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A Glimpse into the Rich History of Instant Access at Veritas

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It might keep you up at night: The thought of an outage, ransomware attack or worse—a panic-stricken message from your CIO saying your production application is down. Even worse, every hour that the application is down the company is losing thousands of dollars! What if I told you that a restful night’s sleep is possible with NetBackup Instant Access for VMware? Built upon foundational technology that expands across our portfolio of products, Instant Access enables fast, flexible and granular recovery. With Instant Access, the time it takes to restore your app is simply the time it takes you to log in—no waiting for that data to be written back to production.

How else can Instant Access help you? First, the risk of exceeding your SLAs is limited. Instant Access operates agentlessly to recover your VMs, minimizing the impact to production. It boots and restores multiple VMs concurrently, directly from backup storage. Instant Access allows for seamless access to backed up VMs on backup storage for system, application recovery, and test/dev purposes. In addition, Instant Access is fully integrated with VMware, compatible with Storage vMotion.

Veritas launched NetBackup Instant Access for VMs as we know it today over six years ago, but the origins of this innovative technology go back much further in our company’s rich hisiPhone 1.pngtory. The core technologies for Instant Access began with the launch of NetBackup 6.5, back in 2007. To put that in perspective, in 2007 Steve Jobs stood on stage at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco and announced Apple’s very first iPhone. While the world was standing in line to get their hands on that very first iPhone, our engineering team was busy developing the foundation technologies for Instant Access.

Over the past 13 years, our engineering teams have been busy refining and innovating that technology to bring you the dependable Instant Access for VMs used today. A key member of that team was Veritas Distinguished Engineer, Weibao Wu. I caught up with Weibao to ask him some questions about this important milestone in Veritas history. 

Weibao.pngSonya: Hi Weibao. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your experience building the core technologies for NetBackup Instant Access. When did you join the Veritas team?

Weibao: I joined the Veritas engineering team on April 12, 1999.

Sonya: Wow, over 20 years ago! Can you share more about how you were involved and how the team started working on the core Instant Access technology?

Weibao: Sure. The core technology for Instant Access was actually a side project that started around 2005. I was a member of a team of passionate engineers and we thought it would be fun to build a cool new technology for disk-based data protection.

Sonya: Tell us more about this fun disk-based data protection project.

Weibao: As more and more backup data was being stored on disk media instead of tape, it provided new opportunities for data protection. Our technology virtualized backup data to make it appear as primary data and thus make it possible to run applications directly on the backup copy. The team built a file system that both preserves backup data for recovery and allows applications to write to it like a normal file system. So, the log structured multi-versioned file system, nbfs (NetBackup File System), was born.

Sonya: Great. It sounds like we were trying to help our customers do more with their backup data!

Weibao: Yeah, that’s right. Disk-based data protection was in its early stages at the time, and our team recognized that if we could make the backup data readily usable by third-party applications it would add tremendous value for our customers.

Sonya: When was this side project incorporated into NetBackup?

Weibao: Our innovation was a great fit for recovering emails from Microsoft Exchange backups. NetBackup 6.5, which launched in 2007, included the ability to retrieve emails directly from Microsoft Exchange backups without restoring the entire database. Soon after this release, the same technology was also used for Microsoft SharePoint backups where documents are restored directly from backup copies.

Taken during the 2008 Innovation Awards with then CEO, John Thompson and other inventors.Taken during the 2008 Innovation Awards with then CEO, John Thompson and other inventors.

Sonya: How has it evolved since then?

Weibao: Similar technology was applied to VMware backups that resulted in VMware Instant Recovery in NetBackup 7.6. VMware Instant Recovery tightly integrated this backup virtualization technology with VMware APIs and vSphere management to support running VMs from the backup copy directly and other advanced features, such as storage vMotion. As part of our Copy Data Management (CDM) effort, we further improved the performance and scalability of the storage virtualization technology and integrated into NetBackup what is now called Instant Access for VMware.

Sonya: If I remember correctly, you were a main author of one of our patents on VM Instant Access.

Weibao: Yes. Our engineering teams are constantly innovating and consider it an honor to contribute to our patent wall. Veritas holds over 2,000 patents for our technologies. I was an inventor for our patent on the original technology, titled, Implementing read/write, multi-versioned file system on top of backup data.”

Sonya: How is this technology used across our platform?

Weibao: The key is to virtualize backup data and make it usable for generic, third-party applications. The technology can apply to a broad range of applications, VMware and Microsoft SQL instant access, or Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint document restore and more.  

Sonya: How will Instant Access help our customers in the future?

Weibao: We are expanding the technology to more applications and use cases in future versions of NetBackup. Also, our engineering teams are continuously improving performance and scalability to minimize customer downtime in large enterprise environments in case of widespread outages or ransomware attacks.

A big thank you to Weibao for sharing a glimpse into the history behind Instant Access. It is interesting to hear that it originated as a fun side project and grew into an innovative technology that is now a very solid and intelligent system for NetBackup.

I would add that Instant Access for VMware is a key component differentiating NetBackup from our competitors, especially in extra-large environments. Why? We had a head start and years to perfect the technology! While our competitors were busy beta testing or rushing software to market, Veritas had far surpassed those product development milestones and was deep into deploying reliable product features in our customers’ production environments. It is no wonder that the world’s largest enterprises trust Veritas. Our 30-year legacy brings peace of mind that our customers’ most important asset—data—is well protected, efficiently, and at scale.