Symantec Looks Beyond Virtual Tape

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Symantec on Tuesday announced plans to move disk-based backup away from legacy tape environments.

A new application programming interface (API) called the Symantec NetBackup OpenStorage API, set for release in mid-2007, will allow intelligent disk devices to integrate natively with NetBackup backup and recovery software instead of having to emulate tape in a virtual tape approach.

The move was embraced by a number of disk-based backup vendors, including EMC, FalconStor, Network Appliance, Copan Systems, Data Domain, Diligent Technologies, Quantum, Sepaton and Sun Microsystems, all of which plan products based on NetBackup 6.5.

Symantec notes that integration between intelligent disk devices and backup software has been a challenge for the industry. Since major backup applications haven’t provided a purpose-built API for integration until now, it has been difficult for intelligent disk backup devices to offer advanced functionality beyond basic interoperability. The NetBackup OpenStorage API will change that by allowing intelligent disk device vendors to natively integrate with NetBackup to deliver a seamless and more functional solution for customers, Symantec says.

“Intelligent disk providers want to enhance their solutions to meet customers’ growing backup and recovery needs and provide more advanced disk-based data protection capabilities, including single-instance storage and backup image replication,” said Rick Huebsch, Symantec’s vice president of NetBackup. “With the introduction of the NetBackup OpenStorage API, these providers will be able to enable their intelligent disk devices to take advantage of the high-performance data protection, recovery and management capabilities of NetBackup.”

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO, said VTLs and APIs are the first steps storage users must take as they begin to move from legacy tape environments to disk-to-disk data protection, ultimately removing some data movement and processing steps in the process.

“We are seeing the first steps of using VTLs, then APIs to talk to disks,” said Schulz. “Ultimately vendors that are currently functioning as VTLs will have to evolve to become NAS and block storage ingestion points for data protection instead of simply being targets for backup. Likewise, traditional backup vendors will need to evolve from tracking data to be backed up and managing backups to tracking data in real-time to be sent to target storage devices.

“Needless to say, VTLs are not going away anytime soon, but keep an eye on how VTL and disk library vendors morph and reinvent themselves as the backup and data protection ecosystem evolves over the next couple of years.”

The NetBackup OpenStorage API will allow NetBackup to “treat disk as disk” and enable a number of disk-based backup features:

  • High-speed backup and recovery to intelligent disk devices over Fibre Channel or IP connections;
  • Disk-sharing and virtualization, allowing a pool of disk to be shared by multiple NetBackup Media Servers and enabling load-balancing, high-availability and failover;
  • Better utilization of disk by leveraging the single-instance-storage capabilities of disk-based devices;
  • Backup image replication between multiple data centers for disaster recovery or electronic vaulting;
  • Duplication of backup images from disk devices to tape for long-term archiving;
  • And simplified management, allowing a single NetBackup policy layer and catalog to control both backup and recovery.

“Our joint efforts in the future will make network-based disk backup solutions easier and more intelligent, ultimately optimizing the use of storage and the network,” said Bernie Wu, vice president of business development at FalconStor.

“Closer integration between backup devices and the corresponding software will help drive higher utilization rates and simplify backup and recovery,” said Douglas Murray, executive director of global alliances at Sun Microsystems.

To benefit from the new NetBackup OpenStorage API, Symantec is offering a software development kit (SDK) and training to partners through the Symantec Technology Enabled Program (STEP).

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.
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