Enterprise Data Protection

Enterprise Data Protection Goes Open Source

Enterprise IT managers concerned about costly or proprietary data backup and recovery now have an Open Source option.

Start-up firm Zmanda Inc. has optimized the Open Source Amanda data backup project for academia with new enterprise-class features. Zmanda has also hired many of the Amanda Project committers, and has thus become the de facto commercial arm of Amanda, Zmanda CEO Chander Kant told OET.

[Initially developed at the University of Maryland in 1991, Amanda has been in use as an Open Source data protection project by academia for more than decade. Now in all major Linux distributions, Kant estimates there are more than 20,000 deployments of Amanda worldwide.]

“At a time when protecting corporate data is becoming a top priority for all businesses, most data protection solutions are simply too costly and too complicated,” said Chander Kant, CEO at Zmanda. “Zmanda gives businesses proven, enterprise-grade data protection at a cost savings of up to 90 percent over proprietary solutions. The data protection market is ripe for commoditization, and Zmanda now offers a low-cost, simple and secure open source alternative to help drive this.”

Zmanda engineering provided tremendous help in releasing Amanda 2.5, a major milestone for the Amanda project that provides significant enhancements in security and scalability,” said Jean-Louis Martineau, Amanda community lead developer and project gatekeeper in a statement.

Kant takes heart in the fact that so many syadmins now in the corporate world were exposed to the Amanda Open Source technology while attending university.

“The installed Amanda base from within academia is obviously very critical to us as a start-up company, but we also expect to attract new users from the enterprise IT world. One interesting thing we have found since starting the company is that there are many people now working in commercial companies who are very familiar with Amanda from their time in university. Some of them at the [MySQL User Conference] even told us that they were glad and surprised there was an enterprise edition of Amanda and would like to try it.”

Newly-Created Amanda Enterprise Edition
Focuses on Improving Security, Scalability

To meet enterprise needs, the Zmanda/Amanda team focused on improving Amanda’s security and scalability.

Among the enhancements for Amanda’s 2.5 (Enterprise Edition) are:

  • OpenSSH support for secure communications between Amanda server and clients. Secure communication API also allow IT managers to design and deploy customized security solutions.
  • Ability to encrypt storage media via symmetric or asymmetric algorithms (aesutil or gpg);
  • Backup (dump) images can span multiple media volumes increasing the amount of data that can be protected in a single backup run.
  • Customized compression to allow users to make the best match between hardware resources and data, (e.g. one type of custom compression can be used for images and another for text files).
  • Auto labeling for tapes simplifies backup to disk with virtual tapes.

Aside from price, Kant says prospective customers will benefit from Zmanda’s “open” standards-approach to data formats . “Let’s say you have a tape, and backup using Legato. You also will need [Legato’s] tools to recover your data. Amanda uses standard formats which are provided [to the customer for free] as part of the native operating system they are running. So, that simply means customers do not need any proprietary tools to recover their data.”

For further accessibility, Zmanda’s approach to Amanda 2.5 also writes instructions and commands in ASCII at the head of every backup file to show users how to get their data back. “Our whole approach is to look for places where openness will make it easier and cheaper for customers to backup all their data, and not try to squeeze the customer,” Kant said.

Prospective users of Zmanda don’t even have to have a total LAMP stack in place. “Amanda works across Unixes,” Kant said, “and our next update will support Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris. And, in our commercial edition we even support Windows.”

Making Amanda Enterprise-Ready
Zmanda’s Engineering and Business Case

Cost-savings and open access to their own data will be a key driver among Zmanda early adoption in the enterprise, Kant told OET. “It’s really not so much about accessing source code to an “Open Source” data protection project, although there will be some [admins] that will definitely like that. It’s really about offering customers choice over expensive and proprietary [data protection] option.”

“As enterprises have migrated from commercial Unix to Linux, and then from Oracle to MySQL, they found a dramatic savings in their license and support. We expect similar things to happen when it comes to evaluating an enterprise-ready version of Amanda versus commercial offerings such as Veritas,” Kant said. The math is very simple:

“When you are paying Oracle $100,000 for a commercial license, then the $10,000 you pay for [proprietary] data protection software doesn’t look like very much. But, when all of a sudden you are paying less than $5,000 for your Linux server, hardware, and MySQL database combined, then that same $10,000 looks a little out-of-whack.”

Zmanda Pricing, Availability
For enterprise use, Zmanda offers subscriptions starting at $50 per year per protected system, the price includes software, support and services. The Zmanda Network is available today in three tiers, tailored for different data protection needs. For community users, the Zmanda Network’s first tier, available free of charge, provides access to resources, such as whitepapers, tutorials, Wikis and community forums.