During Tech Field Day #7 we had the chance to sit down with Symantec and talk about their new Backup Exec strategy, focusing especially on their new appliance named Backup Exec v3600 Appliance.

This new product fits into the backup appliances strategy already inaugurated with the NetBackup 5000 Appliances, the new v3600 is aimed at the SMB/SME segment and comes as a single SKU and in a single hardware configuration. This approach, which is different from the higher-end NetBackup appliances, is aimed at taking off the guesswork and the system integration portion of the work, leaving the customer with a pre-built, pre-configured system that is ready to perform backup out-of-the-box.

What's inside the box?

Here's a table that summarizes all the hardware features of the Backup Exec v3600 appliance:

Form Factor 1U
CPU Quad Intel Xeon 2.4 Ghz CPU
Memory 16GB DDR RAM
OS Windows 2008 R2 Embedded
Security OS Hardened At Factory with Symantec Critical System Protection
Data Storage 2 X 40GB SSD Disks for OS (RAID 1)
4 X 2 TB SATA Disks (RAID 5)
5.5TB of Useable Deduplication Storage Capacity
Disk Management Onboard Hardware RAID 5 controller
I/O One 1Gb Ethernet port (1 additional port dedicated for Appliance Management)
Other I/O Ports One FE management network port / Two USB 2.0 ports

And this is how the appliance looks from the outside and from the inside as well, all the photos were made by Bob Plankers.

Software-wise the appliance comes with Backup Exec 2010 R3 pre-installed which is the latest version available and all its software is upgraded through the web interface, that is used also to monitor the hardware status and to configure the network during the first deployment.

What's hot

They decided for an "All-you-can-eat" licensing, everything is already in there (including replication) for an unlimited number of clients, they even included application-level agents (like Exchange, Microsoft SQL and others), however, the finest dishes still have a separate price tag: NDMP, Enterprise Vault, SAP agents, DB2 agents, CASO (for multiple appliances), ADBO, Linux Media Agent, Novell Netware agent, Desktop and laptop option.

The 1U small compact form factor is definitely a plus in the today's space-constrained datacenter.

The appliance (but I really should say Backup Exec 2010 R3) is completely integrated with the VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection, in order to provide a seamless backup experience within VMware environments.

The appliance can Backup to the cloud (only to Nirvanix cloud at the moment of writing) right out of the box with more choices coming in the foreseeable future.

Deduplication is available and licensed and can be enabled both on the source, to minimize the network traffic, or directly on the media agent to preserve CPU cycles on the source machines.

What's not

Absolutely no tape support, which is, in my opinion, a major bummer. Even if companies are willing to abandon tape as the primary media for backups they still make absolute sense for archiving AND for remote vaulting, the only way to move your backups made with this appliance to tape is to employ a separate traditional media server connected to a tape library, but you will incur in more licensing and hardware fees.

The appliance provides only RAID5 protection for the drives that hold the backup data, this is the second major bummer, the configuration is fixed and there's no option to change that to a more protected RAID 6, this should have been a no-brainer given the use of 2TB SATA drives inside the appliance.

The appliance is not expandable, the SKU is one-size-fits-all, if you need more space you need to buy another appliance, this is not a fault per-se but having a single model to cover all the SMB needs with a fixed capacity feels a little limited.


Symantec did a good job in creating an attractive proposition for the backup needs of the SMB segment (especially the all-you-can-eat licensing), but there are a few shortcomings that can represent a showstopper for them, especially the tape support, and I'm sure that having the same appliance sold as Virtual (as a Virtual Backup Appliance) could have been a killer product especially for the lower end of the SMB market.

DISCLAIMER: Symantec was a sponsor of Tech Field Day 7, and as such was partly responsible for my airfare and hotel accommodations. In addition, they provided refreshments and the use of their facility for our sessions. Symantec rewarded all the delegates with a T-shirt and a USB Key. Symantec did not ask for, nor did they receive any consideration for this article. The opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced in any way by Symantec.