Symantec/Veritas announced this week the release of Netbackup 6.5. It seems to me like the company has been talking about this version of the product forever and as is mentioned on other blogs, there are lots of new features to play with.
The ones I’ve been looking forward to are called SAN Media Server and SAN Client. These allow the SAN to be used (via FC/SCSI) as the transport method for backup data between the client and the media server.
For Symantec, implementing this feature is more difficult than it sounds; A standard HBA operates as an initiator with a storage device (disk or tape) acting as the target. I/O operations are instigated by the initiator to the target which then replies with the results. With the SAN Media Server, Symantec have had to re-write the firmware on the HBAs in the media server to act as a SCSI target. This allows it to receive backup data from the client, from when it is then handled as normal by the media server.
This option has a huge number of potential benefits; If you have already provided a SAN connection to a host (and possibly a production IP connection), there’s no need now to provide a backup LAN connection too; just use the SAN. On new installations, this could save a fortune in network ports and would use a lot of potentially wasted fibre channel bandwidth. Throughput could be vastly improved; most fabrics run at 2Gbps today compared to host 1Gbps (OK, the data has to be read from the disk too, but most hosts have two HBA cards, so 4Gbps of aggregate bandwidth). Fabrics tend to be more well structured and therefore suffer less with bottleneck issues.
The only downside I can see is the need to provide one honkin’ great media server to suck up all that backup data!