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The Backup Conundrum: More Data in Less Time, Part 2

The Backup Conundrum: More Data in Less Time, Part 2
February 10, 2004

As far back as IT managers can remember, enterprise data backup has always been a time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes unreliable and frustrating process. And as organizations continue to generate more and more data, IT managers need more and more time to back it up.

So, what's an IT manager to do? In Part I of this article, we asked a few industry experts what advice they could offer in terms of solutions for achieving the goal of backing up more data in less time. And advice they gave us. Here are even more suggestions for solving the age-old dilemma of how to back up more data in less time.

Deploy a Data Archiving System

Peter Hunter, product marketing engineer at Nashua, N.H.-based EqualLogic, suggests that IT managers deploy a data archiving system. These solutions integrate with applications such as e-mail servers and database servers to trim out older data and move that data from primary storage to secondary or even tertiary storage devices. "This relieves the primary backups by essentially removing data from the primary storage, thus reducing the backup window and recovery times," says Hunter.

Network-Level Data Mirroring

Some industry experts contend that with network-level data mirroring, a backup window is no longer needed. Creating independent mirrors of data across the network provides higher I/O performance, serves as a disaster recovery solution, and offers an architecture where the production data is never offline during backup. "Network-level mirroring is performed by a storage solution in a similar fashion as a RAID controller," says Zophar Sante, vice president of marketing at SANRAD, a San Francisco-based provider of IP storage network solutions.

The major difference, he explains, is that RAID controllers mirror storage devices with a single enclosure. But with today's intelligent storage switches, mirroring can be done at the network layer, according to Sante, because the switches create and maintain mirrored patterns/volumes anywhere within the network even across traditional physical limitations such as enclosures and distance. And, he explains, local synchronous mirroring can now be performed between two or more enclosures.

Sante cites the following as an example: An intelligent switch in "Building A" with Fibre Channel-attached storage can keep the data files on the Fibre Channel (FC) storage synchronized with the FC-attached storage in "Building B."

Because both storage systems can service I/O requests from clients, the mirrors can be temporarily split so that one mirror partner can be mounted by the backup software while the other partner continues to service I/O clients. "Once the backup is complete," he says, "the mirror can rejoin its partner and be synchronized for the next backup and provide assistance with I/O requests and online DR capability." Sante adds that this technique will allow data to be available 24x7 and allow backups to occur without the need for a traditional backup window.

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