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Interview with Marc Staimer; What is a “Lite” Agent Anyway?

To say that enterprise end-users have, over the years, become jaded to vendor claims that their products can protect heterogeneous environments is an understatement. Supporting the mix of Windows, Netware, Linux, Unix and VMware operating system platforms found in most enterprise environments is not a trivial task. Certifying support for applications like DB2, Groupwise, Lotus Notes, MS-Exchange, MS-SQL, Oracle and SharePoint further adds to complexity. So when Asigra promises that its Televaulting software can meet these enterprise requirements using its agentless architecture, the end-user skepticism barometer in me climbs a couple of notches.

To better understand how Asigra’s software accomplishes this, I spoke with Marc Staimer, the President of Dragon Slayer Consulting based in Beaverton, OR. Marc is widely known as one of the leading storage analysts in the network storage and storage management industries. Most of his consulting is in the areas of strategic planning as well as product and market development. In this first of a two-part interview, I discuss with Marc the key features of Asigra’s Televaulting software.

Jerome: Why should enterprise end-users even consider Asigra Televaulting’s agentless architecture?

Marc: Asigra’s Televaulting agentless architecture gives users much more flexibility without giving up any functionality. The “secret sauce” in Asigra’s Televaulting software is that it provides the same rights and privileges to the application data as a backup agent does by making API calls to the application without using an agent.

Jerome: What do you see as the main problems with agent-based architectures?

Marc: Agent-based products require users to take the application offline to load an agent. In manufacturing environments, users often can’t take servers down even to load an agent. Equally problematic is the number of servers and/or virtual machines in an enterprise and their remote office/branch office locations outside the data center. No one has the time to install agents on hundreds or thousands of servers anymore.

Jerome: What about using “lite” agents?

Marc: What is a “lite” agent anyway? “Lite” agents consume 2-3 % of server CPU and memory to run and the management problems are the same whether you use a “heavy” or a “lite” agent. If you upgrade the operating system, you need to upgrade the agent. Installing agents on VMware virtual machines compounds the problem. The average number of guests on an enterprise VMware ESX server is 12 – 24. A “lite” agent running on each of these VMs will consume 40 – 60% of the available CPU and memory capacity on the VMware server.

If you would like to contact Marc directly you may do so at marcstaimer@comcast.net.  The second part of this interview with Marc Staimer will examine some of the features that make Asigra Televaulting unique including CDP, deduplication and autonomic healing.

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