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A few years ago, I was called on to write a backup utility for a development group to whom I was consulting as a system administrator. (In the end it turned out to be a roughly 500-line Perl program.) Maintaining the program, not to mention the backups themselves, wound up taking an inordinate amount of my time because the requirements for the backups were constantly changing. (The requirements document read: Dear Evan, Please write a backup program for the developers. Love and Kisses, The Boss ) What s more, I never got around to adding the rather complex code that would have enabled my program to handle backups that spanned more than one tape. Fortunately for me (though perhaps not for my customer), I left that consulting assignment shortly before the backups outgrew a single tape. My program also made no allowances for backing up open files. This came back to bite us all very badly, as the development group used a development environment product that required precise consistency across hundreds of tiny files throughout the filesystem. When the filesystem needed to be completely restored from tape, the backups did not contain a consistent view of the filesystem, and so the development environment could not be restored. The developers were down for a week. And there were other problems. Some nights the backup would complete in three or four hours, while other nights it would continue from 8:00 P.M. until 10:00 or 11:00 the next morning. When that happened, we had no choice but to abort the backups, as they put such a load on the server that performance became unacceptable. On those nights, backups simply failed. We never did find out why. Admittedly, I did not have that much experience with backups at the time I did this work, but most likely, the system administrator being asked to develop a homegrown backup system at your site hasn t very much more. High-quality commercial backup software will have ways to address these issues. Evan
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Poor and inconsistent performance are just two issues that mature commercial backup solutions have run up against and solved over the years. A homegrown solution is unlikely to have solved very many at all, leaving its users to settle for a second-rate product. In the sections that follow, you will see more cases where a homegrown backup solution will not suffice.
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Backups and Restores
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Examples of Commercial Backup Software
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The backup and restore arena is filled with commercial products. Some of the leaders, and some of the operating systems they will back up, are:
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VERITAS NetBackup. Solaris, Windows, HP/UX, AIX, Linux, SGI, Novell NetWare, NDMP, OS/2, Compaq Tru64 Tivoli Storage Manager (formerly IBM ADSM). AIX, Solaris, Windows, HP/UX, AS/400, OS/2, MVS, VM Legato Networker. Solaris, Windows, HP/UX, AIX, SGI, Novell NetWare, OS/2 Computer Associates ARCserve. Windows, Novell NetWare, some Unix
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There are many other entrants in the field, including VERITAS Backup Exec, SyncSort, EMC s EDM, and others.
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Commercial Backup Software Features
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What follows is a list of some features that are valuable when you are evaluating a backup product. This is by no means a complete list, and different users will surely assign different values to some of these features. Your mileage may vary: 100 percent hardware utilization. We spend quite a bit of time in this chapter discussing the best way to lay out your hardware to achieve the backup performance that you need. All that is for naught if your backup software cannot drive your hardware at its maximum speeds. Tape drives are designed to spin as much as possible, and will last longer and deliver better performance when they do. Most likely, you have a lot of backup hardware. Tape drives, tape libraries, dedicated backup networks, and tapes themselves are only a few of the expensive assets required to take and maintain backups. Surely the people who sign your purchase orders would prefer that you make full use of the hardware you have before you invest additional money on hardware that you may not actually need. Good backup software will drive your hardware at its maximum capacity and will scale well as new hardware is added. Hot backups. You should be able to back up filesystems and databases, as described previously, without having to take them offline and without an obvious performance impact to your applications.
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