Who's backing you up?
Find out which companies are the most stable in enterprise backup and how to choose the right solution for your needs
With increasing volumes of network data, high-performance backup and restore solutions are a top priority for IT managers. Major vendors have responded to this need with a variety of products, some focusing on backup, others looking to provide complete data management solutions. Which product is right for your organization depends on a number of factors. (2,500 words)
As you might expect, vendors are responding with a variety of packages to handle today's demanding data backup chores. We asked leading industry experts what the major host manufacturers are shipping in their boxes to handle the enterprisewide data backup chore, and what their own views are on how these data backup tools have changed or consolidated within the last couple of years.
Our discussions showed that Veritas Software and Legato Systems are far and away the leading vendors in the automated enterprisewide backup and restore application arena. These two companies, followed by IBM's ADSM as a strong third, own the market and set the standards for data backup and overall storage management.
The majority of host manufacturers (including Sun, HP, Data General, and Compaq/Digital) ship Veritas storage solutions software at the high end. (Compaq actually ships the Seagate Backup Executive software product, which is now owned by Veritas.) Legato storage management packages are the choice of Sun, Data General, and Compaq/Digital at the low end. HP employs Omni Back (an HP homegrown product) on its low-end systems. IBM provides its own backup software (ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager, or ADSM) across all product lines.
Juan Orlandini, a data protection and backup specialist with Minneapolis, MN-based Datalink Corporation, points out that today's backup software is very different from the standalone products offered just a year or two ago.
"Now users take a more data-centric view of their information systems environment. They don't care who makes the box -- Sun, HP, or IBM -- as long as they can get to their data. Users want a cohesive set of tools to manage their growing volumes of files and to be able to recover if there is a disaster. To this end, backup has become a key ingredient in the overall storage management component -- it is one piece of the puzzle. The leading data backup vendors -- Veritas, Legato, and IBM -- differ in their approach to integrating backup into the overall storage management solution."
Veritas's approach is to build an all-encompassing data management foundation level, which includes backup, to handle the many terabytes of data "floating" around in the typical open-systems environment. The company believes the problem is best solved by integrating data backup into existing data management procedures; its NetBackup product is combined with its File System and Volume Manager to accomplish a data backup and management solution.
Legato takes a more backup-centric view. Its backup product, NetWorker, is the focal point for the remainder of its data management solution. With this approach, backup is the central player and everything (the total data management package) is grafted around it.
IBM has made recent changes in the way it markets its ADSM storage management product. In January of this year, the company transferred ADSM from its Storage Systems Division to Tivoli, an IBM-owned company that specializes in overall network and systems management solutions. This move suggests that IBM's future storage management approach (including enterprise backup and restore) will be to tightly integrate it as one component in an overall enterprisewide IT-management package. However, for now, IBM has assured customers it will also maintain ADSM as a standalone product offering.
Datalink partners with all three of these leading backup software vendors and feels that all of these products play in the same ballpark. "They're all close -- in a given situation one might be faster during a database backup task, or another may excel at a high-speed restore. All run well on Sun, IBM, and Windows NT servers and can back up almost any client. In my opinion, Veritas has a slight edge over the others in the overall data management application right now, but it really depends on the users' specific application requirements as to which performs best. Veritas and Legato are more easily deployed and managed than IBM's product," comments Orlandini.
Issues and trends in data management
All three of these data management solutions span the full range of low-end to high-end functionality. Which one makes the most sense in a given situation depends on the user's answers to the following questions:
Kevin Liebl, vice president of marketing at Anaheim, CA-based MTI Technology, agrees that Legato and Veritas own the enterprisewide automated backup and restore market, and are a close first and second choice among the host vendors. Both are now providing integrated full-storage management solutions, including failover and clustering capabilities along with backup and restore. "Almost all of the major host manufacturers use both of these companies. The two are constantly leapfrogging each other and both are now moving away from direct-attached storage device topologies and into the new SANs arena," claims Liebl.
