EMC Frees the Network From Backup Bandwith Issues

As the price of disk plummets, vendors can configure disk arrays as part of backup and restore configurations that work in tandem with tape libraries. That's the new tact being pursued by a number of vendors. One of the first vendors to deliver such a product is EMC Corp. (Hopkinton, Mass., www.emc.com).

EMC recently began shipping backup software that moves Windows NT data directly between its Symmetrix disk arrays and EDM backup tape libraries. Called EMC Data Manager (EDM) Symmetrix Path, the software takes backup and restore data traffic off the network, freeing up bandwidth to increase network speed and performance. A previously released version of the software, Symmetrix Connect, runs on Unix systems.

"The network is freed up to do what it's meant to do: support transactions and applications," says Doug Fierro, product manager with EMC.

Network bottlenecks resulting from the movement of backup and restore files continue to plague high-end environments. "Between 50 percent and 60 percent of departmental server data restore operations fail," notes John Webster, director of IT consulting for The Yankee Group (Boston). The EDM solution allows users "to perform nightly backups on a consistent basis using extremely high-speed, high-capacity and highly reliable methods."

Moving data from disk arrays to tape libraries -- rather than directly from servers -- "is a technique that's just starting to emerge," says Michael Silver, senior research analyst with Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). The reason this technique has not been applied before is the cost of disk. "It has traditionally been a lot less expensive per megabyte on tape than disk," he explains. "When you're looking to back up vast amounts of data, even with compression, you need a lot of disk -- up to 50 GB. As disk prices start going down and the capacities go up, [backup to disk] starts becoming a viable alternative. For a lot of people, tape handling has become quite onerous."

That's the lesson being learned at McLaren Health Care Corp. (Flint, Mich.). The company is implementing EDM Symmetrix Path in its Windows NT environment to address "overflowing demand" for information from an expanding network of hospitals and health-care affiliates, on a 24x7 basis, says Doyle Blaisdell, director of IS for McLaren. EDM was an attractive option because of its "nondisruptive business continuance capabilities," he explains. "This is accomplished without cost to user response time and allows us to continue servicing online information requests around the clock."

EDM configurations include the new EDM Symmetrix Path option, which provides what EMC labels as the "world's fastest" backup and recovery for Windows NT applications and EDM Symmetrix Connect option for online backup and recovery of Symmetrix-based Unix databases. There is another configuration that offers an online network-based EDM solution for simultaneous high-speed backups and restores across the network for major Unix operating systems, as well as Windows NT, Novell NetWare and IBM OS/2.

EDM Symmetrix Path provides backup of Windows NT file systems and Windows NT versions of Oracle8, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle on SAP/R3, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and cc:Mail. The EDM tape library system consists primarily of DLT tape drives. EDM Symmetrix Path also supports backup and restore operations to StorageTek's 9710 DLT tape libraries, Fierro adds. In addition, both Symmetrix Path and the Symmetrix Connect require of EMC's Symmetrix disk array for the backup and restore operations.