By Dave Simpson
Veritas Software recently announced its Vertex Initiative, a phased-in strategy that is based largely on the company's snapshot backup technology. Snapshots provide "frozen image" or "point-in-time" copies of data for backup and restore applications. One of the key deliverables in the initiative is NetBackup ServerFree Agent, which is due next month, and provides server-less backup in storage area network (SAN) environments. Server-free backup is considered to be the first "killer app" for SANs.
In addition to the ServerFree Agent, phase one of the initiative also includes existing snapshot technologies such as the software-based NetBackup FlashBackup (Solaris and HP-UX) and NetBackup for Oracle (Solaris and HP-UX), and support for hardware/software-based snapshot technologies such as EMC's TimeFinder and Hewlett-Packard's Surestore E Business Copy XP.
The ServerFree Agent code works with Veritas' NetBackup 4.0, but runs only on the Solaris operating system. Support for HP-UX and Windows 2000 is scheduled for the third quarter of 2001, followed by support for AIX and Linux, according to Mike Adams, product marketing manager for NetBackup.
ServerFree Agent is expected to compete with server-less backup software from vendors such as Computer Associates, Legato Systems, and Tivoli Systems. Server-less backup allows direct disk-to-tape backup, which reduces CPU and I/O overhead while minimizing the backup window and restore times.
ServerFree Agent combines multiple snapshot methods with data movement technology. The snapshot functionality can be enabled via NetBackup FlashBackup or from Veritas' Volume Manager and File System software. Data movement can take place via a router/bridge or Veritas' NetBackup Media Server. The software currently works with routers from Chaparral, Crossroads and Pathlight Technology.
How it works
In a snapshot backup operation, the application is first paused, and the snapshot software flushes the buffers to establish a stable image of the data. After a data snapshot is taken, the ServerFree Agent maps the data (linking logical names to physical SCSI data blocks) so that its physical location is known.
When the snapshot and mapping operations are completed, the data is moved from disk directly to tape via the SCSI Extended Copy Command, a block-oriented command that resides in either a SAN device (such as a router) or a NetBackup server (such as Media Server).
NetBackup 4.0 ranges from $5,000 to $27,000. NetBackup ServerFree Agent costs an additional $9,000.
Phase two of Veritas' Vertex Initiative will start rolling out in the second half of 2001, and will include support for Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange, as well as additional hardware snapshot methods from vendors such as Compaq, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), IBM and Sun. Veritas also plans to provide FlashBackup for Windows 2000 and AIX in the third quarter.