NEWS: SAN-based backup for NAS

Posted on February 01, 2000

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By Zachary Shess

The proverbial thud being heard throughout IT shops is the sound of a closing backup window. In response, a six-vendor alliance has announced a bundled architecture to provide storage area network (SAN)-based, LAN-free backup configurations for Network Appliance's network-attached storage (NAS) "filers."

Diminishing backup windows are being exacerbated by LAN traffic bottlenecks from large data backups of NetApp filers, which have capacities averaging more than 300GB. In addition to Network Appliance, Legato, Quantum/ATL Products, Spectra Logic, Veritas, and Vixel plan to certify the architecture for interoperability by May.

The shared library architecture includes NetApp filers with QLogic host bus adapters backed up to tape libraries from ATL Products or Spectra Logic. Vixel's 8100 Fibre Channel switch, with added firmware and zoning capabilities, facilitates the NAS-SAN marriage. The switch provides the SAN fabric that enables NAS filers to access and share data stored on the tape libraries. Administrators can manage the hardware with either Legato NetWorker or Veritas NetBackup software.

According to Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, MA, the announcement represents a tangible problem that can be solved by SANs. "Aside from the fact that NetApp needed a way to backup, I was excited about this because it's a definable problem that now has a fix," says Duplessie.

"Previously, users had two choices to backup a NetApp filer," Duplessie adds, "either by initiating a LAN-based transfer using an NDMP [network data management protocol] command issued from an NDMP-compliant backup software package, or by attaching a tape library directly to the filers -- using NDMP -- and backing up directly."

Both of these options crippled the LAN because of the resulting heavy backup traffic. In addition, these options could be expensive because of the costs associated with direct-attached libraries for each NAS filer, Duplessie says.

Officials expect the certified products to ship in May. Users will be able to purchase the bundled configurations through ATL and Spectra Logic. Both vendors are in discussions with their higher-tier resellers, but no specific agreements have been finalized.


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