NAS is sometimes viewed as a challenge by enterprise shops if their intent is to use it as a target for disk-based backup. Two reasons often cited is that there is only a finite amount of storage capacity available on NAS and backup software does not handle out-of-space conditions on file systems very well. This causes failures in backup jobs as well as performance bottlenecks when multiple backup jobs are occurring . The use of grid storage architectures in products like the NEC HYDRAstor are helping to put some of these concerns to rest and making NAS a more practical option for use as a target for disk-based backup in enterprise shops.
Category: NEC Corporation of America
When I recently attended VMworld 2008, I had the opportunity to get a closer look at NEC’s latest HYDRAstor release, the HS8-2000, and some of its features. Of course at a trade show all you generally have the time and opportunity to do is take a quick look at some of the product’s hardware and software features. But in this case there was a feature on the HYDRAstor that struck me just from the short time I spent evaluating it: the ability to create a 256 petabyte (PB) or larger file system.
The ease in which HYDRAstor’s underlying grid storage architecture gives companies to migrate to higher capacity and faster performing hardware found in its new HS8-2000 make it easy to overlook some of its other new features. Part of the reason I devoted the last blog entry to HYDRAstor’s self-evolving architecture is because I usually have to do just the opposite: educate readers about the advantages of upgrading to a new product so they can justify the pain of going through the migration. In HYDRAstor’s case, it is so painless to upgrade and migrate to the new HS8-2000 release that it is almost easy to overlook its new features.
A self-evolving platform is one of the promises behind products like the NEC HYDRAstor that are based on grid storage architectures. Grid storage architectures automatically take over data migrations during technology refreshes which eliminates the need for application downtime or for companies to do forklift upgrades. Yet up to this point it was difficult to establish the validity of that promise for the NEC HYDRAstor since its HS8-1000 series was still in its first release.
Replication and deduplication are features that are fast becoming necessities when disk libraries are introduced into enterprise IT backup environments. But as I brought out in a previous blog entry, introducing multiple functions into disk libraries intended for enterprise caliber backup environments typically has some unpleasant trade-offs. A primary concern in enterprise IT shops is how large (or small) to initially configure the solution so companies neither overspend on oversized hardware nor purchase undersized hardware that cannot scale to meet their future requirements, so they need some way to forecast how their IT environment is going to look going forward.
The “all-in-one” concept is one of the hottest trends in consumer technologies. Just looking at the gadgets and devices that I use on a day-to-day basis in my office, I am hard pressed to find one that does not perform multiple tasks. My office phone supports two lines, has a separate voice message box for each line and tracks all of my incoming and outgoing calls. My printer is not just a printer. It prints, copies, scans and faxes. Then, of course, there is my Blackberry which acts as a cell phone, email client, web browser, calculator, personal organizer (contacts/phone book) and a host of other functions that I have not even had time to figure out yet.
Anyone who thinks tape is still the right primary target for backup only needs to watch a video on NEC’s website that includes a testimonial from Orlando, FL, based TLC Engineering. In this testimonial, TLC shares some of its experiences using tape as its primary target for backup and recovery and the hassles associated with it. The situations that the individuals on the video describe are almost comical but, from past experience, I know that TLC’s experiences are more common than not.
However my intent is not to leave readers hanging or fretting as to what storage systems they can select that take this problem into account. The NEC HYDRAstor is one such product that has taken steps to address this issue. HYDRAstor includes a feature called Distributed Resilient Data™ (DRD) that is able to offer more protection than RAID 5 or RAID 6 without their rebuild performance drawbacks. Because HYDRAstor is based on a grid storage architecture, it can by default survive the failure of not only multiple disk drives but also multiple Storage Nodes. The default setting is 3 disk drives or 3 Storage Nodes if multiple nodes are present (based on the video on the HYDRAstor web site, it looks like a company needs at least 12 nodes for a company to have assurance it can recover from the failure of 3 different nodes).
Almost any disk-based solution – deduplicating or otherwise – is going to expedite backups and recoveries. Sure, some solutions may deduplicate better or do it faster but at the end of the day most companies are at the point that putting in place any disk-based system that supports replication and deduplication is better than dealing with the current backup pain. However what companies often fail to account for is how fast their backup data stores grow when they start backing up data to disk. More than once I’ve talked to system administrators in companies where “undisclosed” or “hidden” departmental application servers start to come out of the woodwork once department managers hear that corporate IT backup processes actually work.
The juxtaposition of deduplication and replication in disk-based backup appliances is a powerful combination that companies can use to protect backed up data across data centers as well as data backed up at remote and branch offices (ROBOs). Yet where deduplication ends and replication starts can get a little confusing in grid storage architectures such as is supported by the NEC HYDRAstor that features global deduplication capabilities.