EMC Avamar has lots of Ying but not so much Yang

First off let me say that Avamar is a great product and hopefully this won’t sound like a rant. I started working with Avamar last year and quickly saw the value in this product which provides enterprise class data protection (backups) to disk. The architecture I went with consisted of large centralized grids, multiple datastore nodes with a utility node, which would be hosted in regional datacenters with remote locations having smaller configurations of either a single datastore node or small grid setup. So at a high level remote sites would backup locally then replicate to a grid in one of the regional datacenters. The local backups in the datacenter would replicate to another datacenter as well. This way there is redundancy for site and datacenter backups while providing a way to do local restores.

Avamar easily showed it’s power in reducing backup windows and reducing the amount of data put on LAN/WAN with source side deduplication for backups and replication. Even the first system backed up benefited from the deduplication and transferred roughly 80% of it’s data across the wire. Avamar backs up the data once so the first time pass will have a greater hit but all subsequent backups are incremental or blocks that are not already on the datastore. The more data in Avamar, the better the deduplication. This also helps reduce the amount of storage needed to store backups which could effectively yield a higher amount of data being protected than whats actually being stored on disk. Avamar also has a image proxy appliance for backing up virtual machines in vSphere which were easy to setup to start backing virtual machines agent-less. Not only is there an appliance that can be used to backup virtual machines there is also the Avamar Virtual Edition. This is an appliance that gets you all the features and functionality in an easy to deploy virtual machine where you have to supply the storage. It only supports a limited storage capacity and there is no supported grid setup but it works really well for those smaller locations.

Now, I talked about some of the goodness of Avamar but there is a flip side. When I say “Avamar has lots of Ying but not so much Yang” I’m simply stating that Avamar has a lot going for it with a solid set of core features and functionality but it’s lacking in some key areas. One of those areas is in the ease of configuration. EMC support actually has to do a lot of the setup and configuration. This can be a good thing but something as simple as the Active Directory integration setup could be a long drown out setup with EMC logged in at the command line. Replication setup is also something that needs improvement because you can only setup a single replication cron job from either the Enterprise Manager or the Avamar Administrator java application. That brings up another area of improvement and in my opinion the most important thing which is the management of Avamar.

There are two separate management consoles that can be used to do certain things Avamar like managing clients or checking backups. This can leave the consumer confused as to which tool should be used for what. The enterprise manager is web based and the avamar administrator is a java application and they both seem to be a bit disjointed and unfinished. The avamar administrator is not too bad and once you get where everything is you can be productive but you can lose yourself in all the windows which can be opened at one time that all look somewhat the same. I can go on with some of the small things like having to click the “show sub-domain groups”, why not make this a default? I use a Mac and the java application looks different. Not so much that I can’t find my way around but some of the elements don’t work the same. So a user interface change is needed in my opinion to add more functionality for configuring things without needing EMC support or going to the command line. And this change should also bring a more clean look and feel with a single pane with easy transitions from one area to the next. Plain and simple just make the management as powerful as the core features and functionality so that Avamar can have balance.

Well, maybe I did rant just a little but there more good to say than bad with Avamar when it comes to protecting data, reducing LAN/WAN traffic, reducing backup windows, etc.


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