Backup Physical Tape Replication

Perspectives on Symantec OpenStorage

A couple of weeks ago SEPATON demonstrated OpenStorage (OST) at Symantec Vision and I posted a blog entry including a link to the demo. I wanted to explore OST in more detail.

OST is Symantec’s intelligent disk interface. It works with all types of disk targets and is most commonly implemented with deduplication enabled storage. OST addresses disk as disk and is different from the traditional tape-based metaphor. It handles backups as images and allows the backup application to simultaneously read and write data and incrementally deleted expired information. OST enables access to NetBackups native disk features such as San Client Backups, Media Server Load Balancing, Intelligent Disk Capacity Management and Storage Lifecycle policies. These are features of NetBackup that can benefit end users and are outside the scope of this blog. In this post, I want to discuss the features that are unique to OST.

The challenge that end users grapple with is how to move or transform data using their backup appliance while maintaining NetBackup (NBU) catalogue consistency. This can be a particularly difficult when using appliance-based tape copy or replication. OST addresses these issues by enabling the appliance to access the NBU catalogue. This means that NBU can instruct the appliance to replicate a copy of the data and maintain separate retention policies on the two copies. Let’s look at these features in more detail:

Backup Deduplication Restore

Data Domain & GDA – Bolt-on to the rescue

One of biggest challenges facing today’s datacenter managers is protecting the vast quantities of data being generated. As volumes have increased, customers have looked for larger and larger backup solutions. Multi-node global deduplication systems have become critical to enable companies to meet business requirements and EMC/Data Domain’s response to these challenges has been “add another box” which is their answer to all capacity or performance scalability questions. It appears that Data Domain has acknowledged that this argument no longer resonates and has reverted to Plan B, bolt-on GDA.

The use of the term “bolt-on” stems from a previous blog post by EMC/Data Domain’s VP of Product Management, Brian Biles. In the entry, he characterizes other deduplication vendors as bolt-on solutions, and the obvious implication is that Data Domain is better because it is not a bolt-on. Few would agree with this assertion, but it is an interesting opinion and I will return to this later.

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Video Demo: SEPATON and Symantec OST

Today SEPATON announced that we are demonstrating OST technology at Symantec vision and I created this short video demo to highlight the technology.  Enjoy!
Backup Deduplication Replication

Deduplication ratios and their impact on DR cost savings

There is an interesting blog discussion between Dipash Patel from CommVault and W. Curtis Preston from Backup Central and TruthinIT regarding the increasing or decreasing benefits of deduplication ratios. They take different perspectives on the benefits of increasing deduplication ratios and I will highlight their points and add an additional one to consider.

Patel argues that increasing deduplication ratios beyond 10:1 provides only a marginal benefit. He calculates that going from 10:1 to 20:1 results in only a 5% increase in capacity efficiency and suggests that this provides only a marginal benefit. He adds that vendors who suggest that a doubling in deduplication ratios will result in a doubling cost savings are using a “sleight of hand.” He makes an interesting point, but I disagree with his core statement that increasing deduplication ratios beyond 10:1 provides only marginal savings.

Backup Physical Tape Restore

LTO-5 and Disk-based Backup

HP recently announced the availability of LTO-5 and they are currently hosting industry luminaries at their HP Storage Day. I received a question on Twitter from John Obeto about LTO-5 and what it means to VTL and wanted to answer it here. Note that I previously blogged about LTO-5.

The challenge with data protection is ensuring that you meet your backup and recovery requirements, and most companies have fixed SLAs. The advent of LTO-5’s larger tape sizes is nice, but tape size is not the problem, the issue is real world performance. Quantum’s LTO-5 specification suggests maximum performance of 140 MB/sec which is an impressive statistic, but in practice few end users achieve this. The challenge is even greater when you think about minimum required transfer rates as discussed in my fallacy of faster tape post

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Lessons learned from the COPAN acquisition

The rumors of the demise of COPAN were rampant in late 2009. There was broad speculation that general operations had wound down and that the company was maintaining a skeletal staff. It was clear that COPAN’s end was near and the management team was scrambling for an exit strategy. Most people assumed that the recent silence from COPAN suggested that the company had not survived.

