Backup appliance

Backup Appliance – Out of the box backup

A backup appliance needs to protect increasing amounts of data and this is a problem for organisations large and small, they should provide backup for local offices, remote offices and headquarters.

Backup appliances provide an easy to configure and integrate solution that contains all the necessary components to start backing up a business infrastructure. In the past people purchased backup software from vendor “A”, storage hardware from vendor “B” and a backup server from vendor “C”. This involved knowledge from the IT staff and calls to the backup software vendor regarding hardware requirements. Most of the time this combination would work, however on the occasion it didn’t work, then the finger pointing started, which could take hours, days or weeks to resolve and caused relationships to suffer.

The issue today is we have many more physical and virtual server combinations, greater network topologies including 1/10 Gigabit Ethernet with 40Gb/s due, Fibre Channel 4/8/16 Gb/s, iSCSI, NAS, SAN, SAS, FCoE …, backup and replicate data off-site to one or more remote locations, compression, de-duplication, encryption, backup agents, applications, databases, growth, security. As we can see the list goes on and trying to put together a backup solution that can manage and cope with all these combinations, starts to cause headaches for the best IT managers.

backup-appliance-decisions

Why a backup appliance makes sense

Due to the complexities of backup, along with support departments trying to make sense of all these combinations a number of the backup software vendors decided to standardise on a known hardware platform to which they would install their backup software. The customer then needs to decide the connectivity and backup capacity. A backup appliance that we are particular pleased with at the moment is Fujitsu ETERNUS CS200c which combines CommVault Software and Fujitsu Servers + Storage. As this backup appliance has been made with input from CommVault and Fujitsu, if it goes wrong both will be able to resolve the issue.

The idea was simple, if we know the hardware configuration, then trying to diagnose an issue is far easier to achieve and response times improve and customer satisfaction goes up.

At first glance buying an appliance might seem like a more expensive option, in reality it isn’t as you do not have to worry about all of the following:

  • Multiple support contracts for storage, servers, software.
  • Less time spent obtaining components and putting things together, in the hope they work.
  • A faster deployment and learning experience as you are buying a standardised solution.
  • Installation times on local or remote sites is easier to perform and can even be pre-configured in advance, greatly reducing deployment issues.
  • Less time on the phone speaking to support.
  • Easier to deploy agents and upgrades.
  • Backup Appliance updates have been pre-tested to ensure a smoother update to the latest software version.
  • Simpler licensing
  • Licensing models

fujitsu-cs200c-backup-appliance

Backup Performance

If your considering a backup appliance then performance must be near the top of your list for both high speed backups and restores. This could be backing up 1TB per hour or a 100TB per hour. This is where an appliance scores as the vendor knows the maximum performance that the reference appliance architecture can achieve in a perfect world.

Data De-duplication

Many backup appliances today have data de-duplication as a feature or an option. This is where the appliance checks for common or repeated characters within a data stream. The data is then de-duped into a much smaller backup file using compression algorithms. Typically this can be in-line de-duplication where the repetition is removed prior to it being saved to disk or post de-duplication where the backup has completed and then it is de-duped. Depending on the data type you could expect a compression ratio of de-duped data of 10:1 – 50:1. Video or images do not compress well and we would not recommend de-duplication with this type of data.

Backup to Tape

Tape today still has a place in a business if used correctly. In the past tape was used for backup, today however it is increasingly being used to archive data which hasn’t been accessed within a certain time-frame. The ComVault software on the Fujitsu CS200c supports path-to-tape for archiving. These tapes can then be taken off-site and stored. Once the data is archived it can be deleted from the storage to save disk space.

Remote Backup

Companies today have branch offices, these could be in the same county or a different country. A backup appliance should be able to replicate data from many smaller appliances i.e branch offices to a large centralised appliance i.e. HQ or DR site and from a large appliance to many smaller appliances. The appliance should also be able to limit the available bandwidth, so it doesn’t utilise 100% of the available WAN link and support encryption across the wire.

Backup Appliance Software Licensing

Backup software could be licensed by any of the following:

  1. Agent based – You pay for each system / client / application you want to backup. This is fine if you only have a few machines, but if you have a large estate then things could get expensive.
  2. Sockets – Per Socket Licensing (Physical CPU’s in the Virtual Host server and in physical servers)
  3. Capacity licensed – With capacity licensing you pay for the amount of data backed up by the software. This mostly includes all the necessary licenses to backup your estate. However, how it is licensed could be an issue:
    1. Is it licensed by raw capacity i.e. backup = 20TB data licensed 20TB, this is known as capacity under license.
    2. Does the licensing cover capacity before or after the dedupe process, this is known as front-end or back-end licensing respectively.
    3. There may be additional licensing costs for specific features

Hopefully you would also agree that back-end licensing makes a lot more sense as you could backup 20TB, deduped to 2TB, and all you then pay for is 2TB and not 20TB!

Backup Appliance Summary

As you can see from the above there are many options to choose and questions to be asked. A backup appliance really does make sense if you need to deploy an easy to use and configure appliance in a few minutes with far less hassle and headaches that is fully supported by your backup software vendor.

If you need help in trying to decide on a suitable backup solution for your environment, please call us on 01256 782030 and we will be pleased to assist.

Leave a Reply