What Storage Should You Target?
Data storage targets for backups has moved on in the past couple of years from being tape-based, to incorporating more and more of a disk bias.
Vendors are seeing the benefits of going to disk and tout anything from USB drives to large-scale fibre-channel or iSCSI arrays. Then there'sstill tape as a viable option for some.
However, while most vendors scale from the entry-level storage environment through to large-scale implementations, not many people know what to look at. Therefore in terms of available options, end-users are faced with a number of choices, and sometimes don’t make the correct one.
In today’s economic times where companies are financially challenged and need to try downscale on IT purchases, it can leave IT administrators in a quandary. Do they cut back significantly, realise financial savings, but end up with a lesser backup environment? Or do they still try push for what they want, potentially seeing their budget explode, or worse yet, have their requests denied?
I believe that the situation should dictate what hardware you both propose, and install for your backup environment, and it needs to suit your requirements. Failing to do so can see you not being able to backup or restore correctly, or have an environment that is not adequate enough to cater or scale.
Some of the various backup targets are listed and briefly discussed below:
- Local storage
Most new servers are being release with the ability to scale tremendously with a larger number of drives being installable. Go back 5 years or so, and most vendors would only fit 6 hard drives in a server, depending on the manufacturer and model. Add in that they were SCSI, and not very large in size, and you can see how far they have all come to date.
Most new servers can carry a total of 8 drives of various sizes, with some servers increasing to 24 for instance. This allows for big scalability locally on the server, and if a company can’t afford, or doesn’t want external storage, this would be the way to go. From a Backup Exec perspective, since it’s local disk it allows you to create B2D or dedupe folders with no need to comply with the BE HCL.
- DAS Storage
DAS storage would take the form of some sort of JBOD array attached to a server, most likely with a SAS connection in today’s terms. However, attaching an iSCSI or Fibre Channel (FC) array can also be considered as DAS storage. For all intents and purposes in this article, DAS storage refers to a JBOD with no intelligence behind it in the form of controllers.
DAS storage such as HP’s D2000 or IBM’s System Storage DS3500 Express disk subsystems offer the ability for massive scalability in terms of the number of drives that can be hosted and capacity. What this means is that if disk is your primary backup target, and you don’t want to go for local storage or a NAS, and can’t afford a SAN, then DAS storage is what you’re looking for. Connectivity now-days is based on 6 Gbps for the most part, so access to the disk subsystem is fast.
Cheaper than a SAN, and more scalable than an entry- to mid-level NAS or local disk, it offers the option of having significant amounts of storage available to the backup server. Since this would be regarded as local storage, there would be no likelihood to comply with the BE HCL.
My personal belief is that NAS is a decent option for a backup target if you are severely cost-constrained, provided it is on the BE HCL. If not, chances are that if you get it working, it won’t be supported, so check the HCL for your version to confirm this.
NAS devices offer a variety of connections, from iSCSI to NFS and CIFS, and are cheap alternatives to sharing storage amongst multiple servers. Since they are cheaper than most storage, it is a viable option to consider as a backup target. Some NAS devices are qualified for dedupe, but you need to check with your version’s HCL to confirm this support before purchasing a unit.
Most NAS devices like those from Iomega or Netgear also offer large amounts of disk space, and have a fair amount of performance built into them hardware-wise.
The best, fastest, and most scalable storage you will get! If cost is no option, this is it. Vendors like HP, EMC, IBM and NetApp all provide storage listed on the BE HCL that can act as backup targets, either as B2D or deduplication targets.
Massively scalable, these devices have are faster than any other device listed above in terms of access (8GB fibre and faster!), with better protection built-in on a storage/controller level.
Utilising BE’s SAN SSO option you would be able to target multiple servers at multiple or single devices.
End result is faster backups.If you’re able to expand your current SAN storage, or can purchase it, then it is a worthwhile consideration.
Tape still has its place in the backup world. It’s easier to procure, easier to install, and it has the ability of off-site storage by simply shipping tapes off the primary site. Tape still has a future as a roadmap for larger and faster LTO versions is available online. But it lacks the ability to run multiple jobs to tape unless you have more than 1 drive in a library.
Where does Backup Exec sit in all of this? In a good place as it can target any of these devices, especially if they are supported in the HCL of the version you’re running. The list of supported hardware is very good, so finding a storage unit in your price-range should be relatively easy if you first consult the HCL that the device you want to invest in is actually supported.
How do you go about choosing the storage? Budgets are the obvious first point-of-call, as these set how much you can spend on hardware. However, if you can motivate your choice of device which you can tailor to your needs specifically, this can be a better choice to get what you need!