It was in the context of this situation that I saw a tweet last night about COPAN being acquired. The first questions were who and for how much and the tweet suggested that the answers were SGI and $2 million dollars respectively. Wow, what an amazing decline. COPAN raised $124 million dollars in multiple financing rounds and they exit the market at a $2 million valuation.

COPAN focused on MAID (massive array of idle disks). The technology allowed them to spin down unused disks to reduce the power and cooling requirements. The design included proprietary highly dense disk packaging that provided the densest storage in the industry, and actually required some datacenters to specially reinforce their flooring. They focused on $/GB and said that they offered the lowest in the industry both from an acquisition and operational cost standpoint. All of this sounded compelling from a marketing perspective, but the reality was different.

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Protecting personal data

This blog primarily focuses on protecting corporate data, but I recently received a call from my father that reminded me of the criticality of protecting personal data. My father called expressing frustration that his laptop hard drive had failed and corrupted his data. Fortunately, he had backup copies of his most critical files on a USB stick; however, his email history and address book were not stored on the external device and were lost. I mention this story to remind you of the importance of personal data protection. What are you doing to backup your data?

There are many different approaches to protecting personal data. The two key concerns to consider are:

  1. What happens if I lose the hard drive where my data is stored or experience a software problem such as a virus?
  2. What happens if I suffer a more extreme data loss such as my house burning down?

Each question is critical, and the answer will vary depending on the data. For example, digital pictures of your family might have a different priority than your MP3 library. The former is irreplaceable and the latter is not. These priorities will impact the chosen data protection medium and methodology.

Backup Physical Tape Restore

Tale of the Tape: Musings on IBM’s 35TB Tape Announcement

A recent tweet by Chris Mellor from The Register caught my eye. He highlighted IBM’s recent development of a 35TB tape. Here are four articles on the topic:


FUJIFILM Announcement

The Register Article

A blog post by Robin Harris at ZDnet

My thoughts

It is interesting to see IBM/Fuji driving tape development. With this announcement they have increased native tape capacity over 21x from LTO-5, the newest LTO offering. The dramatic density improvement will drive a continued decrease specification-based $/GB. However it also raises some new questions:


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Lessons from the Sidekick debacle

The latest scary backup story comes from a firm called Danger that makes the Sidekick PDA/phone. The Sidekick stores the majority of its data in a central data center and the data is loaded each time to the phone is restarted. The idea is that the data center provides protection if you lose your phone. A good idea, right?  Well yes, assuming that Danger adequately protects its customers’ data.

A number of outlets are reporting that Danger suffered a catastrophic data loss and all users’ data has been lost. I checked with a family friend who confirmed that her Sidekick was down for a week and is now finally working as a phone, but her data is inaccessible.  This is unacceptable; Sidekick users paid a monthly fee for this service and Danger should have maintained reasonable precautions to protect their customers data.  Clearly this is a bad situation for everyone, and lessons to be learned by all.

Here are some key takeaways from this event.

Backup D2D Deduplication Restore Virtual Tape

Streaming LTO-5

Chris Mellor (twitter:@Chris_Mellor) recently posted an article over at The Register about LTO-5 entitled Is LTO-5 the last harrah for tape?.  He makes an interesting point about the future of LTO and whether LTO-5 will be the last generation of the technology.  Most of the comments on the article disagree with Chris’s opinion.

I believe that there is another major issue with LTO-5 that must be addressed.  The challenge with LTO (and most other tape technologies) is its limited ability to throttle performance.  Users must carefully manage their environment to ensure that they stream their drives or else backup performance will decline dramatically.  As drives become faster, the challenge of optimizing your environment for the technology becomes more difficult.  You can read more about this in my blog post entitled The Fallacy of Faster Tape.