BakBone's benefits go beyond backup and CDP

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Written By: Peter Williams
Published: 19th January, 2009
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

In the last couple of years BakBone has been busy implementing its 2007-announced Integrated Data Protection (IDP) strategy by adding more capabilities while ensuring operation is kept straightforward. One of its more interesting developments is its NetVault: RealTime Data Protector (RDP) product, the first implementation of which was announced in late 2008.

BakBone has also built several application-specific backup plug-ins for the likes of OracleRAC, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, and VMware, and added continuous data protection (CDP) with its TrueCDP product in 2007. RDP is an application-specific CDP which addresses a CDP weakness. These developments, along with heterogeneity, are helping BakBone achieve clear differentiation.

BakBone's TrueCDP is now a well-established generic CDP product (which also offers frequent snapshots). CDP stores every data change to lessen full backup frequencies and allows much faster restores from any point in time (APIT). However, as Andrew Brewerton, BakBone's EMEA technical director, told me: "There is an element of not hitting recovery time objectives (RTOs)."

In other words, the time to recovery is still not necessarily fast enough for businesses working in ‘real-time' mode; for instance, a full database may still take four hours to recover. What can be done about this depends partly on the particular application.

The first version of RDP works for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, and Windows File System to provide CDP. Brewerton explained how it gets around this problem: "The clever part is in the recovery. The virtual on demand recovery [VODR] thin client can recover a corrupted application, so that it is typically up and running within 30 seconds."

The way it does this, for Exchange, is by initially recovering only a shell of the applications data files (meaning the size of the data is not relevant) then permitting e-mails and the like to be sent and received while the full recovery of data operates in the background. During this restoring period, if a user tries to access a mail folder, e-mail or database record not so far restored, RDP will intercept this request and act on it to cause the needed data to be restored next in sequence. The important net result is that the system is almost instantly live and usable (with just an occasional momentary delay).

This RDP approach could in theory be applied to any application—and on different operating systems—but, clearly, some applications lend themselves more to this than others; e-mail management as covered by Exchange is a good example of one that does. I would imagine considerable R&D is also needed for each unique application, so additional RDP implementations are likely to be limited to the most widely used applications of this type. The rest will have to content themselves with TrueCDP. RDP is at an early stage but it will be interesting to see to what extent RDP develops in future.

More immediately, BakBone is achieving a lot of new business in addition to good upgrade take-up from existing customers through its VMware backup capabilities. In 2008 it was able to provide a number of new options, while keeping it simple by, for instance, deploying a plug-in on one VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) (minimum) irrespective of the number of VMs in total.

An important fact is that VMware does not know what applications it has on a virtual server and the applications themselves do not know they are on one; this limits the options available for application aware backups. However NetVault: Backup can offer a number of alternatives to remove this limitation. There was a little serendipity in the timing of its development last year. "For VMware the timing was very good, just after VMware refreshed its APIs," said Brewerton who added that this made it unique with nobody yet catching BakBone as it had moved on to its next generation.

The same plug-in supports VMware 3.0-3.5i (ESX and hypervisor ESXi) and does not need to reside on the ESX server. The plug-in talks to the ESX Server or VirtualCenter, and auto discovery finds what it needs (with one licence per plug-in). If VMotion steps in to move a Virtual Machine the backup job will find it and re-direct the backup process."

This may sound complicated but, in fact, operation is automated. This is in line with the company's emphasis on keeping implementation and management of all its software simple. Brewerton said that BakBone was finding a bigger need in educating users in VMware itself.

He also said that NetVault: Backup is a single complete product, not a framework. (For any given company, features would be effectively ‘turned on or off', with an appropriate licence.)

This has a great attraction for many of the smaller users since volume growth has meant they now have the equivalent needs to large enterprises of a few years back—but have less skilled IT personnel. It is the same product that scales, for instance, to support a large internet company that backs up many terabytes nightly.

BakBone is, in fact, making greater strides among the larger enterprises which typically have mixed operating systems and for which its heterogeneity scores.

All in all, the potential benefits to existing and new users from its enhancing product set bodes well for 2009 despite the expected tough economic times.

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