New Enterprise Backup: Proceed With Caution

New Enterprise Backup: Proceed With Caution A new layer of technology could help streamline backup and recovery - or add to storage headaches.

September 20, 2004

3 Min Read
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First, the good news: A slew of new systems from more than 11 different vendors allow enterprises to bust backup delays while keeping their tape libraries in place. It's a new layer of technology, one that promises to streamline the growing burden of securing enterprise data.

Now the downside: Unless storage managers do their homework before buying, these new disk backup systems could complicate life unpleasantly.

According to this month's Byte and Switch Insider report Enterprise Disk Backup: Getting It All Together – the problem is that new systems that purport to solve enterprise backup bottlenecks are so varied in their features and functions that customers need to look long and hard to find the product that's best for them.

Some support mainframes, others open systems, others both. Some work with only one vendor's tape libraries; others support general tape and disk formats. Some work with only certain software packages. And so forth.

Bottom line? Managers need to be sure that what they're buying fits their particular requirements, or they could be exchanging one set of problems for another.Consider the following hypothetical examples, gleaned from the report's information:

  • Example 1 – Killing Tape Creates a Monster: A company decides to ease its backup burden by replacing its old tape libraries with a new disk backup system. It achieves sizably greater throughput rates, moving from 30 Mbyte/s to 200 Mbyte/s. At the same time, the company finds that since its new system does not emulate tape, all the storage applications that formerly worked with the tape libraries must be changed. What's more, the administration of the new system requires the addition of an extra human storage manager.

  • Example 2 – Backup Boost Spawns Trouble: One organization purchases a lower-end enterprise disk backup system, one with a capacity of about 10 TB. This triples the speed of backup to the tape libraries in the archival tier. But as the firm's data volume mounts, adding increments of disk storage from the same vendor entails a sizeable configuration project. This is because each box is seen by the management software as a discrete device – to be set up and configured separately. Hardware and software costs ramp alarmingly.

  • Example 3 – Backup Falls Short: After investing in a $100,000-plus disk backup system, a multisite firm finds that while intracampus links via Fibre Channel are covered admirably, it's going to take some work to get two remote sites included in the backup dragnet. In fact, the vendor recommends the purchase of several extension units to permit the use of ATM in addition to Fibre Channel. Costs mount another five figures.

None of this is meant to denigrate the clear advantages of emerging disk backup systems. In many instances, these units will multiply the efficiency of storage networking dramatically. That said, however, making the most of the new gear means adding a new layer of technology to the data center – one that could cause as many problems as it solves.— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

Enterprise Disk Backup: Getting It All Together is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Byte and Switch Insider

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