Large scale disk-to-disk backups using Bacula, Part II

As men­tioned ear­lier, we recently com­pleted a fairly large Bac­ula deploy­ment. A num­ber of peo­ple have asked me why we did chose Bac­ula over the more … estab­lished names in the backup business.

To be com­pletely hon­est it was almost coin­ci­den­tal. We nego­ti­ated with both IBM, Syman­tec and Com­m­Vault and they all deliver solid data pro­tec­tion prod­ucts which with­out a doubt could have solved all our prob­lems and more but they also carry a very hefty price-tag and are not open source.

The major­ity of our machines run Win­dows but we also have a large and rather diverse Linux / UNIX envi­ron­ment. Nei­ther IBM, Syman­tec nor Com­m­Vault could accom­mo­date our needs in terms of Linux /  UNIX sup­port so we searched for alter­na­tives and found Bac­ula. We used a few days to build a test setup and started run­ning Bac­ula along­side our nor­mal backup pro­ce­dures. This allowed us to test pro­duc­tion loads with­out caus­ing dis­rup­tions or poten­tial data loss if we needed to recon­fig­ure stuff while testing.

Once we over­came the ini­tial learn­ing curve it soon became clear to us that Bac­ula pre­sented us with a very capa­ble data pro­tec­tion plat­form. The more we thought about it the more we realised that what we really needed was a scal­able, reli­able and man­age­able plat­form for doing file level back­ups and restores which seemed to be a per­fect fit for Bac­ula. Almost every other piece of soft­ware we use in pro­duc­tion has some means of doing back­ups of itself. Some include com­mand line tools, oth­ers expose an API. Exploit­ing those capa­bil­i­ties together with Bac­ula was a straight­for­ward process.

The turn­ing point for the entire project came when we, almost by acci­dent,  dis­cov­ered that it was pos­si­ble to buy pro­fes­sional sup­port from the newly formed Bac­ula Sys­tems. Now we started seri­ously con­sid­er­ing it for our entire dat­a­cen­ter, so we started adding Win­dows machines to our test port­fo­lio and explored the options for doing proper Win­dows backup & restore with Bac­ula.

After some ini­tial talks with Bac­ula Sys­tems we arranged a 2 day on-site proof-of-concept to iron out the last remain­ing ques­tions and soon after­wards we closed a deal with Bac­ula Sys­tems.

I have to make it clear that had it not been for Bac­ula Sys­tems we almost cer­tainly would have cho­sen another solu­tion.  We take absolutely no risks what­so­ever when it comes to data pro­tec­tion and run­ning a deploy­ment as large as ours with­out the proper “life insur­ance” would have been a very risky business.

We care a great deal about open source soft­ware and run a lot of it at work. There are a lot of advan­tages to open source,  it man­i­fests a lot of trans­parency, pro­vides us with con­trol over our envi­ron­ment  and encour­ages rela­tions between users and devel­op­ers. Hav­ing an open source data pro­tec­tion plat­form that had proven itself for many years was really intrigu­ing for us.

We ended up sav­ing a lot of money with very lit­tle invest­ment. I am not allowed to dis­close the actual amount but I can say that com­pared to the cheap­est alter­na­tive we  saved a 6 digit num­ber of Euros in upfront license invest­ments alone and we are still sav­ing money every year on the sup­port contract.

Some may argue that Bac­ula can­not be directly com­pared to some or all of the other prod­ucts we inves­ti­gated and you’re prob­a­bly right — but at the end of the day Bac­ula solved our par­tic­u­lar prob­lem and that’s what mat­ters to us — YMMV.

Next up will be a more detailed descrip­tion of how we designed our Bac­ula platform


Part III is now online


  • Thanks so much for your com­ments. At Bac­ula Sys­tems we work very hard to pro­vide good value to our cus­tomers. Since any­one can use the soft­ware with­out pay­ing us, we must earn the busi­ness we get from our cus­tomers. It’s always nice to hear that we are doing a good job.

    It would be nice to hear from other read­ers of this blog: If you use open source and don’t pay, what would a com­pany like Bac­ula Sys­tems have to pro­vide in order to deliver enough value to win your trust, and an order?

  • admin wrote:

    Jack, have you read Simon Phipps’ essay “Pay­ing at the Point of Value” ? You can find it here

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