rsts11: #VFD2 Day 1 part 1 ft. 7am and Symantec

Today was the first full day of Virtualization Field Day 2, with presentations by Symantec’s backup divisions (Netbackup and Backup Exec), and some of the higher-up tech minds from Zerto and Xangati. Bacon Bar

You probably know the disclaimer bits… these folks and our presenters tomorrow (Pure Storage, TrueBit.tv, and Pivot3) are sponsoring my presence (and the other dozen delegates’ presence as well) at Tech Field Day, providing for our lodging, transportation, feeding, entertainment, and the occasional trinket or sample software. While they do this out of the goodness of their hearts and their marketing departments, we are independent in our responses to the presenters, presentations, technologies, and trinkets. What you’re reading here is actually my take on things, what I want you to hear, and not necessarily what the presenters want me to tell you. We are grateful for their involvement, but we’re not required to blog or fluff or fold for them.

Seven O’WTF?

I don’t believe in 7am most of the time. When I went to grad school, my earliest class all year was at 3:30pm. Not a morning person. However, we all showed up at the lobby Starbucks and caffeinated ourselves at 7:15am before heading for the vehicle to take us over to our first session. We’ll be up and caffeinating again tomorrow at 7:15am, but I have to say I’m looking forward to normal hours after that.

Backup, Wait A Minute

Many of you know Symantec for their Peter Norton legacy, and the Norton Antivirus/Internet Security/Constant Guard/360 family of home data protection software. Those of us in the IT business know them as the more often mentioned backup solution for small and large enterprises. EMC still has Legato Networker, and that was my backup software of choice for most of my Solaris career (and aside from Rational ClearCase, my only actual formal certification–LCA1), but you don’t run across it as much, and I didn’t have much luck getting EMC to pitch it productively to me a couple of jobs ago when I needed something better than Windows Server 2003′s built-in backup package. So one way or another, Either Netbackup (NBU) or Backup Exec (formerly BENT) tend to be the front runner.

Honestly, backup software is no longer my bailiwick, as most places I’ve worked in the last few years use alternatives to commercial backup systems. Configuration, code, and tools in version control/source control systems, as little local unreconstitutable data, and databases backed up via replication, master/slave, hotcopy, rsync, or some combination of the bunch. Generally these standards have applied to bare metal and VM data protection/busines continuance, so while I did try to get some backups going for the Windows environment at a green-logoed real estate search site in San Francisco back in the day, it’s been outside my focus for a while.

Netbackup

We landed at Symantec’s World Headquarters/Executive Briefing Center and started in on NBU with George Winter, Technical Product Manager for that product line. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot from the presentation, which spanned about 3 1/2 hours and sixty Powerpoint slides, and some heated discussions with a couple of our VMware experts.

I did see and like the NBU Accelerator, which does changed block tracking to improve non-initial-backup performance especially over a WAN. It chopped the time for a backup from multiple hours to multiple minutes.

I didn’t really care for being lumped in with another delegate as “nobody” in reference to who has relatively low utilization on their virtualization systems. You can’t always run  your VMware or Citrix servers at 80%+ even if your power supplies are rated for 80+… and if 20% of your relatively-small audience responds to a question, it would be polite to notice it, even if you don’t take it into consideration in your interpretation of the Powerpoint deck.

I did feel that a Powerpoint Accelerator would have made a better impact on the delegates, as we probably could have gotten through the material in ten slides and an hour or so. Some of this deceleration came from the presentation, and some came from eager interruptions from some of the delegates… I’d put the weight more on the former but they definitely had help in slowing down.

Backup Exec

Next up were Kelly Smith and Gareth Fraser-King for the Backup Exec team, who got nearly half an hour if you include the time we had to grab lunch and take a bio break. I think they were short-changed, and hope to learn more about their line in the future.

The two products, which aim at the high end (NBU) and lower end (BE) business scales, still have distinct teams, product roadmaps, development, and usually feature sets. So you may find a feature you want in the other product, and it may make it into your own product eventually. But they haven’t been combined, integrated, streamlined, or merged yet.

The admin interface for Backup Exec certainly looked slicker than I remember from my chats with Symantec in 2008 or so. I found myself longing for a command line interface… but I think most virtualization people have been bullied into accepting a Windows system for management (Citrix, VMware, of course Hyper-V) so it didn’t seem worth mentioning at the time.

As I mentioned, backup systems aren’t in my core focus these days, so while it would be nice to get more up to speed on the options and benefits, I couldn’t really come out of the presentation seriously yearning to try these products out in my labs.

The Morning’s Lesson: Know Thy Audience

It’s important to know and play to your audience, whether it’s five thousand people checking their phones and playing Angry Birds in a convention, or a dozen seasoned professionals in a room wanting to be impressed and informed and maybe even confused once in a while. I hope that the folks behind the presentations from Symantec will work on their focus, and target future presentations to the present audience. When you have a majority of the room who are experts in the field they’ve come to hear you speak about, and multiple published authors and/or instructors on the topic in the room, you can probably assume that at least some of them know the basics already, and want to hear what makes your solution noteworthy and businessworthy. Working from that assumption makes it more likely that your audience will think that you “get” virtualization, or whatever the focus of the event happens to be.

There’s a great page on the Tech Field Day web page about presenting to engineers that would be excellent preliminary reading for people wanting to talk to folks like us. Think about how you want to be remembered a month or six from now when we’re advising on (or making) an enterprise purchase, or even a day or six from now when we’re writing about our impressions.

Some Other Thoughts

You can read some of my fellow delegates’ thoughts on this presentation here:

Rodney Haywood’s post: http://rodos.haywood.org/2012/02/vfd2-symantec.html

Other posts related to VFD2 can be found at http://techfieldday.com/2012/vfd2-links/

Coming Soon

I’ll write about the afternoon’s presentations from Zerto and Xangati a bit later… these were moving more into the areas I have both an interest and a potential business need for. I’ll also explain the bacon bar pictured above. But for now, I have another cup of coffee and a pile of pillows in my near future. Thanks for visiting and reading.