Open Source Backup Bolsters Its Case

Startup Zmanda is making its play for the emerging open source backup market

By Don Reisinger, Byte and Switch — June 27, 2008 Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the need for backup and data recovery. Such is the extent of this explosion that the amount of data stored has grown 50-fold in the past three years, according to IDC's recent Digital Universe study.

But as that demand increases, the need for storage managers to find the right tools for the job is gaining ground as well. And although proprietary solutions such as Symantec’s Backup Exec have always led the pack, open source solutions are coming of age.

“Increasingly customers are finding value in a variety of ways by deploying open source software,” says Chander Kant, CEO and founder of Zmanda, a company that specializes in commercial open source backup and recovery solutions for Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac systems as well as databases and applications. “And as the benefits of open source backup become more well known, more customers will use it as an alternative solution to proprietary systems.”

One of the major benefits of deploying an open source solution revolves around the retention of information. Storing data in proprietary formats can be both costly and troublesome if you need to access that information years later. In a proprietary system, data can be restored only with the original backup application, meaning storage managers will be forced to use a specific vendor’s solution. But in an open source environment, data formats support restores using utilities like tar, rsync, cpio, and dump on Linux and Unix systems, and ntbackup on Windows. Open data formats also allow for easy migration from one platform to another.

But as Kant points out, the benefits don’t end there. The cost of deploying and maintaining an open source solution is much cheaper than proprietary, according to the Zmanda CEO. A Zmanda Premium Client and Backup Storage Server both cost $375 for Linux and Unix-based systems and $450 for a Windows Premium client, he explains.

Open source, by its very nature, may be a better choice because of the community’s ability to analyze the source code and gain a better understanding of how the solution works. Armed with that knowledge, the community sets out to help each other and create a best-of-breed customer service system.

“If a storage manager installs open source software and faces issues,” says Kant. “They can easily jump to a lively community with people who know everything about the product and are capable of answering your questions and giving you real-life lessons in how to optimize the performance of the tool.”

Open source backup vendors such as Zmanda and BackupPC, which, as its name suggests, is aimed at PCs and laptops, tout their technologies as a low-cost alternative to traditional backup offerings. As Kant points out, “A skilled systems administrator can deploy an open source backup solution without spending any cash whatsoever.”

Zmanda’s solutions use Amanda Network Backup — an open source solution that can and downloaded for free for those not looking for Zmanda’s add-on services for databases and applications.

Either way, open source backup is quickly gaining ground as one of the most important developments in backup and data recovery. With the help of a large community of users, the ability to customize the system in any way a storage manager sees fit, and a cost that can be as little or much as the manager would like, this message appears to be getting through to users.

Zmanda, for example, is already used by Travelocity,, defense giant Raytheon, and consumer review portal Yelp.

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