BakBone’s benefits go beyond backup and CDP

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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

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.