The DA2300 is a purpose-built backup appliance from Western Digital that runs the Arkeia backup software package on a capable quad-core, four-drive desktop chassis that WD originally developed for their small business server. While it offers enterprise-level features that meet the needs of many mid-size and larger companies, the DA2300 is actually designed for use in small companies as well. Its compact footprint fits easily on a desktop, file cabinet or bookshelf and it’s quiet enough to run in a small office. In this test drive we’ll focus on the basic backup functionality that a small business would be most interested in.
What is a Backup Appliance?
As a turnkey solution the appliance format greatly simplifies system implementation. It eliminates the complexity of finding and buying the appropriate hardware, installing software on it and then getting the system up and running. Appliances are popular in the backup market because they enable users to choose a more complex or sophisticated solution than they might otherwise. This is certainly the case with the DA2300 which makes the enterprise WD Arkeia backup solution work for even small businesses that have little to no IT experience.
The DA2300 uses the same chassis as WD’s DS6100 small business NAS server that Storage Switzerland tested recently and comes with WD’s SeTM enterprise 4TB disk drives. It features the same “trayless” design that allows drives to be inserted directly into the chassis, none of those tiny drive screws to mess with (Fig 2 below). It has a quad-core Xeon processor and a 128GB 2.5” SSD for holding the Arkeia backup catalog. Like WD’s NAS line, the DA2300 has redundant power supplies and redundant Gbit NICs, plus 4 x USB 3.0 ports for adding external storage or connecting LTO tape drives and two USB ports for connecting a keyboard and mouse (Fig 3 below).
Fig 1 – Four drives, no drive trays Fig 2 – DA2300 Back panel
Unlike the DS6100 these backup appliances run Linux, the operating system WD Arkeia was written for, instead of Windows. The unit we test drove came with two mirrored drives for a little less than 4TB of usable capacity and has the ability to double that with another pair of drives. According to WD, with deduplication this unit has a maximum effective capacity of 40TB. We’ll talk more about deduplication later in the report. The unit also provides a VGA port for connecting a monitor, but we didn’t use this during installation.
For smaller environments, WD also offers the lower priced DA1300, the same chassis with dual-core CPU and less capacity. For larger companies, WD has a 2U rack-mounted line of backup appliances that run the WD Arkeia software as well, but with more capacity, more horsepower and an internal tape drive option.
The backup software used in the DA2300 was developed and sold by Arkeia for over 15 years before the company was acquired by WD. It’s an enterprise-grade application that has a large installed base of international customers, mostly in the mid-sized company and small enterprise space. While this test drive is aimed at the small company use case and involves only Windows, Linux and Mac computers, WD Arkeia supports over 200 platforms, including Windows, Linux, UNIX, Apple, Novell, VMware and Hyper-V.
The unit came with two drives installed so initial hardware setup involved simply plugging in the power supply and the network connection. The unit comes up with its IP address showing on the front panel so all that’s needed is to bring up a browser and point it to that IP address. A standard installation wizard then takes you though the log in info and other basic set up tasks. After about 5 minutes we were ready to look at the configuration on the dashboard (Fig 4 below). After getting the server going the next step was to install agents on each client that we’re going to backup. For users that prefer using a command line they would plug in a monitor and keyboard to the unit and go through a series of Linux commands.
Fig 3 – WD Arkeia DA2300 Dashboard
WD Arkeia software requires an agent to be installed on each client machine that talks to the DA2300 to run backups, but is also needed for the source-side deduplication process and encryption. The agent itself is less than 1MB in size and is downloaded from the WD Arkeia website. For most platforms installation involves a simple wizard that requires only the IP address of the backup appliance. When you refresh the client list on the dashboard, the new client shows up. You can manually add clients as well but there’s no need to, except for some operating systems.
After installing clients we need to configure the backups themselves, mostly choosing what data to include and where to store the data, but also configuring other parameters like deduplication, if desired. This is done by creating Savepacks.
Fig 4 – Dashboard for Creating Savepacks
Savepacks are an innovative way to organize the backup of client computers and applications. Instead of creating a backup job for each client, as most backup programs do, users define a Savepack which can include multiple clients, or multiple folders from different clients. For each Savepack you determine the data to be included and excluded, the deduplication method (source side, target side or both), encryption, compression and some platform-specific options. We chose the default setting and created Savepacks in just a few steps.
Savepacks can be created by data priority, by data type, by retention, by compliance, by platform, etc. They also make it easier to change how a data set is protected down the road, since you can modify any of these parameters for the Savepack and they’re automatically applied to all the data (on all the affected clients) included in that Savepack. In fact, multiple Savepacks can actually be included inside other Savepacks.
For example, a Savepack can be set up with all the files that are subject to certain regulations, like personal information, or data that’s sensitive, like company intellectual property, regardless of which computers those files are on. Or, you can set up Savepacks based on backup frequency; one for home directories that’s backed up every night and another for databases that are backed up every hour, as an example. When new data sources are added to the environment, they can be added to the appropriate Savepacks and all the associated parameters are applied automatically.
So far the DA2300 has been impressive. It’s easy to set up and configure and has enough capacity and horsepower to efficiently run this enterprise-grade backup software package. In the next installment of the test drive we’ll fire off a couple of backups using the Savepacks we created and do a restore as well. Then we’ll talk about the more advanced features of this backup appliance, including, licensing, application/platform support and deduplication. We’ll wrap up the test drive with a discussion of what these features mean to an SMB user and to an IT administrator in a mid-sized or larger company.
Sponsored by Western Digital