A backup appliance takes backup software and embeds it into hardware with its own onboard disk storage. The product class fits a distinct market need. They’re built for simplicity and don’t need dedicated backup staff to set up or maintain them. That makes them well suited to use by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) or branch offices of large enterprises.
There are a number of backup appliance products on the market, varying by size and intended business use. They also vary by features, with differences in the backup software offered and data deduplication characteristics, for example. How you move data off the device is another key differentiator, with removable disk and vaulting to tape or the cloud on offer.
An important point to note is virtual server hypervisor support. All these products have integration with VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, via the VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection and Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). But, backup of Citrix XenServer and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is sometimes absent or requires advanced configuration, which somewhat defeats the object of buying a backup appliance, so check vendor data sheets if you run those hypervisors.
Here we give you a rundown of offerings from six key backup appliance vendors and their chief characteristics.
The Arkeia Backup Appliance comes in six models -- R120, R120-LTO, R220, R220-LTO, R320 and R620 -- with disk capacities of between 1 TB and 16 TB.
Arkeia appliances feature inline data deduplication that can be at the source or at the target depending on the model. Backups can be sent off-site to tape or the cloud.
Each model features dual or quad 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) network cards, offering speeds of 1,000 Mbps per channel, as well as support for Data Encryption Standard (DES), Blowfish and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 encryption.
The main management of the appliance happens through a Web-based interface, but if more customisation is needed, Arkeia also offers a command line interface.
Licence-wise, Arkeia offers 30-day free trials on all its products, including additional software for the appliance, such as for disaster recovery and replication. Afterwards, it works on a perpetual model, meaning you pay once for the licence rather than annually.
Dell’s DR4000 backup appliance comes with a choice of Symantec Backup Exec, Symantec NetBackup or CommVault Simpana.
Three options are available when it comes to capacity -- either 2.7 TB, 5.4 TB or 9 TB raw —which Dell says translates to 35 TB, 70 TB or 130 TB of undeduplicated data. All three software options enable sending data off-site to the cloud.
Throughput ranges from 1 TB per hour to 3 TB per hour and there is also the option of four 1 GbE or two 10 GbE ports per node.
Data deduplication is inline and either at the source or target on all software options.
No encryption is included on the appliance.
The DR4000 comes with Dell’s “perpetual” license, which means customers can get all future software and firmware updates at no extra cost.
Revinetix’ appliance, Sentio, includes the company’s own backup software integrated into the box.
With four models in the Sentio portfolio -- 1U, 2U, 4U and 8U -- RAID array capacities range between 500 GB to 102 TB raw.
The published backup speed for the appliances is 300 GB per hour, and each box offers two 1 GbE connections, with the capability to merge the network interface controllers (NICs) to make it faster.
Data deduplication is at block level and takes place at the target. Off-site vaulting is possible only via removable disk.
Revinetix offers AES-256 encryption, but it is optional to allow users to trade off on security to improve performance.
The licencing model offers just one comprehensive licence per appliance, covering backup, recovery, replication and archiving and being judged on capacity.
The StorServer Backup Appliance is built on IBM Tivoli Storage Manager software, but it incorporates the company’s own appliance console, bringing in automation and synchronisation administration functions through a StorServer user interface.
StorServer Backup Appliance is available in a variety of disk capacities, ranging from 3 TB to 10 TB servers, 10 TB to 30 TB base disk arrays and expansion shelves of between 10 TB and 30 TB.
Transfer rates begin at 500 GB per day but can go up to multiple terabytes of data transfer if required. Data deduplication happens at the source.
Data can be moved off-site via disk, tape or to the cloud.
The encryption is AES-256, provided as part of Tivoli’s software, and connections range from four NICs on the smallest appliance to 16 NICs on the largest, giving customers connections of between 100 MB and 10 GB.
Trial licenses are available for all of the software add-ons StorServer provides, including StorServer Console, StorServer Agent for VMware Consolidated Backup and StorServer Backup Client for OpenVMS.
Symantec offers appliances that run its NetBackup software, aimed at larger organisations, and one that runs Backup Exec for smaller operations.
The NetBackup devices -- Model 5200 and Model 5220 – have, respectively, 32 TB and 4 TB of capacity (both expandable). Symantec claims throughput of 10.5 TB per hour, with up to six 1 GbE, two 10 GbE and six 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports. It also includes an onboard Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) port.
The Backup Exec device is the Symantec 3600, which has five 1 GbE ports and capacity of 6 TB raw.
Data deduplication on all devices is inline and can happen at the source or target.
AES-256 bit encryption is used, which can encrypt the data either in flight or at rest.
Setup and configuration can take place either via a Web-based interface or a command line interface, depending on customer preference.
The licence is based on storage capacity. Replication, encryption and data deduplication come as free options.
The Tandberg Data AccuVault appliance comes with the company’s own backup and deduplication software.
Capacities range from 1 TB with the desktop option or between 4 TB and 8 TB with the rack-mounted varieties.
The appliance features AES-256 encryption and comes with an integrated LCD touch-screen control, as well as a remote graphical user interface available in multiple languages.
Data deduplication is at source. The devices feature Tandberg’s RDX QuikStor 2.5-inch removable disks, which can be moved off-site.
The 1 TB RDX model offers one 1 GbE port, with a maximum of 10 connections running at the same time. This goes up to two 1 GbE ports for both the 4 TB and 8 TB models, allowing for a maximum of 20 or 40 concurrent connections, respectively.
Licencing is on an annual basis, including on-site service and software support.
Jennifer Scott is a technology writer.
This was first published in February 2012