NetWorker Blog

Commentary from a long term NetWorker consultant and Backup Theorist

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Posts Tagged ‘Support’

Introducing the Support and Services page

Posted by Preston on 2009-12-17

Regular visitors may note that there’s a new addition to the pages on this blog – one covering Support and Services.

I run this blog in my own time (probably using up a little too much of my own time to be quite truthful) and ask for no payment or reimbursement from my readers – well, other than an occasional pitch for people to buy my book, that is.

My day job however is a consultancy and support role at IDATA Resolutions, and the Support and Services page outlines some of the key things IDATA could do for you, if you happen to be looking for service, support, consulting or training for your environment.

If you’re looking for an independent review of your environment, or considering support options, looking at a new solution or needing some training (whether that’s one-on-one, customised or general), I’d invite you to check out the Support and Services page above to see what IDATA can do for you.

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Long term NetWare recovery

Posted by Preston on 2009-12-10

Are you still backing up Novell NetWare hosts? If you are, I hope you’re actively considering what you’re going to do in relation to NetWare recoveries in March 2010, when NetWare support ceases from both Novell and EMC.

I still have a lot of customers backing up NetWare hosts, and I’m sure my customer set isn’t unique. While Novell still tries to convince customers to switch from traditional NetWare services to NetWare on OES/SLES, a lot of companies are continuing to use NetWare until “the last minute”.

The “last minute” is of course, March 2010, when standard support for NetWare finishes.

Originally, NetWare support in NetWorker was scheduled to finish in March 2009, but partners and customers managed to convince EMC to extend the support to March 2010, to match Symantec and co-terminate with Novell’s end of standard support for NetWare as well.

Now it’s time we start considering what happens when that support finishes. Namely:

  1. How will you recover long term NetWare backups?
  2. How will you still run NetWare systems?
  3. How will you manage NetWorker upgrades?

These are all fairly important questions. While we’re hopeful we might get some options for recovering NetWare backups on OES systems (i.e., pseudo cross-platform recoveries), there’s obviously no guarantees of that as yet.

So the question is – if you’re still using NetWare, how do you go about guaranteeing you can recover NetWare backups once NetWare has been phased out of existence?

The initial recommendation from Novell on this topic is: keep a NetWare box around.

I think this is a short-sighted recommendation on their part, and shows that they haven’t properly managed (internally) the transition from traditional NetWare to NetWare on OES/SLES. This is perhaps why there isn’t a 100% transition from one NetWare platform to the other. Being faced with unpalatable transition options, some Novell customers are instead considering alternate transitionary options.

Unfortunately, in the short term, I don’t see there being many options. I’m therefore inclined to recommend that:

  1. Companies backing up traditional NetWare who only need to continue to recover a very small number of backups consider performing an old-school migration – recover the data to a host, and backup on an operating system that will continue to enjoy OS vendor and EMC support moving forward.
  2. Companies backing up larger amounts of traditional NetWare should consider virtualising at least one, preferably a few more NetWare systems before end of support, and keeping good archival VM backups (to avoid having to do a reinstall), using those systems as recovery points for older NetWare data.

The longer-term concern is that the NetWare client in NetWorker has always been … interesting. Once NetWare support vanishes, the primary consideration for newer versions of NetWorker will be whether those newer versions actually support the old 7.2 NetWare client for recovery purposes.

With this in mind, it will become even more important to carefully review release notes and conduct test upgrades when new releases of NetWorker come out to confirm whether newer versions of the server software actually support communicating with the increasingly older NetWare client until such time as recovery from those NetWare backups is no longer required.

You may think this is a bit extreme, but bear in mind we don’t often see entire operating systems get phased out of existence, so it’s not a common problem. To be sure, individual iterations or releases may drop out of support (e.g., Solaris 6), but the entire operating system platform (e.g., Solaris, or even more generally, Unix) tends to stay in some level of support. In fact, the last time I think I recall an entire OS platform slipping out of NetWorker support was Banyan Vines, and the last client version released for that was 3 point something. (Data General Unix (DGUX) may have ceased being supported more recently, but overall the Unix platform has remained in support.)

