Backup Exec Install Blog (Patching)

This week, I offer you a guest post from my esteemed colleague, Tom Svare. Tom is a lead designer of Backup Exec patches and one really sharp talent.

Let’s hear from Tom:

Back on March 29th Nick posted a blog about the new Add Server Wizard and the patching functionality it provides.  Because our goal is to keep your Backup Exec server up-to-date with the most recent patches,   I'd like to briefly continue the patch topic from the perspective of how we prepare patches to be released for Backup Exec. 

We have two goals in mind when providing you with a Backup Exec software patch:

  1. Fix your Backup Exec issue.
  2. Install the patch successfully on the first installation attempt every time.

No one likes to schedule a maintenance window for software updates and then have the updates fail to install.  I've spent some time reading the forums and working with our support team on patching issues, so I know there are improvements to be made. However, with your valued feedback and our continuous improvements we can move the experience in a positive direction.

The Backup Exec patching process is triggered by installing patches via Live Update from the Backup Exec administration console.  After the patches are applied to the Backup Exec server, you can create a scheduled job to update any computer that runs the Backup Exec Agent for Windows. You can review Nick’s Add Server blog for more information.

To qualify a patch for release, Backup Exec patches go through many hours of file and package testing.  The first part of the process verifies that the updated files fix a specific issue or a group of issues.  Once we are satisfied that our updated files work as intended, we move on to package testing.  With package testing we introduce as much automated testing as possible on the patches.  We know what versions of the Backup Exec files (called binaries) should be present on both the Backup Exec server and Agent for Windows computers, so we run the patching process in the same way you would. Then we run automated tests to verify that the expected file versions, file sizes, and file dates are correct. Initially, each patch is tested on those computers that have the most recent release of Backup Exec ever installed.  This certifies the patch for new customer environments.

With servers now built to last multiple years and software versions being released rapidly, it's very likely that the current version of Backup Exec has been upgraded at least once. As such, we also run patch testing on upgraded Backup Exec computers that run older versions of Backup Exec, reaching as far back to three or more versions. Those upgraded Backup Exec servers are patched and then run through automated tests, as well as functionality tests for further verification.  This process certifies the patch for our customers who have upgraded from an older Backup Exec version. Prior to releasing a patch, we also install each one of our patches in our own internal data centers. Many of these servers have been around for years, which often yields interesting patching discoveries that we can fix prior to a releasing a patch.

We recently added another suite of tests that are used in verifying our patch packages. This testing targets longevity.  To implement this testing, computers are configured using the latest patches and are run until issues are encountered. Any issues that are discovered during this time are identified and corrected prior to release. As new issues are identified they are added to our test matrices, or to our test automation scripts.

As I mentioned earlier, our ultimate goal is to release Backup Exec patches that install the first time every time. If you have feedback on our patching process, we would love to hear it!