Comment on “Adding Disk Backup Intelligence to Primary Storage”

Oct 2010

Comment on “Adding Disk Backup Intelligence to Primary Storage”

Posted by Scott Lakso

George Crump, in his blog at, has some important advice about disk backup intelligence:

“Consolidation is everywhere in the data center, except in data protection. This process often uses separate servers, networks and most importantly separate storage devices. A whole market is dedicated to the re-purchase of storage capacity so it can be backed up. The problem with this strategy is that it’s redundant, not very flexible, and not very cost effective. With multi-tier disk types and the capacity optimization capabilities of primary storage becoming commonplace, adding disk backup intelligence to these systems through backup virtualization should be a top consideration for IT managers when selecting a new platform.”

You can read George’s entire post here: Adding_Disk_Backup_Intelligence_To_Primary_Storage

I couldn’t agree more when George suggests that adding a secondary tier of storage to your existing primary storage system has significant advantages over purchasing a separate backup disk storage system.  To a certain extent, virtually all disk systems provide some level of tiered storage, even if that is as simple as providing a read/write cache to buffer the data as it is being written to disk or being read frequently.   But most enterprise disk vendors also offer additional tiers of storage within a single subsystem that may include Flash storage, FC, SAS or SATA.  Adding lower performance lower cost drives to an existing primary storage is system is not only cost effective, in most cases it will also provide better data protection for your backup data.

George goes on to suggest that users or vendors can add intelligence by integrating a backup virtualization engine like Tributary Systems Storage Director™ to solve the fact that tiered disk systems lack a sense of ‘disk backup intelligence’.  Since the title of his article is “Adding Disk Backup Intelligence to Primary Storage,” I will suggest that all disk vendors develop the intelligence to move data from high performance disk to a lower performance disk pool based upon commands from backup applications. 

Most backup solutions available today support disk to disk backup, even if the disk is really just a buffer before eventually moving the backup data to tape.  With most disk to disk backup applications today, the data being backed up is copied from the primary storage to a backup server then written from the backup server to the backup disk pool.  This is true whether using SAN or NAS connectivity and also true regardless of whether or not the backup disk pool is in the same disk storage system or a separate disk storage system.

If there was a common “Standard” for backup applications to copy data from high cost disk pools to low cost disk pools within the primary disk system without traversing the SAN or IP Network, this would significantly reduce network traffic and infrastructure requirements, improve backup reliability and hopefully speed up the backup process.  Back when most backup applications were writing directly to tape, “NDMP” was developed to move data from a storage system directly to tape without sending it to a backup server and having the backup server write it to tape.  I suggest that the industry needs a similar standard and disk intelligence to do the same thing within tiered disk solutions.

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