Users suffer major problems with Symantec NetBackup 6.0

Users are saying that problems with Symantec's latest version of Veritas NetBackup are keeping them from rolling out the application even though the data backup and recovery product was shipped more than a year ago.

Veritas Software announced NetBackup 6.0 in April 2005 and began shipping it in October, just after Symantec announced that it was buying Veritas.

Users on at least two Web site forums dedicated to Symantec customers said they are hoping that Symantec's Maintenance Pack 4, due out around October, will fix bugs they're finding in NetBackup 6.0. The most recent maintenance pack, No. 3, was made available on June 30.

Bank of Canada, whose job it is to issue money for that country like the Federal Reserve in the U.S., plans on staying at NetBackup Version 5.0 "until it's apparent things with 6.0 have improved," said Paul Keating, an IT manager at the bank, which is based in Ottawa.

Problems cited by other users include issues with the vault service, which automates tape rotation; the scheduler, which lets users specify the times that backups are run; and the Job Manager service, which accepts backup jobs and then runs them. When these features don't work, automated backups can't be performed and aren't saving the data properly when they do, users said.

"The vault service won't start," said Steve Bally, systems engineer for RadiSys, a U.S.-based engineering company that has been using NetBackup for a number of years. Without the vaulting service, Bally said, he can't perform tape duplication or send backups off-site because of problems with NetBackup.

Bally said he doesn't plan on rolling out NetBackup 6.0 until the vaulting service issues are fixed, so he has not yet experienced the scheduler problem described by several other users on the Web site forums for Symantec customers.

There are about 36,000 users of NetBackup, according to Symantec. Mike Adams, group manager for Symantec's NetBackup product marketing, said he could not say how many of those users have migrated to Version 6.0. "Anecdotal evidence" is that there is "good uptake," he said.

One major issue Veritas users cited with NetBackup 6.0 is that when a backup job indicates it's complete, it often has only backed up 1K files, so there's no data to restore. Bally characterized Veritas 5.1, which he was using before 6.0, as "solid" but said he wanted to use Version 6.0 for new services, such as the ability to restore Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server services.

Another major problem reported by users is an issue with the Job Manager. Due to problems with this feature, "NetBackup management went from maybe 30 percent of my time to 60 percent or more," said Phil Rand, senior systems analyst and systems administrator for Seattle Pacific University. Not only did backup jobs fail, but they would disappear from the activity monitor so that Rand might not notice they were missing, he said. Rand has received binaries from Symantec, in advance of Maintenance Pack 4, to help him fix the problem, he said.

Other users are reporting problems with multistreaming backups and restores, which establish multiple connections, or threads, from a single system to the backup server. This is useful for users with a large system with multiple I/O devices and large amounts of data that need backing up. Some jobs would retry hundreds or thousands of times, even though the actual backup was completed successfully, Rand said.

Muhammed Shafi, senior Unix administrator at a U.S.-based manufacturer of packaged products such as Hefty garbage bags, said it took Symantec more than a month to resolve an issue where a multistreamed backup was able to restore files from only one stream. He had been able to perform restores with multiple streams in Version 5.1, he said.

Users also reported that the software's more sophisticated features were difficult to use because of a lack of documentation on how to configure them. Mike Sponsler, a Unix/Linux systems administrator for a Washington office of Northrop Grumman who migrated to NetBackup 6.0 from EMC Corp.'s Legato NetWorker, said he was generally happy with the product but that he was having configuration issues with advanced features such as database backup and restore.

Sponsler also said NetBackup Operations Manager, Veritas Security Services and Vault Manager also were difficult to manage. "Things such as [Veritas Security Services], the general consensus is to not use it unless it's a matter of life or death," he said.

Symantec said its fourth maintenance pack is due out this month or next -- on its normal quarterly release schedule -- and that the number of reported bugs in Version 6.0 was not out of the ordinary for a release of its size. "Any time you come out with a big-scale release, over time, the same number of requests come in," Adams said.

Adams said he had not heard specifically of the issues raised by the users and did not know what problems Maintenance Pack 4 intends to correct.

For users holding off on upgrading from Version 5.1 to Version 6.0, Symantec typically sells a product for two years or until the next major release, and Version 5.1 came out in June, 2004, Adams said. While users can still buy components of NetBackup 5.1, it has been pulled off the active sale list. However, he said he expects it to continue to be supported until 2008 or 2009.

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