Bare Metal, PXE, USB, and Why Brad Brundage Rocks

by Mark Campbell on April 24, 2014

At Unitrends, we get a lot of customer suggestions for new features and enhancements.  We spend a lot of time talking about them, understanding them, prioritizing them, and most importantly spending R&D dollars to implement and release them.  In the time since we created “Unitrends 2.0″ back in 2009 until today, I think the reason our products and technology have allowed us to grow so quickly comes down to having amazing and brilliant customers – and a great support and engineering team that listens.  I know that our growth is driven in large part by customer referrals – people telling other people that we do a good job for them

With that said, this week we spent a few hours reading a detailed e-mail sent to David Monarch (David is one of our star level 2 customer engineers) by Brad Brundage.  I wont’ go into the details – but Brad asked for a series of enhancements to our bare metal software in our Recovery-series and Unitrends Enterprise Backup products.  The best news was that many of these are in beta in release 7.4 and will be generally available later this month.  But not everything.  One thing Brad wanted was an integrated method of creating USB-based bare metal recovery media. As a result of this, we’re going to implement some new features Brad called out.  Brad deserves ENORMOUS credit for taking the time to be very specific on what he’d like and why – can’t stress enough that none of this happens without someone like Brad passionately caring about Unitrends enough to give us this feedback.  He’s the hero here. If you want an internal peak at the way Unitrends handles customer requests (outside of the standard RMS – Requirements Management System) – kind of thing, I thought that it might be interesting to see what happened – you have to read this e-mail thread from bottom to top.  The extended cast of characters are Sameer Kamat – our Recovery-Series/UEB architect, Joe Balazs – our VP of engineering for Recovery-Series/UEB/Unitrends Cloud, and Ken Smith – one of our top Windows developers.

From: Mark Campbell
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:39 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

Do you see anything else he wants we’re not doing?

 P.S. Thanks for the INCREDIBLE job here of responding to me quickly and accurately – sorry for any ignorance I’m showing.

From: Sameer Kamat 
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:38 AM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sorry for not articulating it better before. With the new version, there is no iso creation. There is a stock BMR ISO that has to be burned and it can be burned to optical media or to bootable USB keys.  That was the link I sent before.  We should be able to satisfy this customer’s request.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:34 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Quick question.  You know that what they want is not only creating ISO’s but bootable USB’s.  We okay with that?

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:32 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Super!  And we can get rid of optical on new desktops and save money and delight customers.  USB rules!  Thanks tremendously.  And even if we don’t have a UI for it, it’s okay sometimes to ask someone to drop to command line for a quarter until we get UI support.

 From: Sameer Kamat 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 8:31 AM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 I will check if Linux version is available, pretty sure there would be tools on linux to do the same.

 I will also make sure documentation has it covered.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 4:53 AM
To: Sameer Kamat; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Thanks.  Is Linux version available?  Are we including instructions on this in our UI/UX and documentation?

 From: Sameer Kamat 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 4:41 PM
To: Mark Campbell; David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Ken Smith
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 We expose the ISOs through a CIFS share and allow the users to burn them from any workstation with any tool of their choice.

 Having said that, for this customer’s question, whether a USB key can be used as Bare Metal media, the answer is yes. The generic ISO in 7.4 can be “burned” to a USB key with any free software like www.isotousb.com. He can then use the USB key as the bare metal media.

 From: Mark Campbell 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 2:44 PM
To: David Monarch; Sameer Kamat
Cc: Joe Balazs
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Sameer: Thought we were looking at USB option as way to lower hardware costs by getting rid of optical drive?

 From: David Monarch 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:48 PM
To: Sameer Kamat; Mark Campbell
Cc: Joe Balazs
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 I know he is interested in the ability to use a USB drive instead is CD,  which would be a good option for a lot of our customers.

 ——– Original message ——–

From: Sameer Kamat 
Date:04/23/2014 12:46 PM (GMT-05:00) 
To: Mark Campbell ,David Monarch 
Cc: Joe Balazs 
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

The instructions  below are to create a Bare Metal media the old way.  The new way is to just burn a generic ISO and boot.

From: Mark Campbell 
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 12:43 PM
To: David Monarch
Cc: Joe Balazs; Sameer Kamat
Subject: RE: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Copying Joe & Sameer.  Don’t know if this below is new BMR or old.  Can you investigate and let David know (copy me.)

 From: David Monarch 

Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:38 AM
To: Mark Campbell
Subject: FW: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Thought you might find some of this interesting.

From: BRAD
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:37 AM
To: David Monarch
Subject: Suggestion for BareMetal creation winform and PXE restore options.

 Hi David, [...]

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Unitrends Release 7.4 Performance Enhancements

by Mark Campbell on April 7, 2014

74[This post is one in a series concerning release 7.4 for Replication-Series physical appliances and our UEB virtual appliance.  The overview for this series may be found here.]

