IBM Spectrum Protect Review

Instead of taking three different backups of your systems, you're taking only one but their support is lacking

What is our primary use case?

We have two data centers, we have two Spectrum Protect servers, and we do cross replicating between them.

The main use case is AIX. Because AIX is an IBM product, they have their backup software for it, for SysBack and things of that nature that most other companies don't get into because there are not a lot of companies that use AIX. Bigger federal government companies use AIX  but AIX is a big one that always hampers us. That's why the business, over the last several years, we've been trying to encourage them to go into the VMware arena. We're using a lot of different products in VMware that are able to recover things very quickly, versus Spectrum Protect and AIX, you have to drop down the OS, then you have to restore the database, and then you have to roll the logs forward.

All of that takes time, whereas in VMware you can take snapshots, or you can use products like Zerto. We have Zerto in-house where we're doing asynchronous replication from our primary site to our DR site. Our VMware systems that are being protected by Zerto are seconds behind the production world. We're running anywhere from four seconds to 11 seconds behind, whereas in AIX, you have from that last backup. You may be eight hours behind. It's challenges like that, that we run into, that I'm always on the lookout for. I've been using Spectrum Protect since it was TSM for 17 years, but I'm not tied to it. There are other products out there that make your life a lot easier. As far as the data protection admin or business continuity, whatever you want to call the title they have out there, but those are challenges that we run into. And so that's where we're going, but it's just going to take some time to get there.

What is most valuable?

In the past, we've always been uploading our stuff to tape. We now have disc-based solutions, and those disc-based solutions, one of the neat features of them is when you use what they call TSM for VE, Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environment, you're able to crack those snapshots open and are able to do file-level recoveries out of them. It gives you the ability to get rid of some file-level backups that you're using and gives you the ability to get rid of some SQL data protection backups. 

Instead of taking three different backups of your systems, you're taking only one. You're able to crack that open and get what you need. The incident recovery, where it creates the VM and then you're running it, technically you're running it on Spectrum Protect. But then in the background, it's doing the storage motion and moving it off the Spectrum Protect back to your VMware environment. The users don't know the difference. 

Those are nice really features that we really use. And it's really been helpful since we've gone to an all disc-based solution.

What needs improvement?

Their support is lacking. I've talked to their developers and stuff in the last couple of weeks and they reassure me that some people have retired, and they're working on getting that bumped back up. But the support lacks a lot to be desired at this point.

Their backups are once a day, they're not doing asynchronous replication. They're doing a one time a night backup. So whereas products like Zerto, every time there's a change in a block, it's immediately written across. They're not doing replication instantaneous, they're doing it once a day. There is a lot to be desired there.

For how long have I used the solution?

At the company that I'm at now, they've had it since 2004. I've been here since 2010. I used it at my prior company, and I've been using it for 17 years in total.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

My impression currently is that stability is not very good. I'm constantly babysitting it. I'm working with IBM right now to do an assessment to hopefully pinpoint if our systems are truly undersized. And if they are, then that's not a reflection on the application. That's a reflection on us purchasing undersized equipment. If it's not, then that's a reflection on the application not performing correctly.

I'll give them a seven out of 10. They've got their niche. The two shops I've worked at have been big AIX shops, and that kept them in there.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's definitely scalable. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Support is retiring, they move on, and they just don't have the expertise. I've spoken to some duty managers and they've even told me that they lost a lot of people and that they are trying to rebuild that up, and it takes time. I understand it takes time, but as a customer, I don't have the luxury of saying, "Hey, I'm going to leave my system down for a couple of months because support's working on beefing back up."

How was the initial setup?

I would rate the initial setup on the medium side. It's not totally complex, but there are a lot of moving parts to it. I would give it a medium.

What other advice do I have?

I would say partner up with a business partner, someone who does it day in and day out because installing the application or the server is not something you do every day as a customer. As a customer, you do that once in a blue moon. A business partner is constantly doing these installations over and over so they've got it down fairly well.

I would say partner up with someone who can help you through it. Support's not going to do a whole lot with you as far as installing it. That's not really what they're there for. They're there to troubleshoot issues. A business partner's there to hold your hand and walk you through getting it installed and set up and running.

In the next release, I would like to see better protect storage pool and node replication.

I would rate IBM Spectrum Protect as a whole a seven out of ten. 

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