Storage

Nearly 10 Years Later, EMC's NetWorker Hits Version 8.0

EMC is updating its NetWorker backup and recovery software on Tuesday with an eye to greater efficiency, tighter integration with other EMC products, and cloud computing.

NetWorker 8 is the most significant new version of the software since 2003, when NetWorker 7 was released. It updates the product in several major ways, both streamlining it for higher performance and enhancing its usefulness.

In fact, the basic architecture of NetWorker has been changed for improved performance and scalability. In previous versions of NetWorker, the management of backup appliances ran entirely on the central NetWorker server. With Version 8, that work is distributed among NetWorker Storage Nodes, the servers that send data to backup appliances. Adding more backup systems no longer requires more central server capacity.

"Rather than one server managing devices, you now have N number of servers managing devices," said Rob Emsley, senior director of product marketing. "That has allowed us to, with the same amount of infrastructure ... scale to three times the amount of devices," he said.

While NetWorker Storage Nodes now can take over management tasks, another new feature called Client Direct lets NetWorker bypass those nodes in the backup process. Client Direct is an addition to NetWorker's client software that can send data directly from the client to a backup target, such as a disk array. This feature reduces the backup path from two hops to one, cutting in half the time it takes to complete the process, Emsley said.

Reducing the workload on NetWorker Storage Nodes is the key benefit that Luke Youngblood sees in NetWorker 8. Youngblood is an enterprise infrastructure architect at a large national health-care technology company in the U.S. His company has standardized on Data Domain backup appliances from EMC, using data deduplication to cut the amount of data that has to be transported and stored. The company offers managed services for processing health-care diagnostics and insurance claims, and it has about 2,000 physical and virtual servers in five data centers around the U.S., with about 1 petabyte of data.

With its current NetWorker software, Version 7.6, Youngblood's company has to run every backup through a NetWorker Storage Node, he said. That has meant fat 10-Gigabit Ethernet pipes to carry data from multiple servers to the node, plus high capacity within the node to handle the process.

With NetWorker 7.6, "You had to be careful not to overload the storage node," Youngblood said. In some cases, that has required his company to stagger its backups so there aren't too many running at once. Once deduplication and backup happen directly between the client and the storage appliance, a Gigabit Ethernet connection will suffice and the company won't have to invest in more storage nodes just for processing, he said.

In addition to decentralizing the way NetWorker operates, EMC has also added several other features.

With an eye on the cloud computing market, the company is introducing multitenancy in the new version. This feature allows backups by different enterprise departments to be located in the same storage device but segregated from one another, and for service providers to back up the data of many different customers in one place, according to Emsley. Data belonging to each customer or department is secured through role-based access rules.

NetWorker 8 is also more tightly integrated with EMC's Data Domain backup appliances and the Data Domain Boost software they use to increase performance. The Data Domain systems are known for data deduplication, yet another backup acceleration technology, which also reduces capacity demands.

EMC has been further integrating the two products since it acquired NetWorker. Last year, the company made Boost work with its application modules, which are add-ons to the NetWorker client software for backing up application data. Now Boost can work with the standard NetWorker client software, so it can be used in backing up all kinds of data. With deduplication in the client software, enterprises with Data Domain appliances can get the combined performance benefit of the Client Direct feature and Boost, Emsley said.

The latest version also improves users' ability to back up and restore data in Microsoft applications. It adds support for SQL Server 2012, Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, as well as granular restoration for those products and earlier versions of them. Granular restoration allows users to restore just one or a few lost files rather than all the data associated with an application. That's the most common type of restoration that users want to do, Emsley said.

Both the rapid growth in the amount of data that enterprises have to back up, and the compliance requirements for doing it right, are making backup and recovery a harder job, IDC analyst Robert Amatruda said. Having to handle data stored on clients that workers take with them, including both company-issued laptops and consumer devices, complicates the problem.

"It's getting so unwieldy," Amatruda said. All this has led to higher costs, especially for qualified staff, he said.

EMC has improved NetWorker in many ways since the 7.0 version came out, but the combination of updates in this release merit its significant version number, Amatruda said. Despite fears by some users that the company would neglect NetWorker, EMC has continued to bring the technology up-to-date compared with rival products such as Symantec's NetBackup and IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, he said. EMC's data protection software business, including offerings from the Mozy division and other products in addition to NetWorker, holds about 13.6 percent of the market, according to IDC. Symantec leads the market with 28.7 percent, though it has been losing share, Amatruda said.

The new, more distributed architecture of NetWorker should make it more efficient and improve scaling, Amatruda said. "My suspicion is that that's a very big improvement," he said.

The addition of multitenancy helps move NetWorker up the next avenue of growth for backup and recovery, with managed service providers, Amatruda said. Both small and large IT shops are turning to managed service providers for backup and recovery, he said.

NetWorker 8.0 is available immediately, starting below US$2,000 for an entry-level configuration.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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