EMC Avamar Review
Since deduplication is performed at the source, backup times and network bandwidth are significantly reduced


“Are you backing up C:\myfiles? We just accidentally deleted the folder.”
“I know it’s not in our original saveset, but any chance you have a backup of xyx?”

Sound familiar? If you are a backup administrator, I know you have heard variations of the requests above. Traditionally, new systems get deployed and the owners give a specific saveset to the backup administrators. Then when a restore is requested, it never fails that the request will be outside of the original saveset.

I have experienced these scenarios numerous times with traditional full/incremental backup products. The more you backup, the more storage you consume and that means longer backup windows. When I first started in my current position, we were backing up 100 servers with specific savesets. At that time, we had over 500 production servers. As you can imagine, this was a nightmare scenario waiting to happen. We were only able to fulfill about 75% of our restore requests. Not because the savesets where corrupt, but because we weren’t backing up what was requested for restore.

Fortunately, we were able to invest in a new purpose-built deduplicated backup appliance. (EMC Avamar, but there are other products on the market). Avamar is a disk based global deduplication backup appliance. Deduplication is performed at the source and target. Since deduplication is performed at the source, backup times and network bandwidth are significantly reduced using the Avamar solution. Migrating from BackupExec to Avamar was an easy process, but understanding the benefits of deduplicated backup took some time. When we first migrated, we were using the same traditional philosophy: Specific savesets for specific servers. As time went on, we realized that each time we added a new saveset the increase in storage utilization on the deduplication appliance was less than minimal. We decided to start adding more servers, and increasing the scope of our saveset. Within 6 months, we were backing up full file system savesets on 1200 servers.

When we started this migration, we were convinced our environment was different. We were convinced our change rate was too high. We were convinced that backing up everything, every day was too much data. We were wrong, and I’m glad we were.

Typical deduplication rates stated by EMC Avamar Team:

  • File Systems: Initial = 70%, Ongoing = 99.7%
  • Databases: Initial = 30%, Ongoing = 90-95%

Deduplication rates that we experienced (average):

  • File Systems: Initial = 75%, Ongoing = 99.9%
  • Databases: Initial = 20%, Ongoing = 85%

We are currently backing up 1300 servers nightly with savesets totaling 350 terabytes, and our daily change rate is approximately 1 terabyte. Since moving to this new policy we have experienced the following benefits:

  • Restore fulfillment is 100%
  • No discussion on what to backup. Everything is backed up.

Deduplicated backup is a backup administrators dream. Less storage consumption, shorter backup windows, higher restore fulfillment rates, and the ability to sleep at night.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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