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Expert Interview: Dave Little

Employee Accredited

This week I got to interview one of my favorite NetBackup experts, Dave Little. Dave has a real knack for providing technical expertise, folksy wisdom, and deep insight into backup and recovery operations.

Tim: Tell us a little about your background Dave. What are you doing now, how long have you been working with NetBackup and what positions have you held?

Dave: I started working with NetBackup while I was still at Control Data Systems in Arden Hills.I worked in the mid 1990s with some of the engineers from the "backup group" prior to Control Data selling that group to OpenVision. This is the group that created the product we know today as NetBackup. I left Control Data after 29.7 years to go to work for OpenVision in their new support group in April 1997.While at Control Data I mostly worked in support and was the first and last super computer support engineer for them.I also supported their open systems including working with SUN, HP and SGI as Control Data was an authorized service provider (ASP) for these companies.I left support and joined sales in 1999 to try to fill Bill Coleman's very large shoes.I am currently a Senior Principal Product Specialist for the Field Technology Group (FTG).

[If some of these company names, like Control Data don't ring a bell for you, I suggest you pick up a book like "A History of Modern Computing" by Paul Ceruzzi which will explain how some of these pioneering companies paved the way for our industry today.]

Tim: In the last year, what is the most interesting trend you are seeing in the datacenter?

Dave: As you know trends come and go but the most interesting ones I have seen recently is the huge move to virtualization.

Tim: When is your favorite NetBackup feature and why?

Dave: I guess I would probably have to say that SSO is still my favorite feature.Is was the first feature I had much direct involvement with and was the first one where I actually went out to all of our tape hardware partners and teach them how to implement it and test with it so they could certify their libraries and drives.It is also the feature that separated us from the competition.

Tim: What is your favorite 6.5 new feature?

Dave: With all the great new disk features it is really difficult but for now, I would have to say my favorite 'feature' is Lifecycle Policies, assuming we finish the work and they really reach the full potential.Customers really get the potential they offer and are generally excited about it.We just need to finish the fine work we started.

[You can tell Dave just won't let us rest on our laurels.]

Tim: What is the one thing you would change about NetBackup?

Dave: I would make NetBackup more operator friendly.I know why we have a lot of the complexity in NetBackup and the administrators generally get this.However, I believe we continue to fall down in being able to let the operator/user know that a system is truly protected, not just that a bunch of jobs ran.Operators need to be able to up and down clients, not policies -- little things like that.When I am at conferences or seminars and these issues come up it is hard for me to defend NetBackup.Maybe the one thing I would change is usability for the operator.

Tim: What is the number one "best practice" you would like more customer's to adopt?

Dave: Determine all of your SLA's,  for both backup and recovery, so you can architect for true data protection.I don't know if that qualifies as a best practice but I would really like to see more folks do it.We need to provide more "best practice" guidance to our customers. I know the TPM group is doing some of this now and it is a very welcomed endeavor.

Tim: What is the scariest "worst practice" you have run into?

Dave: The worst thing I see is customers who install, configure and run NetBackup in production and never trying a restore.Believe it or not that does happen.

Tim: If you were writing your book, "Implementing Backup and Recovery: The Readiness Guide for the Enterprise" today, what would you change?

Dave: I would add more NetBackup specific information in the first book.David Chapa and I always thought we would do a revised version including that but the publisher has not been very supportive.

Tim: Disk has been getting a lot of publicity as a backup storage medium. Where do you see mix of disk and tape five years from now in the data center?

Dave: In the SMB businesses I see most of the short term retention backups being mostly on disk with tape being used mostly for compliance reasons.In the large enterprise we will see more of a mix but I really don't see tape going away even in the five year timeframe.What I try to discuss with customers is to figure out which media makes the most sense for which data and go from there.I am finally starting to see customers actually designing from the idea of restore requirements which is the only way to do it.More and more customers are actually establishing recovery SLA's.

Tim: How many miles have you flown in order to meet with our customers since you started?

Dave: I am still a little short of 2 million miles.


I would like to thank Dave for taking the time to be interviewed.

I think Dave really has hit on a key point about making NetBackup easier for operators to use. In the last few months my team has spent a lot of time talking to our customers and the theme of "client centric" views of data protection has been brought up by many of our customers. Here is a list of some of the suggestions I have heard.
1. The ability to easily determine if a client is protected.
2. The ability to disable a client in a policy
3. The ability to easily see which policies are protecting a client.
4. The ability to easily determine if all the clients that should be protected are actually protected.

If you have ideas you would like to share please leave a comment.

-- tim burlowski

Message Edited by Turlas on 04-15-2008 10:46 AM