Every time Unitrends releases new software for our Recovery-Series physical appliances and our Unitrends Enterprise Backup™ (UEB) virtual appliance there are performance enhancements.  We have a small team that continuously benchmarks our software (and well as the software of our competitors) to learn of opportunities for improvement.  Equally (or more!) importantly, we have a huge number of customers using our software who are willing to share with us opportunities for improvement.  This has led to our new release 7.4 which contains some pretty amazing new performance capabilities.  The advantages to our customers include (note: some of these were previously described in the Unified Bare Metal section; they are described here for completeness):

  • More retention. Up to 100% more retention due to the need for only one backup type and the enhanced deduplication characteristics of that new unified bare metal/master backup type.  VMware backups now offer higher deduplication rates; in medium to higher change rate environments our customers have seen improvements of up to 90% per master or synthetic.
  • Faster replication.  Replication improvements of up to 100% due to the enhanced deduplication characteristics of the new unified bare metal/master backup type.  Increased VMware deduplication rates have yielded performance improvements of up to 10X faster depending upon the speed of the WAN.  In addition, several core replication algorithms have been optimized yielding an increase in replication performance in heavily used system by up to 130%.
  • Smaller backup window.  The one-pass architecture of Unified Bare Metal enables up to 100% time savings versus the prior two-pass architecture.  In addition, backups are typically landed faster due to improved space replication – the impact can be 10% or more on heavily utilized appliances.
  • Faster RTO.  With Unified Bare Metal there is no longer the need to restore the bare metal and then restore the file-based backup.  This means that RTO is improved by as much as 100%.  With UEB Windows Instant Recovery RTO time for physical windows recovery has improved from hours to a few minutes.
  • Smaller archiving window.  One of the things that sets Unitrends apart is our D2D2x archiving capabilities.  In release 7.4, we’ve implemented a parallel archiving scheme that enables multiple archive jobs to execute concurrently.  This can improve archiving performance by 50% to 200%.

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Unitrends Bridge™

April 7, 2014

[This post is one in a series concerning release 7.4 for Replication-Series physical appliances and our UEB virtual appliance.  The overview for this series may be found here.] Unitrends Bridge is a 1-click P2V (Physical to Virtual) capability that enables protected Windows systems to be transformed into virtual machines.  The benefits are Windows Instant Recovery is […]

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Unitrends Unified Bare Metal Recovery (BMR)

April 7, 2014

[This post is one in a series concerning release 7.4 for Replication-Series physical appliances and our UEB virtual appliance.  The overview for this series may be found here.] Unitrends Unified Bare Metal Recovery for the Recovery-Series and Unitrends Enterprise Backup™ products have always been a feature that set our company apart.  We invented BMR at Unitrends […]

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Unitrends Recovery-Series and Unitrends Enterprise Backup™ Release 7.4

April 7, 2014

  We’re announcing today Release 7.4 of Unitrends Recovery-series physical appliances and the Unitrends Enterprise Backup™ virtual appliance.  We’re pretty excited about this release – so without further ado, here’s why we’re stoked: Unified Bare Metal™.  Faster backups, faster replication, more retention.  Unitrends invented BMR (Bare Metal Recovery); we have patents pending for our unique […]

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DCIG Backup Appliance Guide, Unitrends Backup Appliances, and Car Dealers

March 31, 2014

  DCIG just announced the availability of its DCIG 2014-2015 integrated backup appliance buyer’s guide.  You can download it here.  Drumrolls…and the tension builds…and that Unitrends as a vendor with its top of the line flagship Recovery-943….is number 2? Look – there’s no doubt that Unitrends dominated the DGIC 2014-2015 integrated backup appliance buyer’s guide.  […]

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Backup and Cloud: Google’s AWSome Price Cuts

March 27, 2014

Source: Google and Techcrunch You can’t accuse Google of being subtle.  Yesterday, Google announced an incredibly aggressive set of price cuts for its Google Cloud Platform that are clearly designed not only to attack but to eviscerate Amazon’s AWS.   Cloud storage pricing was reduced by 68% while compute pricing was radically simplified and reduced by up […]

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VMware VSAN Overview

March 13, 2014

I thought this would be an informative post as the VMware VSAN is now GA as of yesterday! The definition according to VMware’s product page says:  VMware Virtual SAN, a new software-defined storage tier, pools compute and direct-attached storage resources and clusters server disks and flash to create resilient shared storage.   Crib notes on the site list the main […]

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Global Benchmark Study Reveals 73% of Companies are Unprepared for Disaster Recovery

March 4, 2014

The Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council announced today findings from its 2014 annual benchmark study which show that 73% of respondent organizations worldwide are not taking adequate steps to protect their data and IT systems. According to participants, poor planning, testing and technological deficiencies have led to more than $5M worth of critical applications failure, data […]

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Better Prepared Organizations Implement More Detailed DR Plans

March 3, 2014

This week I want to examine in more detail the good news coming out of the 2014 Annual Report on the State of Disaster Recovery Preparedness from the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council .  Based on hundreds of responses from organizations worldwide, the Annual Report provides several insights into the best practices of companies that are […]

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