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The Symantec NetBackup 5000 Series: A Backup Appliance for Today, A Comprehensive Data Protection Strategy for Tomorrow’s Backup Needs

Deduplicating, disk-based backup appliances are now part of almost every organization’s data protection conversation. But this does not mean every organization should approach or view them in the same context. While many companies may want strictly a “backup target that does deduplication” that works with their existing backup software, there is an equally large contingent of companies that want a backup appliance that possesses features that enable them to build out a more comprehensive data protection strategy.

Deduplicating, disk-based appliances that function as backup targets have in recent years gained a reputation as being a “silver bullet” to solve the data protection challenges that many organizations face. This is certainly understandable considering that they:

  • Deduplicate data
  • Facilitate the cost-effective introduction of disk into the backup environment
  • Increase backup and recovery success rates
  • Minimize or eliminate the need to handle tapes
  • Shorten backup and recovery times

It is for reasons like these DCIG recently produced its inaugural 2011 Midrange Deduplication Appliance Buyer’s Guide to help users understand what products are available, how they differ and then guide them in making buying decisions about the various products in this market. But what this Buyer’s Guide did not profess to cover is every possible way that deduplication might be deployed on an appliance.

Instead the Buyer’s Guide only evaluated appliances whose primary purpose was to function as a backup target that presented either a NAS (CIFS or NFS) or virtual tape library (VTL) interface to the backup software. Using this restricted definition, the Buyer’s Guide examined products from providers like EMC Data Domain, ExaGrid Systems, Quantum and others.

However, there is a separate class of deduplicating backup appliances that do more than just function as a disk-based target with deduplication; they act as an integral component for building out a more comprehensive data protection solution that many companies want to implement.  One such example is the Symantec NetBackup 5000 and 5200 series appliances which are optimized for use with both NetBackup and Backup Exec.
This tight integration enables additional deduplication capabilities and features.  Source/client deduplication and what Symantec refers to as “intelligent deduplication” are examples of capabilities that most traditional target-based deduplication appliances do not natively provide.  

For example, the NetBackup 5000 series appliance offers source side deduplication that allows both NetBackup and Backup Exec clients to send an optimized stream with up to 99% less data directly to the appliance. Further, as clients can directly write to the appliance, the backup server is no longer in the data path of these backup streams and does not act a bottleneck to them.

A second differentiator is Symantec’s deduplication software that can optimize backup streams from both NetBackup and Backup Exec media servers and clients. The deduplication engine can peer directly into the backup stream and deduplicate data at the exact file offsets for various kinds of data streams.

In this case, when a VMware backup host sends VMDK files in the data stream, the NetBackup deduplication engine in these appliances actually sees inside of the VMDK files resulting in more efficient deduplication.

Further, as data growth and power consumption are a concern even for small organizations, NFS/CIFS protocols coupled with the overhead needed to handle random access during writes are not optimal for sequential streaming pattern from backup servers or clients. By contrast, the NetBackup appliances leverages optimized features that provide faster backups without taxing the network.

NetBackup 5000 appliances provide an optimal way to introduce not just target deduplication but several other features to modernize today’s backup infrastructures. Key advantages that organizations will realize by implementing NetBackup 5000 series include:

  • Global deduplication. NetBackup 5000 series appliances make it possible to expand the capacity of the deduplication pool by adding more NetBackup 5000 appliances to the existing pool. The deduplication pool may expand to span multiple devices that never store a deduplicated data segment more than once across the entire pool.   
  • WAN optimized replication. Backup to disk and data deduplication do not remove the requirement for organizations to get their backup data offsite in the event of a disaster. While replicating data offsite does require a secondary location to send the data, all NetBackup 5000 series appliances include replication with no additional licensing fee required to use it.

The appliances optimize the “replication” or transfer of data by granularly replicating data within selected backup images.  Further, this feature gives organizations the control to use different retention settings at the primary and secondary sites as opposed to just creating mirrored retention pools.

  • Fast disaster recovery. NetBackup appliances are the only devices currently available that supports NetBackup’s Auto Image Replication capability which makes it possible to have Active-Active configurations for disaster recovery readiness. Now organizations can have multiple NetBackup domains at different geographical locations where each one may act as the DR site for others while also serving local clients. This feature natively found in the NetBackup 5000 series eliminates the budget required to maintain a dedicated DR infrastructure (Active-Passive configurations).
  • Optimized synthetic backups. NetBackup appliances take advantage of the Synthetic Backup feature found in NetBackup and take it up to the next level. A synthetic backup first creates a copy of a full backup and then applies the changes to it. The optimized synthetic backup that is part of the NetBackup 5000 Series appliances improves upon that approach.

Using this capability, organizations may continue doing incremental backups (thereby shrinking the backup window and network usage) and then, using synthetic full backups,  instantly create a full image, using a data map that simply points to segments in the previous backups. This involves zero data movement, as segments are already in a deduplicated format, and enables customer to quickly recover from a full image or write a full backup to tape. .

  • Multi-dimensional scalability. As organizations employ deduplication in their backup strategy, they need the flexibility to scale it out in multiple ways. The NetBackup 5000 Series of appliances achieves this in three ways. First, organizations may scale out deduplication processing at either NetBackup or Backup Exec clients. Secondly, should organizations need to deploy deduplication closer to the target; they may distribute the deduplication processing to NetBackup or Backup Exec media servers. Third, the processing power, bandwidth and storage may be increased by adding more NetBackup 5000 series appliances.
  • License what you protect. NetBackup appliances enable organizations to align licensing to what they protect using what Symantec refers to as the 3 R’s.  The first “R,” Retention, is about no penalty for longer retention so organizations pay no additional license fees if they store data longer.  The second “R,” Replication, highlights that organizations do not pay an additional software license for the replication engine or additional copies. The third “R” is Refresh.  Using perpetual software licenses all softw
    are licenses are carried over
    to the new device lowering the cost of a hardware refresh.

It is only normal for organizations to want to resolve their existing data protection challenges by introducing disk-based deduplicating appliance into their environment.  But as they do so they should be cognizant that an entirely new class of backup appliances is emerging that do much more than present a NAS or VTL target. The Symantec 5000 and 5200 series of appliances arguably represent the best of what is available of these purpose-built backup appliances.

By incorporating the best of what target-based deduplicating appliances offer and leveraging the benefit of tight integration with Symantec NetBackup and Backup Exec, organizations can do more than just deduplicate data today; they can also position themselves to address their backup needs of tomorrow.  


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