"They realize that the LAN-free backup concept is extremely popular with end users and the logical next step will be server-free backup that doesn't chew up server cycles. The global concept of shared devices is also taking hold -- both Veritas and Legato want to be ready." This will happen rapidly, as end users don't like their tape libraries sitting idle 90 percent of the time because they're dedicated for use within shrinking backup windows. Liebl believes that the sites want to move these libraries out to the SAN (storage area network) and have storage devices sharable among all of the servers, work them 24 hours a day, and amortize the costs.
Liebl has noted several trends in the storage backup theme over the last two years. First, users want to make separate server and storage decisions. They want storage devices that work equally well with all of the host platforms.
Second, the marketplace wants storage that is as easy to obtain as electricity. Nobody cares about the Hoover Dam; what matters is that you put the plug into the wall to get the power. End users don't want to know about the behind-the-scenes aspects. They just want infinite capacity and reliability to be available on demand. This trend is leading us toward SANs, Fibre Channel fabric, and cross-platform support.
The single-vendor, enterprisewide storage-management solution has been the biggest trend, according to Liebl. Users want consolidation of backup and restore functionality into the overall storage management task. They'd like a delivery organization that can build that two- or three-year vision, install it, and provide backend and professional service and training. And they want the solution to work with all vendors. The feeling is that the site might be an NT shop today, but it could be Unix- or Linux-centric tomorrow.
"The backup process in general is becoming more robust and easier to manage. The real advances from Veritas and Legato lean toward global data management capability," says Liebl. "The goals here are straightforward: to increase storage management efficiency and to lower the total cost of ownership."
What the host manufacturers commonly ship today
Let's take a detailed look at the top solutions being shipped today.
Legato Systems Enterprise Storage Management software, based out of Palo Alto, CA, is an integrated set of enterprise storage management programs for heterogeneous client-server computing environments. Of all storage management products, Legato's storage management software may boast the largest installed base, with more than 37,000 customers, protecting more than 4 million systems. Twenty-four of the world's largest system and applications vendors ship Legato's software as the preferred storage management solution for customers, including such well-known names as Banyan, BMC Software, Compaq/Digital, Compaq/Tandem, Data General, Fujitsu/Amdahl, Fujitsu/ICL, Groupe Bull, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Informix, NEC, Netscape, Network Appliance, Nihon-Unisys, Oracle, Siemens Nixdorf, Silicon Graphics, Sony, and Sun Microsystems.
Legato's NetWorker, BusinesSuite, SmartMedia, and GEMS products are also licensed, resold, or endorsed by other major vendors, including Computer Associates, Tivoli, Microsoft Corporation, MTI Technology, Novell, and SAPO.
Recently, Legato has teamed with MTI Technology and 3Com Corporation, a preeminent supplier of data, voice, and video communications technology, to offer pretested SAN data protection solutions for LAN-free backup of both Unix and Windows NT.
Data protection is one of the key drivers of SAN adoption, and Legato's Enterprise Storage Management Architecture (ESMA) enables customers to take advantage of the benefits offered by SAN topologies. MTI's Liebl comments, "Legato's NetWorker storage nodes enable large, business-critical servers to be backed up directly to tape, under the control of a central NetWorker server. This results in the ability to offload backup traffic from the LAN and move it to the SAN, taking advantage of the bandwidth offered by Fibre Channel networking hardware supplied by 3Com."
The any-to-any connectivity of SANs enables tape libraries to be connected to multiple servers; Legato SmartMedia manages the sharing of media and devices between them and manages application requests for media from a central location. Legato's enterprisewide data protection software is offered with MTI's Infinity line of automated DLT tape libraries, which range in size up to almost 100 terabytes. "These libraries meet the backup, restore, and archival storage needs of businesses running centralized backups, or those implementing distributed departmental or remote office backup strategies," states Liebl. "The Legato storage-management and data-protection software, combined with the 3Com Fibre Channel networking hardware, and MTI tape libraries, provide users with tested, interoperable solutions for backup and data protection over SANs," according to Nora M. Denzel, senior vice president of Legato Systems.
Veritas Software, located in Mountain View, CA, provides storage management tools that leverage intelligence collected at the foundation layer to deliver proactive management of storage resources, while the company's integrated offline management tools support comprehensive backup, restore, tape management, and archival solutions.