If you’re still backing up NetWare servers and you’re not yet considering how you’re going to recover NetWare backups post March 2010, it’s time to give serious consideration to it.

Posted in NetWorker | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Long term NetWare recovery

Google service and accountability in The Cloud

Posted by Preston on 2009-11-02

Over at The Register, there’s a story, “Gmail users howl over Halloween Outage“. As readers may remember, I discussed in The Scandalous Truth about Clouds that there needs to be significant improvements in the realm of visibility and accountability from Cloud vendors if it is to achieve any form of significant trust.

The fact that there was a Gmail outage for some users wasn’t what caught my attention in this article – it seems that there’s almost always some users who are experiencing problems with Google Mail. What really got my goat was this quote:

Some of the affected users say they’re actually paying to use the service. And one user says that although he represents an organization with a premier account – complete with a phone support option – no one is answering Google’s support line. Indeed, our call to Google’s support line indicates the company does not answer the phone after business hours. But the support does invite you leave a message and provide an account pin number. Google advertises 24/7 phone support for premier accounts, which cost about $50 per user per year.

Do No Evil, huh, Google? What would you call unstaffed 24×7 support line for people who pay for 24×7 support?

It’s time for the cloud hype to be replaced by some cold hard reality checks: big corporates, no matter “how nice” they claim to be, will as a matter of indifference trample on individual end-users time and time again. Cloud is all about big corporates and individual end users. If we don’t get some industry regulation/certification/compliance soon, then as people continue to buy into the cloud hype, we’re going to keep seeing stories of data loss and data unavailability – and the frequency will continue to increase.

Shame Google, shame.

Posted in General Technology | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Google service and accountability in The Cloud

Don’t resent your log files!

Posted by Preston on 2009-10-21

There was a recent discussion on the NetWorker mailing list as to whether some additional logging information that appeared in 7.4.x was worthwhile or whether it was worthless to the point of getting in the way of an administrator.

So that everyone is across what I’m talking about, the messages that started in 7.4.x are along the lines of:

nsrim: Only one browsable Full exists for saveset X. Its browse period is equal to retention period.

So here’s my take on the discussion: log files aren’t to be resented.

I recognise there’s a point where log files become either useless or waste people’s time. However, there’s really only one time for this – when the exact same information is needlessly repeated. In the case of these log messages though, it’s not the exact same information needlessly repeated. It’s different information – it’s going to be about a different saveset each time.

What is the message about, you may be wondering? Well, I actually don’t 100% know for sure. My suspicion is that it’s a message introduced to deal with processing saveset retention following changes introduced for pool based retention policies. But it doesn’t matter.

One thing that will drive me nuts with just about any product is encountering an issue where there’s insufficient logs to actually work out what is going on. Obviously, there’s a fine line to walk – log too much and you waste space and potentially reveal too much about the IP of the package. However, don’t do enough and it becomes extremely challenging for the people doing support (or the people who write the patches (or the people who wrote the software)) to resolve an issue. I don’t believe that having accurate logs guarantees quickly resolving an issue, but they certainly help – and not having them certainly hinders.

So my point is – don’t resent your log files. The amount of space they generally take up in NetWorker is quite minimal (compared to say, the index region), and so you shouldn’t be concerned about space. Nor, I’ll insist, should you be concerned about how to go about stripping out messages you don’t need to review when scanning log files. Backup administrators of enterprise products in particular should be quite conversant with log analysis and text extraction.

If those extra logged entries allow me to quickly find something in a Knowledge Base, or similarly allows support to find something quickly in an engineering database, or allows a patch developer to isolate the section of code that causes the problem, or allows the core developer to target the section of code to write an enhancement, it’s fantastic, and well worth the extra few bytes here and there that occupy my filesystems.

Posted in Backup theory, Support | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Don’t resent your log files!