Symantec NetBackup 5220 Backup Appliance Assumes Its Own Identity

When Symantec shipped its first backup appliances in late 2010, it could arguably be said the primary intention of these appliances was to simplify the deployment of Backup Exec and NetBackup at customer sites by shipping both hardware and software as a single SKU. While that still holds true, these appliances also opened the door for them to offer specific features and assume their own unique identities. The new NetBackup 5220 begins to deliver on that promise as it now offers specific software and features that make it much more than just a “server with NetBackup software pre-installed on it.

Everyone generally knows that the simplicity associated with deploying backup appliances have made them a hot ticket in customer environments. This is a big reason that the market for these devices is forecasted to grow by 17% annually over the next couple of years. But what many are recognizing is that these appliances can be much more than just shrink-wrapped packages with backup software and server and storage hardware.

The Symantec NetBackup 5220 represents one of the first backup appliances to take advantage of the new possibilities that backup appliances create. In the 5220, we see this in two ways.

  • First, Symantec bundles more software from other parts of its product line.
  • Second, Symantec introduces new features into the 5220 that enhances its overall value beyond simple backup.

netbackup5220.JPG

As the above image illustrates, there are two new software
products that Symantec NetBackup 5220 now includes. On the left hand side is
Symantec Critical System Protection that is deployed as an unmanaged agent on the NetBackup 5220. Using this agent, the 5220 will do host intrusion detection thereby monitoring and auditing itself and generate alerts if anyone accesses it. If they do, administrators may then see what they have doing on the appliance (changing files, which applications they have been accessing, etc.)

Those organizations that already use Critical System
Protection within their environment to protect physical and virtual servers may
alternatively activate the agent and make it a managed agent. When used this
way, organizations may integrate it with their existing Critical System
Protection server and then centrally manage the NetBackup 5220 as part of their
broader intrusion prevention scheme.

On the right hand side we see that Symantec introduces WAN
optimization into the 5220. In this case, Symantec has partnered to introduce
this software to optimize outbound traffic. In its internal testing, Symantec
has consistently seen about a 2x performance increase whether replicating to
other appliances at other sites or even when replicating to the cloud.

Of the two, replicating to the cloud was a driver behind
the introduction of this feature. As NetBackup had already extended its support
for cloud providers to include AT&T, Amazon and Rackspace in addition to
Nirvanix, more of its customers were looking to leverage this new NetBackup
option to store data in the cloud. So by introducing WAN optimization into the
5220 itself, they now get the flexibility to do so.

Yet what I personally found most intriguing about this
release is how the NetBackup 5220 is prompting the need for new feature
functionality to be added into the NetBackup software itself and then shipped
with the NetBackup 5220 even before it ships with NetBackup. In this particular
case, the NetBackup 5220 was encountering a specific challenge when it was
deployed to backup some VMware environments.

If asked to be an off-host backup in a VMware environment
with shared storage, it would want to leverage the VMware API to make a
snapshot of the VM so it would not impact the ESX host. However to perform that
off-host VM backup, it still required a Windows box somewhere. While this could
be the backup server, since the NetBackup 5220 uses Linux, the 5220 used to
rely on some external Windows server to perform the backup as VMware’s data
protection APIs were primarily designed to work in
Windows environments.

However in working with VMware, they jointly developed a
functional API for Linux. Now the NetBackup 5220 no longer needs either a
physical or virtual Windows host to do off-host backups of VMs. It may now
perform this backup itself. Symantec refers to this as direct vSphere backups.

Making this particular functionality noteworthy is that it
is currently only available on the NetBackup 5220. While Symantec plans to add
it to the software version of NetBackup in an upcoming release, the general
availability of this feature on the NetBackup 5220 before it ships on the
flagship NetBackup software highlights how backup appliances in general and the
NetBackup 5220 specifically are poised to offer a more end-to-end solution than
what might normally be built by a backup team.

Backup appliances are a hot ticket in customer
environments and few appliances are hotter than the NetBackup 5220. But what
organizations have to realize is that full extent of the operational savings
that can be achieved with a purpose-built backup appliance that offers more
than just deduplication or backup.

This release of the NetBackup 5220 exemplifies a new breed
of backup appliances that can perform a wider range of tasks. The NetBackup
5220’s inclusion of the direct vSphere backup, Critical System Protection and
WAN optimization software coupled with the new feature functionality in
NetBackup itself that for, right now, can only be found on the NetBackup 5220 indicates
the broader potential that NetBackup appliances have to reduce backup
complexity and drive down the cost of backup.

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