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Feb 14 2011

Tech Field Day #5 wrap-up – Day 1 – Symantec

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Symantec totally brought their A game to the event, the presenters were mostly technical which was good and included their Chief Architect for the NetBackup product family. They also served a very nice breakfast which included bacon! They have a huge campus in Mountain View, CA which is their world headquarters and where we visited. A big surprise to us all was that their CEO, Enrique Salem, flew into town just to talk to us for a bit. He seemed like a very high energy, approachable, down to earth guy who gave us some vision for Symantec and let us ask him questions. At one point he popped a Milky Way into his mouth to get some nourishment and he also gave out his cell phone number to us in case we wanted to contact him later.

Symantec primarily covered their backup products which includes NetBackup and Backup Exec, there was a heavy emphasis on their virtualization integration which was appealing to me. I found that they are now integrated with vSphere extremely well and are fully leveraging the vStorage APIs for data protection. NetBackup and Backup Exec are now jointly developed so much of the same code is used in both so they no longer have to do double the work to develop the same features in both versions. I asked if there was any future plans to eventually merge the two into one product and they responded that there was not and that both products while sharing many of the same features would remain independent.

What impressed me the most about their virtualization integration was the fact that they could perform restores of individual files from image level backups to tape. Almost all vendors can do individual file restores from disk targets but Symantec found a way to do it directly from tape by only restoring the blocks for that file and not the whole VM to do it. Symantec inserts a filter in their image level backups that reads all the data being backed up so it can index and know exactly where files reside on the target media. Typically with file restores the virtual disk must be mounted from the target repository so the files can be selected and restored, NetBackup doesn’t require this.

What was also impressive is the number of enterprise backup features that have found there way into Backup Exec as well which makes it a great affordable and robust solution for SMBs. Their emphasis with Backup Exec compared to NetBackup is simplification, Symantec believes that SMBs with smaller IT staffs do not want a highly configurable solution. As a result they have developed Backup Exec with many of the same features as NetBackup but have made the administration and configuration options much simpler. I think one of the strengths of the Netbackup/Backup Exec line is that they support both physical and virtual machine backups which is one of the weaknesses for the virtualization only platforms from vendors like Veeam and Quest.

Most environments are not 100% virtual so using Backup Exec or NetBackup means you only need one backup solution. However, Symantec’s development cycle seems slow and smaller vendors like Veeam are quicker to support new features related to backups, such as the vStorage APIs for Data Protection and the Changed Block Tracking feature. The strength of Veeam is that they are lean and mean and can move at a very fast pace to support changes and new technologies in the backup space, they also think outside the box and come up with innovative features. I asked Symantec if they had planned on introducing features similar to Veeam’s SureBackup and they said no, they didn’t feel that their was a high demand for it. But if you’re looking for a single backup solution that supports both physical servers and virtual machines you can’t go wrong with NetBackup or Backup Exec that has some great features and is very well integrated with virtualization.

Overall I came away pretty impressed with their products, the new 7.1 version of NetBackup is supposed to be released later this month and has some additional new features in it. While we had the attention of Symantec’s CEO I did ask him a question, I wanted to know where they were at with producing a version of their anti-virus software that would be compatible with vShield Endpoint. Currently Trend Micro is the only vendor shipping a product for it, he stated that did not plan on releasing something anytime soon and it would be at least a year before they released a new product that would support vShield. The reason for the delay is that they are waiting for the next generation of vShield to be released that has more features and better integration to more effectively secure the platform. They plan on releasing an Endpoint compatible product called Single Instance Security in the first half of 2012.

The next post will cover our meeting with Drobo & Druva. Here are the videos that were shot during the Symantec presentation:

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