Veritas counts over 1,500 of the Global 2000 corporations as its customers. More than 50 of the world's leading computer companies, including HP, Sun, and Microsoft, license Veritas storage management technology to embed it within their hardware offerings as an integral part of their computing solutions. The Veritas Foundation Suite, which includes Volume Manager and File System modules for heterogeneous storage management and support, is often combined with Veritas's NetBackup module.
NetBackup is a key component of Veritas's total data management solution. It provides backup and restore utilities for Windows NT and Unix platforms, and also enables online backup for Microsoft BackOffice applications such as SQL, Server, and Exchange, as well as Oracle and SAP R/3 databases. NetBackup utilizes native APIs to capture data without ever having to shut down the application, ensuring that all data is available all of the time.
NetBackup recognizes different data types and allows each to be stored according to its own unique criteria. The network administrator can apply different storage rules to any subset of data without affecting the rest of the files on the server, yet the entire system is managed as one at a higher administrative level. And it can be managed remotely -- administrators can install, configure, and modify their storage environments on the fly from anywhere in the enterprise.
NetBackup allows storage devices, such as tape libraries, to be placed at strategic locations throughout the enterprise, based on concentrations of data. Larger servers can have tape libraries attached directly to them to minimize network traffic. Clusters of smaller client systems can be grouped according to any criteria, such as data type or domain to a library. This approach not only eases administration, it also reduces network traffic by pooling client systems into storage domains with their own storage device, avoiding costly network hops. Performance is further enhanced by multiplexed backups -- the ability to back up parallel streams of data from across the network to a single storage device. In this way, multiple tape devices can be streamed to at the same time.
During a disaster recovery operation, restore performance becomes more important than backup speeds. NetBackup features multiplexed restores. During restores, data is again streamed in parallel back to disk, but the data is written across the network to the client machines and/or locally to the main servers' disks. This reduces the time required to recover from a catastrophic data loss and returns vital applications to service in the shortest time possible.
On the SAN front, Veritas is offering to host a comprehensive set of heterogeneous storage management tools necessary to manage SAN environments. The widely deployed Veritas Volume Manager and File System products provide a foundation for cross-platform storage area networking.
IBM's ADSM was listed as a top contender in a recent Gartner Group report, which indicated the package incorporates the industry's most sophisticated core technology. But, Datalink's Orlandini says in his experiences, ADSM falls short in the key areas of ease of deployment and ease of management when compared to Veritas's and Legato's solutions. "Full-scale ADSM is complex and burdensome to install; that's why they came up with the 'wizard' alternative. It takes more resources and time to get it going than the Veritas or Legato offerings. But once running, ADSM is a very good, high-functionality product."
To combat the installation complexity of ADSM, Big Blue provides a "canned" solution -- the IBM 3466. This is ADSM in a "box" (either Sun or IBM); it automatically installs in a kind of wizard approach. This approach won't work for everyone because it comes with predefined parameters. However, it does simplify installation and setup for many. ADSM is an integrated enterprisewide network backup, archiving, storage management, and disaster recovery planning solution. "Customers increasingly depend on information technology to store, manage, and archive critical business data, making storage management one of the increasingly important disciplines of enterprise IT management," according to Tivoli Chairman and CEO Jan Lindelow. Tivoli plans to significantly enhance ADSM by increasing product functionality in the areas of improved performance, support for storage area networks (SANs), and support for additional platforms, databases, and applications.
The company believes that by merging the IBM ADSM product family with Tivoli Enterprise offerings, sites will be able to better manage their heterogeneous enterprise in the most centralized, efficient manner.
According to market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), the overall storage management market is projected to reach $2.1 billion by the year 2001. Enterprisewide backup is a key component within the storage solutions package. Veritas and Legato own this niche, with their products being shipped by most of the major host manufacturers. IBM is poised to make a run at the leaders and has plans to expand its own cross-platform market share in 1999. These three companies are setting the enterprisewide data backup and storage management standards by which other players will have to abide.
About the author
Ron Levine is a freelance writer based in Carpinteria, CA. He specializes in networking, storage device, and emerging technology applications. His most recent features for SunWorld were "Fibre Channel vs. SCSI: Which is more advantageous for your storage area network? (March 1999) and "Adding network hard disk storage -- painlessly" (March 1998). Reach Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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