back to article CommVault proffers ninth Simpana generation

CommVault has added source deduplication in its ninth major release of Simpana, its data protection and management software suite. Previously a central Simpana system deduplicated data; now client systems can deduplicate the data they hold before passing it on to the central Simpana server where another round of deduplication …

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Boffin

Not all sweetness and joy....

Two things have always bugged me about Commvault / Simpana...

1. The Customers actually get more access to support information than their resellers do - Want to download their latest build / iso? Better get your customers login then!

2. For all the features they keep adding (and its an impressive list), its still a product whose development is led by their engineering team. The number of times that registry hacks are seen not only as viable support resolutions - but also *installation* procedures is just scary.....

And I wouldn't shout the Hitachi / Japan relationship too highly from the rooftops either - HDS have been shifting Simpana as "HDCP" for years, and it consistently stays a point release behind it's OEM brethren.

A/C for obvious reasons (I actually think its a powerful product, but nowhere near as simple and universal as they claim...).

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WTF?

well not quite right...

The HDS OEM is called HDPS.

Previous new full versions of HDPS have been released with Simpana SP1 (this is the same SP1 that gets released for existing customers, until then version X.0 is only available to new footprint and fresh installs).

So HDPS stays one release behind the OEM UNTIL SP1 at which point they are exactly the same.

I understand that HDPS is due to go to V9 at some point this month, so not waiting for V9 SP1 which is a first for HDS and Commvault.

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Alert

Yes not all roses

CommVault growth of late has been meteoric, Their market share is still in single figures mind you (around 5%) but growing at the expense of Symmantec and EMC.

Odd thing, I dont think their product is any better. For all their ease of use single architecture hype, the product is clunky and a mismash. Installation is a hack. The only polished thing about CommVault is their marketing - which is stella.

Try to get an evaluation of the product where you can install it yourself?

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Boffin

Agreement here...

We use Simpana 8 at work$, and there's a fair bit of clank and clunk to both the UI and accomplishing some tasks within it. There is a large amount of complexity underlying the console which can really confuse you unless you have a support rep walk you through for some tasks, primarily configuration and some maintenance tasks. We configured a cold DR installation as part of some testing a couple months ago, and setting up the DR instance required a conversation with their support staff (which are actually pretty good, all things considered) and our account rep as well, who pointed me at the previous version’s “DR quick start” documentation, as it had not been updated for the current version. Once the server piece is configured, however, it does run well enough, and as long as certain maintenance steps are taken. The client installation side is a painless affair, thankfully, and generally does not require reboots, unless other client backup programs (*cough*Symantec*wheeze*)

Speaking of which, their documentation is frankly not that great- it takes me a while to find the information on how to accomplish certain tasks and there are concepts used that I still have not found the explanation for within their documentation.

I think part of why Commvault's share is growing is that the one thing that it does spectacularly well is consolidated multi-server backup- We were a Backupexec shop before switching to commvault a little over a year and a half ago, and we stopped using Backupexec primarily because the multi-server piece was not reliable, and there was no real support for some pieces that we are looking to implement (such as backing up VMs on a host level).

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Mixed Feelings

All the talk of data dedup is great, but in the real world, I wonder if this analogous to another layer of block level compression (I understand the technical difference). A way of saying "These tapes hold (up to) 1600GB", when they really hold 800GB. Some use cases may see dedup as a huge gain, but I don't think we will. My sense is that its a bit gimicky.

I recommended and bought CommVault at version 5.9, and I've stuck with it so far (we've used every version between 5.9 and 8, the current version). It seems to work for the most part, but there are definitely parts that are not polished or streamlined.

With backup software you do a lot of backups and a lot fewer restores. CommVault's backups seem to work. The restores worked for us about 95% of the time. Which is right on the edge of acceptable risk tolerance for us. One restore failed spectacularly and they said "Well, its an issue with the way Windows writes to the NTFS change log." And there was a way to prevent that from being a problem for future backups. But it left me with a lack of confidence that is going to be tough to build on.

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Unhappy

@Mixed Feelings

Yes and No, dedup is analogous to compression, in fact is it a form a of compression in that in removes instances of identical data. But there are radical differences to the approach. Block compression works on very small data sets. A tape drive is compresses data in the order of 64k chunks. Whilst deduplication works over terabytes of data.

So I would expect to see some tangable benefit to CommVault's dedup with appropriate data. (lots of systems with similar types of data).

How CommVault backs up in the first place is another matter. CommVault's use of the NTFS change journal is poor. Ignoring any realtime requirenment you might have, changed journal is a batch process, the processing the change journal is an issue once there are lots of files. Also if you only want to process a subset of a volume, you have to process the change journal for the whole drive which means dinosaur backup products that do directory scans will often be faster. You may run into memory issues. You also need to make sure no other product is clearing the journals, etc, etc, etc.

Interesting reading the above comments on CommVault. Online, I dont see much in the way of other real user feedback, normally just hype from reps.

Other products that might be of interest are:

Acronis Backup 10. Had a play seems easy enough to use. Think its aimed at the home / small business but might be good enough for our needs. Has good reputation for Bare Metal Recovery.

Cofio AimStor. AIMstor is more appropriate to the multiserver backup market. Does realtime backup as well as traditional batch based backups of filesystems and applications. Also does Bare Metal Recovery similar to Acronis. Has a major funky interface, very polished, check the video. Worth checking if its your budget.

Lastly, Arkeia. Not tried this one yet but company been going a while.

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