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Turbocharged administration with IDATA Tools

Posted by Preston on 2009-02-05

Note – Please jump to this article at the new blog site to ensure you get the latest copy of the article!


I’ve long advocated that the best backup products are frameworks, rather than monoliths. A framework package is designed from the ground up to be extensible, via a comprehensive and well documented command line, on the basis that software designers can’t anticipate every possible need a user might have. This is a core requirement to backup software being ‘enterprise ready’.*

Taking advantage of that framework approach to the product, the company that I work for, IDATA, has a suite of utilities bundled under a package called “IDATA Tools”, available for Windows, Solaris and Linux  that are designed to provide extra functionality that assist administrators in their day to day usage. They’re not expensive either – certainly cheaper for most companies than taking the time to script all the various components, and I thought I’d summarise the various tools included in the package.


Cloning can be a drag. The sslocate utility works wonders at producing reports for you on how much data hasn’t been cloned, and optionally doing the cloning operations for you. Can produce reports in HTML, CSV or spreadsheet format, and supports saved execution models so staff don’t have to remember complex command line options. Great for companies who have outgrown standard group based cloning and need to be able to manage cloning as a scheduled activity on its own.

[Added 2009-02-18 here’s a sample output (zipped XLS) of a report out of sslocate. The utility can output its reports in either CSV format, Excel format, or to screen in plain text format.]


This utility can be used to run a series of automated tests against various clients within the environment to help an administrator debug issues. It can run such tests as:

  • Running index checks or rebuilds
  • Retrieving client details from the client nsrexecd service
  • List active clients (i.e., clients configured in enabled groups)
  • Performance testing – using bigasm on the client to check throughput back to the backup server or storage node
  • Basic connectivity tests: pings, probes, name resolution and rpcinfo

Sure, all of these things can be done externally, but being able to just fire off this utility at a bunch of clients, specifying which tests you want run and then reviewing the output is a great timesaving option.


Need to provide periodic reports of the configuration of the various clients within your backup datazone? This is the utility for you – it’ll produce a report in either spreadsheet or HTML format that gives a comprehensive set of details about the clients; it has two modes – standard, and executive, depending on how many details you want.

[Updated 2009-02-18, here’s an example of the standard report run against a lab server in my test environment, and here’s an example of the executive report run against a lab server in my test environment.]


We’d all like disk to tape staging to have a few more options wouldn’t we? This utility (DBU = Disk Backup Unit) can assist in freeing up space quickly on a disk backup unit, without having to go through the manual process of finding savesets to stage out, run the staging commands, etc. Instead, just point the utility at a disk backup unit, and give it a few parameters such as the following:

  • Destination pool to stage to
  • Saveset selection order
  • Amount of data you want staged out
  • Maximum size of saveset to pick for staging
  • Whether to only stage out data that also exists in a clone pool

You can even throw in additional mminfo query restrictions (e.g., “only stage out data for client X”, etc.) if you want.


Want to visually see that your full backups are occuring regularly, and you’re not getting any lengthy dependency chains building up? Run deptree, and it’ll print a tree based view for clients of their savesets, giving you a simple, easy to understand output. Very helpful if you’re wondering why, for instance, tapes aren’t recycling when you’d expect them to be.

[Added 2009-02-18, here’s an example of deptree output for a single client.]


You’ve got a backup system in place where backups overnight are taking longer than you’d expect, or you’re needing to track device utilisation to see whether streaming performance is your bottleneck.

The devmon utility should be your first point of call; it takes regular samples of your device activity and writes it out to a CSV file that you can then pull straight into your favourite spreadsheet program and graph usage. Can report on all device usage, or just write performance.


We’ve all had that nightmare recovery request where someone wants some files recovered, but can’t tell you when they were last seen, or what machine they were on. With this in mind, find-files does exactly what it’s name suggests – give it a filename or partial filename, a range of dates that are still within the browse period, as well as one or more clients, and it comes up with a list of savesets and volumes (as well as any clone volumes) that may have what you’re looking for.


This simple little utility can be used to stop, start and restart groups from the command line. Groups started via group-control can be controlled within the NetWorker administration interfaces as well, something you can’t do if you’re just running the savegrp command. You can also use the utility to comprehensively report on which groups are running, and which groups were successful.


Produce savegroup completion notifications on steroids! Provides features such as the following:

  • Include the group name in the subject of the email
  • Include the success/failure status as part of the subject of the email
  • Append to the notification a summary of the amount of data, and number of files, backed up per client, in either list or table form.
  • Append to the notification an extended summary giving the saveset IDs, volumes, pools and saveset flags of each saveset generated.
  • Perform automated parsing for common errors and include suggestions on what might be done to address them.


In one easy command produce a list of all the volumes that are recyclable in the datazone, grouped by pool, and ordered either by last access date or barcode. Have this report automatically emailed to your operators and backup administrators to make retrieval of recyclable volumes as easy as possible.


Want to easily see your entire NetWorker configuration in one easy document? Nothing could be simpler with the review-res utility, that produces a HTML dump of your entire configuration into one single file. Great for auditing or even just generating a quick overview of your system configuration. It even produces additional details beyond the standard configuration resources, providing details of clients that are orphaned (don’t belong to any group), clients that are zombies (i.e., only belong to non-autostart groups), and produce warnings about groups that start at the same time.

[Added 2009-02-18, here’s an example of the output generated by the review-res utility, as run against a lab server in my test environment.]

In summary

Doing any of the above tasks can be a tedious or repetitive action, and not many backup administrators don’t have the luxury (or desire to) spend time scripting these sorts of activities. If you’re looking to save yourself some time out of each day that could be better spent on other activities, you’d be well advised to look at IDATA Tools, available from our sales partner, Krisanya.

* Monolithic backup packages (more suited to small, heterogeneous workgroup environments), are designed on the principle that if you want to do something that’s not in the GUI, you’re doing it wrong.


8 Responses to “Turbocharged administration with IDATA Tools”

  1. […] New version of IDATA Tools February 10, 2009 There’s a new version of IDATA Tools available. If you’re looking for a way of turbocharging your NetWorker administration […]

  2. Alex said

    Are there any sample screenshots of what some of the reports would look like, how its formated, etc?

    • Preston said

      Hi – good point, I’ll aim to have some examples within a day or so and will update the post accordingly.

  3. Preston said

    I’ve updated the article to include links to sample report output from several of the utilities; I’ll aim to finish it off tonight.

  4. […] plan on making his suggestion slightly redundant for users of IDATA Tools – I plan to update the client-report utility to include the client ID to assist with this very […]

  5. […] represents a significant functionality bump over the last version of IDATA Tools, and I thought I’d spend a few minutes mentioning some of the new features that I think make […]

  6. […] against a bunch of savesets. Alternatively, you may want to check out dbufree, a utility within the IDATA Tools utility suite; this offers considerable enhancements over regular staging, including (but not limited […]

  7. […] more information on all the utilities in IDATA Tools, check out my original post on them, Turbocharged Administration with IDATA Tools, and the announcement for IDATA Tools […]

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