Bacula Enterprise is changing the definition of Open-source Backup Software

For many in IT, the term “open source software” conjures images of inexpensive but powerful programs that require a lot attention to keep running. They’re often a better fit for organizations with more time than money; unfortunately, most organizations don’t have enough of either. Open-source usually means a do-it-yourself support experience that relies on knowledge base searches and internet user groups instead of professional technicians and guaranteed response times. This seems like a precarious set of compromises for something as complex and important as enterprise data protection.

Bacula Enterprise Backup is quite different from the ‘science projects’ that many open-source implementations become. It’s an open-core backup software suite that’s actually on par with traditional enterprise backup applications, in terms of features, functionality, robustness and support – at a much lower cost. Bacula Enterprise, which just released version 8.2 with Hyper-V, KVM and VMware support plus additional snapshotting capabilities, is causing many large companies to leave their existing backup systems.

No Science Project

There’s a common perception that open-source software products are less expensive because they’re not as functional as traditional products. Bacula offers an impressive list of features that are comparable to other enterprise backup solutions including:

  • Distributed, scalable architecture supports 1000s of clients and PBs of data
  • Centralized, web-based management of entire infrastructure
  • Simplified installation with minimal configuration
  • Automated backup, restore and archive operations
  • Client support for most platforms – Windows, Mac, major Linux and Unix variants
  • Support for most storage devices including disk, tape, VTL, portable media
  • Delta (incremental) backups, data reduction with compression and deduplication
  • SAN support, LAN-free backup, bare metal restore, NDMP
  • Windows VSS plugin, including Sharepoint, Exchange, MSSQL, AD
  • Plugins for Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, SAP
  • VMware integration for VM backup with changed block tracking

Distributed Architecture

Bacula’s distributed architecture is similar to that used by NetBackup, NetWorker, CommVault and other enterprise solutions, with a Director service (the ‘master’ server) that controls the backup, restore and archive operations, a Console service that provides access to the Director, client agents that run on the Windows, Linux, UNIX and Mac devices being backed up and the Storage daemon (the ‘media server’) that actually moves the data between clients and storage devices. Also important is Bacula’s Catalog service that’s able to manage extremely large data sets using an SQL database.

Lower Cost, More Scalable

Far from the universities and small non-profits that are often associated with open-source software, Bacula Enterprise is used in some of the largest companies in the world today. These organizations are part of the traditional backup customer base that is switching to Bacula for a couple of key reasons: it’s more scalable and much less expensive, typically 10-50% of the cost traditional enterprise backup systems.

Bacula’s architecture allows it keep pace with the data growth common in large enterprises (some implementations back up over 6 Billion files and many thousands of servers). Distributed and extremely scalable, it can manage the network backup of those servers and the data storage this creates without significant performance degradation. But there’s another reason companies are switching to Bacula Enterprise. Besides being a more economical backup solution, it’s much more predictable from a costing perspective.

No License Creep

Many legacy vendors shifted to capacity-based licensing a few years ago, a model that allows the organization to install as much software as they want, requiring the vendor to periodically “true up” the licenses being paid for with the ones actually in use. Most conduct (or threaten) audits quarterly or annually to reconcile capacity that they are licensed for versus the amount of capacity actually being protected.

For most companies this ‘’auditing’’ reveals a significant amount of potentially unlicensed capacity being backed up because the environment has invariably grown over the previous year with additional data volume, servers, specific agents for databases, applications or platforms, new storage infrastructure, etc. The resulting ‘license creep’ leads to uncertainty in how much the enterprise’s backup will actually cost each year. And often, the auditing and license management processes themselves are very disruptive.

Support Subscription Pricing

Bacula Enterprise is licensed by the number of clients being backed up, not by the capacity of data, so companies can backup as much data as they need without increasing costs. They pay on a subscription basis for support, similar to the way RedHat sells its Linux product and all subscription levels include all software components, except plugins, which are optional. Bacula subscriptions cover from 10 to 5000 clients with 1-hour response levels available, plus access to professional services, senior developers and a full catalog of training.

Plugins are only bought once for the entire environment, typically when the system is installed. For example, Bacula charges one price for VMware support across the environment, not a separate charge for each hypervisor. Companies may buy additional plugins in the future, for a new platform or application, as an example, but these are only bought once and cost much less than what traditional backup products charge.

New with Version 8.2

Virtual Machine Performance Backup Suite

The company has just announced a new virtual machine backup suite that adds Hyper-V and KVM to their existing VMware support. Bacula version 8.2 provides full, block-level backup and restore of Hyper-V virtual machines and file-level backup and restore of KVM VMs, via the libvirt VM management interface. For VMware, Bacula backs up ESXi hosts using vSphere, leveraging changed block tracking (CBT) to reduce the amount of data handled and minimize network traffic. Bare-metal recovery of VMs is also supported.

Advanced Deduplication and Snapshots

Bacula’s Global Endpoint Deduplication (GED) provides data reduction at the block level, but with version 8.2, adds Storage to Storage Copy and Migration. Bacula’s GED now leverages the deduplication functionality that’s built into file systems, like ZFS, BTRFS and others, by allowing them to align data on specific block boundaries. Aligned Volume Deduplication is also supported with NetApp’s data ONTAP. To compliment the already available Windows snapshot support, 8.2 adds snapshot capabilities to Unix and Linux platforms.

StorageSwiss Take

Products like Bacula Enterprise are changing the perception many in IT have around open-source software. With an impressive list of features, and enterprise-grade support that enjoys a greater then 97% renewal rate, it’s far from the ‘roll your own’ experience often associated with the open-source model. At a fraction of the price of traditional backup solutions, plus simple, predictable licensing, Bacula is providing an alternative to the high cost and uncertainty that many organizations have endured with legacy backup products.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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One comment on “Bacula Enterprise is changing the definition of Open-source Backup Software
  1. […] latest blog «Bacula Enterprise is changing the definition of Open-source Backup Software» storageswiss.com/… #CBT #dataprotection #deduplication #opensource […]

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