Avamar Speeds Data Recovery

QUALCOMM Turns to software from startup to increase the number of daily backups and cut the time for data backups from two hours to 15 minutes

Martin Garvey, Contributor

April 24, 2004

3 Min Read

The search for improved backup and recovery is never-ending. Too often, information isn't backed up in the first place, can't be found on old tape drives during recovery efforts, or isn't backed up because the hard-disk drives crash.

The growing popularity of low-cost advanced-technology attachment hard-disk drives solves the problem of faulty tape drives. But those drives face their own problems, often caused by overuse. Avamar Technologies Inc. is introducing a new version of software this week to solve some of those problems and make it easier to recover data from a variety of systems.

The software, called Axion 2.0, provides support for data tied to network-attached storage, Microsoft Exchange middleware, and longer-distance replication capabilities. The Exchange support should let Axion customers back up and restore E-mail down to individual messages.

What's really new is the approach Avamar takes with recovery. When customers need to recover information that's been replicated to a secondary disk-based system, Axion digs beneath the file level and brings back only the sets of bytes involved in any change to the original file.

The backup window is 15 minutes with Avamar's app, VP Fisher says.

That impressed telecom company Qualcomm Inc., which had reservations about working with a startup. "We had concerns about the Avamar technology because there are significant competitors in this space," says Tom Fisher, VP of IT for the Qualcomm business unit CDMA Technologies, a manufacturer of semiconductors used inside the company's cellular phones. Qualcomm is a customer of software from EMC's Legato, Oracle, and Veritas, and any of the three could have helped with backup and recovery.

But Fisher has extreme needs in the code-division, multiple-access application-development area, where the company needs to rapidly back up and recover data stored in an Oracle database. "With Avamar, we've already gotten our backup window down to 15 minutes from two hours, and we can triple the number of complete backups we do each day," Fisher says.

Avamar's approach to backup and recovery could be a big help to companies that need to speed the data-recovery process, according to Arun Taneja, founder and analyst at research firm Taneja Group. While businesses could use other vendors for disk-to-tape and disk-to-disk backup, they're not the best choice, he says. Avamar grabs just the changes made to a file during recovery, while the other vendors have to read the whole file. That helps those who want "massive differential with speed and massive reduction in the amount of data transferred and stored," he says.

At Qualcomm, "one file could easily consist of 10,000 blocks and the other vendors would have to read them all," says Arvind Gidwani, a business-technology staff manager at CDMA. "As a bonus, with Avamar we could minimize downtime during business hours."

Taneja says Avamar must compete with several groups of vendors to achieve success. First, virtual tape vendors such as Alacritus Software, EMC, and Quantum use hard disks that act as tape drives so they can work with existing backup and recovery software that most companies already use. A second group includes appliance vendors such as Revivio Inc. and Storage Technology Corp. with software that can retrieve data from any point in time on a continuous basis.

In addition, Taneja says Veritas, Legato, and IBM's Tivoli offer upgraded software tools that can recover data from tape drives and hard-disk drives. But those products still take longer to recover data than Avamar because they read the whole file. Taneja says Avamar may be able to make alliances with high-end storage hardware vendors because its software can fit easily into an existing storage infrastructure.

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