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Managed Backup: Blog Post

SAN Backup, Broken Legs, Football, and Stupidity

I started thinking about how how far we’ve gotten from the concept of what backup is really all about

After the SAN backup fiasco in Virgina, I started thinking about how how far we’ve gotten from the concept of what backup is really all about. Imagine the following scenario from a college football game this weekend:

[In the middle of a nationally televised football game a linebacker blitzes and catches the quarterback on the blind side; the quarterback's leg snapping is audible to the sideline microphones.]

Trainer: Coach, your first-string quarterback, Tom, has a broken leg.  You need to get your backup in there.

Coach: Okay.  Let’t get Tom in there.

Trainer: I don’t think that you understood what I said.  Tom’s leg is broken.  You need to get your backup ready and put him in the game.

Coach: I understood.  Tom will take over.

Trainer: How will Tom take over?  Tom’s leg is broken.

Coach: Look – I know you don’t understand it, but I made a decision at the beginning of the season to optimize our backup strategy.  In order to have the most effective backup strategy, I decided that it would take the least amount of time to recover if our first-string quarterback and the backup quarterback were the same person.  That optimizes our RPO (Recovery Point Objective) and our RTO (Recovery Time Objective) because the first-string quarterback is our best quarterback and is already playing the game.  It’s brilliant!

Trainer: But the entire idea of a backup is that we have an independent and complete whole-bodied player that is able to go into the game.

Coach: Yes, but it’s inefficient to have to deal with two different quarterbacks – I’ve increased our efficiency by 250%!  So get Tom ready to go back into the game.

Trainer: Okay, you’re the coach, I’ll do my best.

[Tom is carried by teammates back onto the field.  The quarterback lines up in a shotgun formation, takes the snap, and gets ready to throw to his wide receiver.  The pocket breaks down and the quarterback is once again sacked.  After the play, the quarterback doesn't get back up.]

Trainer: Coach, Tom now has a concussion.  We have to get your backup in there – and your backup can’t be Tom.

Coach: I don’t understand.  The odds of two injuries occurring are astronomical.  Now we don’t have a backup!  What do we do?

SAN backup using the SAN as the backup storage is every bit as stupid as this.  SAN snapshots used in place of SAN backup is even more ridiculous.

SAN replication seems more logical – in this case the quarterback and backup quarterback would be a clones with identical memories that are continuously replicated to each other.  The problem here is that when the first-string quarterback goes down with a concussion, the backup quarterback catches that concussion as well.

This is what occurred in Virginia – and the reason that it took so many days of checking data integrity.  Smart people did something stupid – they designed a SAN backup system with no SAN backup.

More Stories By Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell is the COO of Unitrends. He originally joined Unitrends as its CTO in 2008. Unitrends enables its customers the freedom to focus on their business instead of backup. The company achieves this through a scalable, all-in-one backup solutions that no other data protection vendor can provide.  Unitrends integrated backup appliance simply protects businesses’ IT infrastructures at the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry. More companies every day join those who have discovered the customer-obsessed, enterprise-level data protection only Unitrends can offer.