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A project I was recently involved with was basically revamping a failing Backup system due to the environment outgrowing Symantec Backup Exec. The environment was mostly UNIX. Backups were inconsistent and a lot of administration and babysitting had to occur for a good set of tapes to get ready for the off-site vault.

Again, the recommended solution wasn’t approved. This time, it was clear NetBackup was needed for the ailments at hand. The hardware on-hand was great, but the Backup Exec software couldn’t compete. The $30k-$40k for the NetBackup software was no where to be found.

The final solution may have actually turned out better. That is, cheap storage + ZFS + rsync scripts.

The project was completed with 15 TBs of Linux servers backed up to one Solaris server with about 60 days of daily snapshots. Backup Exec manages the tape rotation from the backups on the Solaris/ZFS box and doesn’t touch any other hosts.

Users are happy because they can recover what they delete, management is happy because the price is right, and IT is happy because its reliable.

Mission accomplished!

About a year ago, a client needed a NetApp (NFS server), but the IPO wasn’t there yet, and the startup’s balance sheet was still in the Red. Needless to say after a few trials, we ended up with Open-E DSS because of budget constraints.

Oh what a roller-coaster it has been…

Open-E is NOT a viable NFS solution as they claim. Based on our initial performance tests and configurations, everything went well, but the more we tried to use the system as a production NFS server, the more bugs we found and the more frustrated we became. After my experiences, I think Open-E may have a life as an iSCSI or basic Samba server, but if you’re looking for reliable, production level NFS storage, you’d be better off installing something like CentOS/Solaris and rolling your own. Open-E has it’s market, but their target market is obviously much too broad.

Some of the serious issues with Open-E as of about 2 months ago:

  • Support – Their US support staff doesn’t know much about UNIX or NFS
  • UPS connection – If configured with apcupsd, a UPS self-test causes the system to shutdown
  • NFS locking – After going through two releases claiming to have NFS locking patched, it wasn’t and required a separate patch from Germany. I reported it to Open-E Jan 08 and one year later, people are still complaining its not fixed (because its not).
  • Backup – If you want to backup this unit, you’re best bet is NFS mounting it and not using the included agents
  • NFS root squash options – They don’t work with certain path configurations
  • YP/NIS – No useful support. Forget it
  • Quotas – It supports quotas, but they have to be modified by using the web UI
  • Web UI – For a few production software releases, the web UI was unusable
  • Monitoring – No SNMP or monitoring is possible
  • Active Directory Integration – Partial integration. Does not work with services for UNIX

Based on the above, I don’t think anything needs to be said other than: Do you think their users are the QA team?

The current status of the Open-E box is “don’t touch”. We’re looking to dump the Open-E software as soon a feasible. Its an unfortunate lesson, but luckily Sun has a solution. Since the Open-E debacle, ZFS has been given a similar run through and has passed with mostly ooo’s and aww’s. Migrating 5 TB server to a new filesystem and operating system is not a quick-and-dirty project.

Sometime in the near future you’ll see an Open-E DSS module on ebay. $1 is all I ask :)