Avamar and NetWorker to merge for 'backup-less backup'

EMC looks forward to backup as an embedded process, with apps and hypervisors copying versioned replicas in native format

EMC’s upgrades to its Data Domain boxes and backup software products this week came wrapped in a strategic vision that says traditional backup will soon become a thing of the past; a world of “backup-less backup”.

EMC roots this prediction in the idea of the “third platform”, an IDC characterisation used at its EMC World event in May which sees data storage moving from a fairly predictable collection of arrays and disk drives to a dispersed world of mobile, social media, cloud and big data locations.

David Goulden, chief operating officer at EMC, said the result will be an “accidental architecture” that must be countered by “the protection storage architecture”. This will “treat backup, archiving and disaster recovery together under a common storage layer”, he said.

EMC president of backup and recovery systems (BRS), Guy Churchward, elaborated on the “accidental architecture”, dubbing it BYOB or bring your own backup; a situation in which application owners, frustrated by the inability of central backup to keep up with their needs, establish their own backup regimes.

Churchward said that where EMC had “attacked tape” with Data Domain and its dense storage of backup data, now it had set its sights on “attacking traditional backup”. The vision is to do away with the backup server and move backup management to the apps.

EMC CTO of BRS Stephen Manley characterised backup as “broken . . . closed and monolithic . . . with its proprietary data formats”. EMC, he said, is aiming for an open and modular backup environment, with data stored in native format and overlaid by data management services that include policy and storage management, monitoring and analysis.

Despite the grand visions, EMC’s backup products – Avamar and NetWorker – are still recognisably current generation backup products, with proprietary data formats. So, when will EMC merge the two and do away with the proprietary formats?

Manley said: “The ultimate goal is to sets of modules in one product, modular code with common components. And, over the course of two or three years, we will see traditional server-driven backups move more to open formats, to image-level backups etc.

“What we’re looking to get rid of is the backup server in the data path, sucking data in and using server and network resources. Instead, backup should be coordinated with the app and not be in the data path. And when we move to native formats that’s when we can do exciting things with the data such as big data analytics.”

Manley said the aim is to achieve “the backup-less backup”.

Explaining this, Manley said: “People don’t stand around saying: ‘I hope Raid’s working’. Backup should be like that; a process embedded in the infrastructure that allows versions of data to be available for recovery, DR etc.”

He predicted that, in five years' time, advanced customers will have copies of data embedded in their infrastructures, with “versioned replicas” created by the application or the hypervisor and all managed by backup apps that have most of their functionality focused on the management of this process.

“The backup application won’t touch data at all”, he said. “Backup software will be evaluated on its management capabilities over native format data being copied to the storage layer by the app, the hypervisor etc.”

In keeping with that vision, Avamar and NetWorker will eventually be merged, said Manley.

“The heart of the value is the catalogue function and we are redesigning that as a scale-out NoSQL catalogue that can handle trillions of objects,” he said. “Alongside this there will be functional modules; for VM protection, for NAS/NDMP, tape, traditional backup, file server, snapshot management, application modules.”

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