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Top 5 Reflections

Posted by Preston on 2009-07-17

So this morning I was looking through the stats for this blog, and I generated the list of most popular posts thus far. I can’t say any of the results surprised me. Every single one of the top 5 comes from the “Basics” series.

Number 5, on that list, was Basics – Listing Files in a backup. There’s a lot of people out there who want to know how to use nsrinfo in general, and specifically want to know about pulling file lists for savesets. Net result? I think it would be greatly beneficial if in NMC users could double-click on browsable savesets and get a complete listing of files therein.

Number 4 was Basics – mminfo, savetime and greater than/less than. Now, I’m not going to pretend that every person who visited that article was looking for details about how greater than and less than works in mminfo in relation to savetimes, though I suspect a reasonable percentage of people new to mminfo found that interesting. My take on it is that it proves there’s not really enough documentation about mminfo, and that mminfo needs some expansion. My personal preference? Having a full SQL-like query engine for mminfo would greatly expand the options available to NetWorker administrators.

Number 3 on the list is Basics – Changing saveset browse/retention times. As regularly as possible I try to check the search strings that have brought people to my blog (as recorded by wordpress), and I can practically guarantee that every day there are multiple combinations to do with savesets, browse and retention times. Sometimes those combinations reference nsrmm, sometimes they don’t. Clearly, extending saveset browse/retention times in NetWorker needs to be more manageable from within the GUI as a bare minimum. I’ll get to the command line in a moment.

Moving on to number 2, we have something that I get search results for every day without fail. That’s Basics – Fixing “NSR Peer information” errors. It’s actually a reasonably simple error to fix, but sometimes finding the information about it is a bit like the old needle-in-a-haystack. I’m hoping that the posting on it has helped quite a few sites to clear out the warnings/errors in their logs and reduce the amount of clutter being reported.

Finally, for number 1, a topic I’m completely unsurprised to see at the top, we have Basics – Parallelism in NetWorker. Not because it’s difficult, but because there’s no absolute rules, parallelism is a topic in NetWorker that many administrators, regardless of length of time with the product, find challenging at times. Set too low, and backups may overrun. Set too high, and device contention, client slow-downs, recovery performance issues, etc., may come into play. Tuning parallelism in NetWorker has to take a lot into account.

The content of this list suggests a few things to me:

  • None of this information is out of reach in the product manuals, but, since the product manuals are (necessarily) lengthy, it is logistically is out of reach for a lot of users who don’t have time to read lengthy manuals.
  • EMC product management could take a few tips from the top 5 articles on my blog – I think they represent areas that could be improved within usability of the product. While parallelism is not something that can “solved” by changes within the GUI (it is, by necessity, complex), other options, such as improving mminfo search, making saveset contents more accessible within the GUI, etc., are readily fixable.
  • It seems there might be scope for a “Getting Started with NetWorker” style manual. I think a traditional book would (a) be too expensive and (b) be unsuitable. This is the sort of information that people want readily to hand on their desktops.

On the last point, I’m interested in writing such a manual. I obviously have some experience with writing – but more so than just the book, over the years I’ve written literally thousands of pages of NetWorker instructions as part of professional services documentation, training courses, etc.

So here’s a question – would people be interested in say, an eBook along the lines of “Getting Started with NetWorker” that gives basic operational and instruction usage so that rather than having to wade through the (close to 1000+) pages of the official documentation they had something shorter, and geared towards day to day operation?

Let me know what you think.

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10 Responses to “Top 5 Reflections”

  1. I think the getting started guide would be great _ i have been walking Pierre through it at work but I know there is heaps I have missed – I show him as I remember

  2. Sean said

    I, for one, would support the creation of such an eBook.

  3. brerrabbit said

    Ditto Sean

    And if you are looking for topics that need clarification, I’d pay good money to read an article that explains the Networker security model….

  4. Tom B. said

    Another area of interest would be the proper architecture of a NetWorker environment. I know that a “proper” architecture varies from site to site, but there’s got to be “best practices” not only in usage but in design as well.

  5. mike said

    In my opinion there is already a good ‘getting started’ : “EMC NetWorker for unix and windows administration” . The course discuss the basic usage of NetWorker. I would suggest it to every NetWorker backup administrator starter as well the use of NetWorker Modules (scripts and snap) .
    But I am aware that their should be some sort of quick reference guide. Where the basics are explained (daemons, databases, … ) and serves as a daily operations guide.
    I am even interested to co-write it.

    • Preston said

      I have little time for the EMC training course. That’s no reflection on EMC as such – I had very little time for the Legato training course. I similarly have very little time for NetBackup training courses, and even less time for the CommVault training courses.

      Historically I’ve found a significant ongoing difference between “how things work” as taught in vendor training courses, and “how things work” as taught in third party training courses. Obviously I have a strong opinion here – I’ve been writing NetWorker training material for third party courses, and presenting third party courses, for close to a decade.

      Undoubtedly for some, vendor training courses work. My biggest beef with them is they’re too slow. A solid, NetWorker administration/operation introductory training course can be done in 2 days.

  6. Way back in the dim dark ages when I worked for Legato, a beautiful little document came out that was only ever officially distributed internally. The name of that document was the “Networker Theory of Operations”.

    I loved that pdf, I learned more about NetWorker from it than anything else I ever read before or since, and knowing its contents made me for a time a NetWorker demi-god in the eyes of the uninformed.

    The real shame was that it was never really kept up to date, and though its been a few years since I was intimately involved with Networker (I installed 7.3.0 on a largish HP-UX SAP site and came away so scarred that I swore never to touch the product again, I now make a living out of telling people that backup is evil :-), but if someone wanted to ressurect something similar, I’d be happy to contribute my now out of date knowlege and ancient history of why some things are the way they are.

    • Preston said

      Plain old NetWorker 7.3 was somewhat problematic, that’s for sure. That tree didn’t settle down properly until one of the cumulative builds of the 7.3.2 release, at which point it became very stable. As for telling people backup is evil … hmmm, I think you can guess what my thoughts on that premise are :-)

    • Johannes Karl said

      Hi John Martin.

      I for one am interested in the outdated ancient history of Networker you mention on your post here. The fundamentals of networker haven’t changed so much, and probably won’t in near future.

      If I understand you correctly and you don’t mind sharing the “Networker theory of operations” document, you can reach me here:

      http://skyrr.is/um-skyrr/starfsfolk/rekstrarlausnir/persona/335/fyrirtaeki/1

      Johannes

      • Preston said

        I sort of got the impression that John was implying he no longer had that document directly, but I may be wrong.

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