New corporate mandates for improved application availability are placing a new premium on software that can deliver centralized data management. These requirements call for software that can provide a central management console from which data management policies can be set and applied. Enterprise backup software is where many organizations are looking to deliver this functionality but for this to become a reality, features like archiving, continuous data protection (CDP), deduplication and support for disk-based backup targets must come under backup software’s purview.
The demand for backup software to function as the focal point for enterprise data management started some time ago. Over a year ago in July 2008, SearchDataBackup.com ran an article on how backup software was evolving to take on more data management tasks. It specifically pointed out that software vendors were integrating the management of separate products from their own portfolio as well as products from other companies under the umbrella of their flagship enterprise backup software products.
More recent articles have also commented on this growing corporate need for a more robust data management solution. Fred Moore, President of Horison Information Strategies, recently said in an article, “No one knew then (20 years ago) that these distributed computing systems would one day be asked to do the work of a mainframe and to access as much data as their mainframe counterparts, if not more.” In that same article, he goes on to say, “… a non-mainframe equivalent of DFSMS (Data Facility Storage Management Subsystem) has become highly desirable and is now long overdue.”
While enterprise backup software may never reach the equivalent of DFSMS (and may never need to), software providers are supporting more features so they can all be managed by the software provider’s primary enterprise backup software product.
For instance, Symantec NetBackup has increased its integration with its Enterprise Vault (archiving) product line, added deduplication with its NetBackup PureDisk software and now supports disk-based backup targets with its OpenStorage API (OST). A particular area of focus in 2009 for NetBackup is heightening its integration with its NetBackup RealTime CDP software to better deliver on new corporate requirements for improved application availability.
NetBackup RealTime is an appliance-based CDP solution intended for the protection of multiple hosts. Residing in corporate FC-SANs as a side-band appliance, it sits outside of the data path between application servers and their assigned storage to eliminate any possibilities of application disruption.
CDP in general and NetBackup RealTime specifically are capturing more attention in organizations because they eliminate the downtime associated with hardware failures or data corruptions. One of CDP’s principle benefits when obtained from a software provider is that it eliminates the need to have ‘like’ disk storage hardware for the secondary data store. Used in this manner, organizations can potentially use any tier of any storage hardware as a CDP target.
NetBackup RealTime and its integration with NetBackup further distinguish RealTime from other CDP products in three important ways:
- NetBackup RealTime works in conjunction with existing NetBackup agent. RealTime copies write I/Os as they occur and then leverages NBU’s existing integration with numerous applications (Microsoft Exchange, Oracle, etc.) to insert bookmarks into the writes that are then sent to the RealTime server. These bookmarks indicate points of application consistency without which organizations could not confidently recover applications back to specific points in time. When these bookmarks are used in conjunction with RealTime’s SAN-based architecture, it also becomes possible for organizations to achieve consistency for applications such as Microsoft SharePoint that may have instances on multiple physical or virtual servers.
- NetBackup RealTime makes a mirror of the production volume and then updates the mirror as changes occur. Most other CDP products create an initial mirror of the production volume and then log or journal the write I/Os, only applying these logged changes when a recovery is needed. RealTime’s technique of applying writes to the production volume mirror is done to facilitate the types of recoveries that mission critical application need as their users almost always want the most recent copy of data. Using RealTime’s technique, application recoveries can occur almost instantaneously since these copies can be mounted and presented immediately to the application without waiting for the logged changes to be applied to the mirrored copy of the data.
The importance of this feature becomes more evident over time. Other CDP products can get slower as they require users to apply changes to the mirror. Conversely RealTime removes changes from the mirror which is less likely since users more frequently tend to want the latest moment in time for recovery. The fact that Symantec has several patents in this area also makes it more likely that RealTime will retain its competitive advantage.
- NetBackup RealTime recoveries are centrally managed through NetBackup. Once RealTime is setup and configured (the setup and configuration are currently done via RealTime), NetBackup can assume the ongoing management of RealTime and the copies of data that it creates. In this way, organizations can recover applications and even set RealTime policies through the NetBackup management console.
Symantec typifies the advancements that data management providers have been made over the last few years by offering more data management capabilities through NetBackup’s integration with the snapshot feature offered by storage system providers, its own NetBackup PureDisk, and through new offerings such as OpenStorage API. Symantec’s heightened focus on developing NetBackup RealTime and integrating it with NetBackup now gives organizations a new option for recovering their mission critical applications in such a way that organizations can swiftly manage and perform recoveries and bring these applications back online though their common NetBackup management console.