Symantec API to Enable Native Integration with Disk Devices

The company's new programming interface promises to allow high-level interaction between Symantec's NetBackup software and disk drives from companies such as Quantum EMC, NetApp and Sun.

Data security and storage provider Symantec announced a new API Nov. 14 that offers enterprise developers a way to connect Symantecs backup software with other companies disk drives.

The new interface, called the Symantec NetBackup OpenStorage API, will enable high-end, intelligent disk devices from several different companies to integrate natively with NetBackup, Symantecs popular enterprise backup and recovery software.

The API, which wont be released until mid-2007, is based not on open standards but on Symantecs own intellectual property.

Disk backup manufacturers participating in the formal Symantec partner program to use this API include EMC, Quantum, DataDomain, Copan Systems, Network Appliance, FalconStor Software, Sun Microsystems, Sepaton and Diligent Technologies.

Providing clean lines of integration between intelligent disk devices and backup software has long been a challenge for the industry, said a spokesperson for Symantec, based in Cupertino, Calif. Since major backup applications and standards organizations havent yet provided a purpose-built, open-standards API for integration, it has been difficult for intelligent disk backup devices to offer anything beyond basic functionality, the spokesperson said.

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The new API will change this—in the Symantec world, at least—by allowing intelligent disk device vendors to natively integrate with NetBackup to deliver a more functional storage package for customers, the spokesperson said.

"The OpenStorage API goal is to leverage disk-as-disk functionality in the data center," Mike Adams, Symantec product marketing group manager for NetBackup, told eWEEK.

"This is native integration, as opposed to integration through tape emulation. NetBackup sees all devices as disks; it controls the who, what, when and where of how images are created and duplicated and deleted; the storage device controls the how."

Adams told eWEEK that he believes Symantec "has developed a pretty good niche here, and that we intend to exploit it in the marketplace, where there is great need for this."

Use of the OpenStorage API enables the following disk-based backup features, Adams said:

  • High-speed backup and recovery to intelligent disk devices over Fibre Channel or IP connections;
  • Disk sharing and virtualization, allowing a pool of disks to be shared by multiple NetBackup Media Servers—the virtualization enables media server load-balancing, high availability and failover;
  • Better utilization of disk by leveraging the single-instance storage capabilities of partner devices;
  • Backup image replication between multiple data centers for disaster recovery or electronic vaulting, eliminating the need to ship, encrypt or store tapes;
  • Duplication of backup images from disk devices to tape for long-term archiving, leveraging a NetBackup Media Server;
  • Simplified management, allowing a single NetBackup policy layer and catalog to control backup and recovery.

"There is a growing need in the market for technologies that help reduce complexity," said Dianne McAdam, director of Enterprise Information Assurance at The Clipper Group. "This will be the first solution available that leverages the performance and features of disk storage devices while also enabling NetBackup to control various advanced backup techniques via a single interface."

Asked whether it wouldnt be a better selling point for such an API to be based on open standards, McAdam told eWEEK, "Here is the problem: To have true open standards you would have to get all of the backup software vendors and all of the disk-based backup hardware vendors to agree to one common way to talk to all of the devices."

"These standards are usually agreed through committees in organizations, such as SNIA [Storage Networking Industry Association]. But these standards take time to be discussed and approved. Symantec has decided to get together with many of the disk-based hardware vendors to establish an API ... and establish their own way to communicate with disk systems. That does not preclude this being the foundation for a standard that gets worked on by committees such as those within SNIA."

To help companies benefit from the new NetBackup OpenStorage API, Symantec currently offers an SDK (software development kit) and training to partners through a program called STEP, or Symantec Technology Enabled Program.

The OpenStorage API is scheduled to be generally available as part of NetBackup 6.5 in mid-2007, at which time several OpenStorage partners will have devices available in the market to leverage it.

Opportunities for developers to jointly beta test NetBackup 6.5, the OpenStorage API and OpenStorage partner devices will be available in the first half of 2007, the spokesperson said.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...