By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-05-15 Print this article Print

Given the constantly evolving compliance and legal discovery needs in many IT organizations, innovative disk-based backup solutions like Avamar Technologies Axion 3.5 will be seen more as a requirement than as a luxury item in the near future.

Avamars storage-efficient Commonality Factoring technology, which greatly increases the amount of data each Axion-based appliance can store, remains the cornerstone, but this releases addition of the new AvFS (Avamar File System) functionality maximizes the usefulness of the platform. (Avamar used to sell the Axion solution as an appliance but recently moved away from that sales model and now just sells the software, which turns standard server hardware into Axion appliances.)

Click here to read about navigating the backup and recovery maze.
AvFS allows IT managers to mount a read-only file system from their Axion appliances, allowing privileged users to quickly search for and retrieve backed-up content through a Samba CIFS (Common Internet File System) file-share mount. Search applications also can take advantage of AvFS by indexing the data within an Axion 3.5-based appliance.

eWeek Labs tested an Axion 3.5 unit in conjunction with a FAST (Fast Search and Transfer) InStream search appliance, a bundled solution that worked quite well. Avamar Axion 3.5 and the FAST InStream software came to us preloaded onto twin Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers.

Axion 3.5 pricing starts at $37,000, with the ability to protect 1.5TB of data; the FAST InStream search component is priced at $2,000 per terabyte of data.

No Duplication

Avamars commonality factoring technology breaks down incoming data into pieces (which Avamar calls "atomics") and then categorizes each piece individually. If an incoming piece of data is recognized by the Axion appliance, the solution makes note of it but does not add duplicate data to the file system.

When modifications are made to a backed-up file, the Axion adds only changed or new data to the backup repository during subsequent backup jobs.

The efficiency of the Axion 3.5 solution allows IT managers to store many versions of a document without eating up a large amount of storage space. And because all the documents are stored on disk, as opposed to tapes or optical media, the data can be searched and recovered quickly.

From a practical point of view, recent data-loss gaffes have all but proved that traditional tape-based backups cannot be relied upon alone to satisfy legal discovery or compliance requirements. They are unwieldy, making data searches and recovery jobs tedious, and they can be easily lost or stolen.

We found the installation and implementation of Axion 3.5 and the FAST InStream server relatively easy. In addition, the integration between the two was fairly tight.

After booting up the FAST InStream server, AvFS was mounted up to give the search server access to backed-up data. Using a script, we could initiate index jobs to analyze new data. The initial index procedure runs at a rate of about 1 file per second, depending on the size of the files being indexed. (Bigger files take longer.)

The FAST InStream search engine can index more than 370 different types of documents, including Microsoft Office files, PDFs and XML files.

Text searches are initiated using the FAST InStream Simple Search Page, which is hosted on the FAST appliance. When running searches, the results included URLs, which allowed us to automatically access content sitting on the Axion 3.5 backup appliance.

The Axion 3.5 solution comes with its own backup software. For shops that are looking to eliminate their tape backup infrastructure, the Avamar backup software will be welcome. However, it lacks VTL (virtual tape library) functionality, which is a negative because the vast majority of companies already have a significant investment in tape-based backup. The inclusion of VTL functionality would have made it easier for IT managers to implement the Axion 3.5 together with the media management included in enterprise-class backup suites.

During tests, backup operations were easy to launch and schedule, and IT managers can give users the ability to initiate their own backups on demand. Users (if enabled) also can initiate their own file-restore operations, a useful feature that should ease the day-to-day burden on administrators. Since the backup archive is read-only, IT managers do not have to worry about users corrupting backed-up files on the Axion 3.5 platform.

Interoperability and Redundancy

Avamars backup software supports a wide range of Windows, Linux and Unix operating systems, as well as many major applications, including Microsofts Exchange and SQL Server, Oracle databases, and IBMs DB2.

In addition, Avamars patented RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent Nodes) technology allows Axion-based units to spread data across multiple nodes for redundancy, ensuring that data will still be available if a node goes down.

RAIN also allows multiple Axion units to function as a cluster, scaling processing and storage resources as needed through the addition of extra nodes.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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