Our first session at Tech Field Day 5 was a trip the Symantec campus to hear about some interesting backup solutions from both NetBackup and BackupExec. I’ve been an on-and-off user of BackupExec for many years now, dating back to version 8 running on Netware boxes and it was still a Veritas product. However, things have changed significantly today when it comes to backing up devices. Thanks to Symantec, I have a much clearer picture now of what that entails.
We started out the day by hearing from one of Symantec’s NetBackup product specialists, George Winter. He described how their product allowed them to do some amazing things, especially in the VMware arena. You can imagine that my ears perked up at this point, as VMware is something that I’m becoming increasingly attached to from both the network and the server end. I’ve never had the pleasure of using VMware Consolidated Backup, but from the cheers in the room when we were told that NetBackup instead uses the new VMware storage API calls, allowing a NetBackup appliance to get the information it needs to backup VMware guests without the need for the “agent” software program that has typically been needed in the past. This is nice for me, since I don’t have to go through the trouble of installing agents on each guest as I bring them online. I can just tell NetBackup to go out and backup the whole server, or a selected subset of guests chosen by groups. NetBackup is even smart enough to know that if I add a guest to a folder that is currently being backed up that I probably want the new host backed up as well, so it adds the host automatically. There was a great live demo of the ease of use in setting up the system and selecting backup options. Demos are always great for engin…I mean Network Rock Stars because we can see things in action and generate questions based on options we can see in the live client and now some canned flash demo that glosses over the knobs and switches.
After the first session, we were graced by the presence of Enrique Salem, the CEO of Symantec. He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about the vision of Symantec and some of the emerging opportunities he sees for his company in the next year. He appears to be a driven guy and dedicated to his principles. So dedicated in fact that he not only gave us his e-mail address, but his cell number as well. In front of a live video audience, no less! Men with this kind of dedication earn big points with me because they aren’t afraid to talk to their customers and partners about their products.
A quick break paved the way for the BackupExec team to step up and start talking about the word that would quickly become the underlying theme to Tech Field Day 5 – dedupe. For those of you network folks that may not completely understand dedupe, it is the process of removing similar data from a backup stream by use of hashing values in order to reduce the amount of data being transmitted, especially over slow WAN links. Every time I think about it, it reminds of the basic method in which programs like WinRAR and WinZIP use to compress files. If you really want to know more about data deduplication, you should head over to Curtis Preston’s Backup Central website. Curtis is now my go-to person when I have a backup question, and he should be yours as well.
We learned more about how Symantec can use dedupe to reduce bandwidth consumption and tame processor utilization, which are ideas that appeal to me greatly. BackupExec appears to be positioned more toward the SMB/small enterprise end of the market when it comes to backup software. This is the realm that I play in more than anything else, so this product speaks to me. There are a lot of options for backing up the VMware hosts that are found in the NetBackup product line, yet scaled down to allow SMB admins to easily use them to quickly backup and restore data. They even have the capability of performing single file restoration to guest VMs even though the only thing backed up was the VMDK disk files. Quite interesting if you ask me, as most of the restore requests I receive are for a single Word document, not a whole server.
Overall, I was very happy with what I heard from Symantec. Their products appear to fully embrace the new landscape of server virtualization and the challenges that it presents to legacy backup solutions. My own experience with Symantec in the past has varied from use to use, but this presentation went a long way to repairing some of my hard feelings about their solutions, especially in the BackupExec arena. I’ll definitely be taking another look at them soon.
Tech Field Day Disclaimer
Symantec was a sponsor of Tech Field Day 5, and as such was partly responsible for my airfare and hotel accommodations. In addition, they provided me with a very delicious hot breakfast and some “swag” that included a steel water bottle, t-shirt, notepad and pen set, and a 2GB Symantec-branded USB drive that contained copies of the presentation we were given. At no time did they ask for or receive any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.