally claimed that its recently released Data Protection Manager (DPM) would bring CDP to the masses, but McAdam considers DPM to be near CDP-and Microsoft agrees. She believes that Symantec’s Backup Exec 10d CDP functionality is more closely aligned with the true definition of CDP as outlined by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA-www.snia.org).
According to SNIA, CDP is a data protection service that captures changes to data to a separate storage location and provides fine granularities of restorable objects ranging from crash-consistent images to logical objects such as files, mailboxes, and messages.
Microsoft’s approach is to take up to 64 snapshots of a given file server, while Symantec’s CDP approach tracks and records every change made at the file level, thereby offering more granular data recovery.
Join the crowd
CDP is not new. Several start-ups have had products on the market for some time, and more recently the big guns have entered the CDP space, most notably IBM (see “IBM delivers file-based CDP,” p. 1), Microsoft (see “Microsoft enters D2D backup market,” InfoStor, August 2005, p. 1) and Symantec. According to Gartner’s Russell, the entrance of larger vendors into the CDP space will dramatically change the game by making CDP a mainstream product.
“The major vendors like IBM and Symantec [and Microsoft] are legitimizing the market, focusing on files first and then rolling out support for applications like e-mail and databases later,” says Russell. “Gartner believes that CDP is not a market in and of itself. It’s an important feature of the existing backup-and-recovery market.”
McAdam divides the CDP market into file- and block-based approaches. Among the file-based CDP vendors are IBM, Lasso Logic, Mimosa Systems, StoneFly Networks, Storactive, TimeSpring, and XOsoft. Block-based CDP vendors include FalconStor, InMage, Kashya, LiveVault, Mendocino Software, Revivio, and Symantec.
Along with the launch of Backup Exec 10d, Symantec also announced the availability of LiveState Recovery Suite 6.0, available for servers, desktops, and laptops. The suite combines disk-based, bare-metal system recovery with a new image-based, hardware-independent restore capability, which allows for consolidation of an entire volume in a single image file and eliminates the need for duplicate hardware.
LiveState Recovery’s Restore Anyware Option allows administrators to recover any Windows server or desktop to any other Windows server or desktop, independent of hardware configuration. This eliminates the need and cost of having to ensure identical hardware is available in the event of a disaster.
Also new in LiveState Recovery 6.0 is the LightsOut Restore Option, which uses Symantec’s pcAnywhere technology to restore servers from remote locations and devices, and LiveState Recovery Manager 6.0 integration with Symantec Backup Exec. IT administrators can create Backup Exec jobs in LiveState Recovery Manager to protect system recovery points and move them to tape for storage off-site.
Symantec Backup Exec 10d and the Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server are priced from $795. The Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server is included at no additional cost with Backup Exec 10d. A Continuous Protection Starter Kit, including Backup Exec 10d, Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server, and three Continuous Protection Agents, will be available for $995.
LiveState Recovery Advanced Server Suite 6.0 is priced from $1,695 and includes LiveState Recovery Advanced Server, Restore Anyware Option, Lights-Out Restore Option, LiveState Recovery Manager, and pcAnywhere for LiveState. Each of the LiveState Recovery solutions can be purchased separately.