EMC NetWorker and Data Domain Poised to Make Disk-based Enterprise Backup a Turnkey Experience

Simple. Easy. Automated. Those words are used so frequently to describe product features that users have become almost universally cynical about any product’s ability to actually deliver on them. So it came as a pleasant surprise to discover the number of new features that EMC NetWorker plans to introduce in 2H10 to make the management of Data Domain systems the turnkey experience that enterprise backup shops expect.

Those who are new to disk-based backup rightly conclude that many of the problems historically linked to tape-based backup and recovery diminish significantly once disk is introduced into the backup environment.  But once the initial benefits are realized, the long term challenges associated with managing disk-based backup and the various forms of replication it provides begin to surface.  For example:

  • Managing the disk-based appliance itself. The disk-based system itself needs to be managed. Disk drives, fans and power supplies can fail. File systems may fill up.  Snapshots need to be deleted. Enterprise organizations want to use their backup software to monitor and report on these issues.
  • Replicating data. Backup data may need to be replicated to another like disk-based system off-site, copied off to tape, or some combination of both. Yet unless the backup software integrates with the disk-based system, administrators may have to resort to using the disk system’s GUI to manage these tasks.

It is automating the initial setup and configuration of an EMC Data Domain system as well as enabling the ongoing management of Data Domain systems and the replication of data between Data Domain systems that EMC NetWorker looks to accomplish as part of its release in the latter half of 2010.

Based upon a demo that EMC recently took me through (which was the same demo that EMC also conducted with many attendees at a session at its recent 2010 EMC World), here are just a few of the benefits that NetWorker users who upgrade to the latest version of NetWorker, deploy Data Domain systems and take advantage of the new Data Domain Boost (DD Boost) should expect to realize.

First, a new NetWorker wizard can do the initial setup and configuration of individual EMC Data Domain appliances.  While using Data Domain’s GUI to setup an EMC Data Domain appliance that is new to an organization’s backup environment is fairly straightforward, adding a wizard makes this task one that is a documentable and repeatable process from within NetWorker.

This wizard takes advantage of the DD Boost software feature that serves as a common interface to Data Domain’s systems – its Appliance Series, the DDX Array and the Global Deduplication Array (GDA).  Leveraging DD Boost, NetWorker will be able to discover a new or existing Data Domain system, configure folders on it, and then designate which of these folders are to be added to an existing or new NetWorker backup pool. (NetWorker by default creates a new backup pool for Data Domain systems.)

Second, NetWorker can use SNMP to monitor and then generate alerts as to the status of the Data Domain system(s). Data Domain systems make available a variety of SNMP options which NetWorker will leverage to monitor, trap and generate alerts as to the condition of a specific Data Domain system. There are 25 SNMP traps on Data Domain systems that NetWorker can capture with the choice of which alerts to trap left to the discretion of the backup administrator and/or organization to select.

Specific SNMP options that NetWorker administrators may want to trap include: disk, fan module, NVRAM and power supply failures; the need for file system maintenance; file system failures; inoperable cluster interfaces or cluster nodes; replication between two (or more) Data Domain systems that is not synchronizing; or, when a full snapshot queue. As these messages are captured, they are populated within the NetWorker console and incorporated into NetWorker’s overall management and reporting structure.

Third, NetWorker can take advantage of the advanced replication features that exist on a Data Domain system for improved performance.  As NetWorker creates backup copies (or clones as it refers to them) on a Data Domain system using DD Boost, NetWorker will be aware that these clones reside on a Data Domain system.

So now as NetWorker goes to initiate a job of replicating data from one Data Domain system to another, NetWorker no longer has to do the copy itself. Rather it will call and leverage Data Domain’s native replication software to copy the data from the source to the target system without the need for scripting or command line interfaces as other backup software products may still require which makes it easier to deploy.

The added benefit that this will bring to NetWorker shops is that once an initial copy of data is complete, the Data Domain system will only need to replicate the differences or deltas that exist from one backup job to the next. Further, since NetWorker will manage both the source and target Data Domain systems, the target Data Domain system will let NetWorker know that all replicated data has been successfully received.

Fourth, NetWorker will be able to create separate retention polices for each clone. Leveraging the DD Boost software, NetWorker will be able to manage and set retention policies on individual clones on each Data Domain system. This will include clones that are replicas on either the source or target Data Domain systems.

This ability to set retention policies on any clone will enable NetWorker administrators to perform such tasks as expiring clones on the source system after some period of time (day, week, month, year, etc.) without its replicated copy also being set to expire at the same time. In this way, replicas can be independently managed and kept for purposes such as archival or legal holds.

EMC also claims that there will no practical limits to the number of clones that can be created with their retention policies. In other words, NetWorker can create “N” number of clones on “N” number of Data Domain systems with the ability for any clone to have its own retention policy.

The forthcoming integration between NetWorker and Data Domain that enables such basic functions such as discovering and configuring new Data Domain systems or capturing SNMP traps may seem like minor points to some.  Conversely, other announced enhancements such as managing Data Domain’s replication software and setting specific retention policies for multiple clones on multiple Data Domain systems are substantial advancements in NetWorker’s management capabilities of Data Domain systems.

However all of these advancements in the upcoming release of NetWorker reflect how Data Domain is evolving to become a solution that can be successfully introduced and managed by enterprise shops. Enterprise organizations want their backup software to deliver basic management capabilities (alerting, discovery, configuration and reporting) out of the chute while offering them the foundation to configure and manage both replication and individual retention policies on clones. EMC says the new version of NetWorker will deliver on these types of features and is already demonstrating them.

Yet it is this type of integration – the routine as well as the advanced – within the forthcoming release of NetWorker  that indicates Data Domain systems are poised for broad e
nterprise adoption. While delivering on other characteristics such as successful backups and high performance are certainly important, the enhanced integration that NetWorker will provide for Data Domain systems means that Data Domain systems can more easily slide into existing NetWorker environments with the deployment, configuration and ongoing management of Data Domain systems as automated and simple as enterprises expect them to be.


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