Information Faster Blog

The problem of cars and IT

By Andreas Schwegmann

Why do cars consume so much fuel? Why does IT consume so much power and money? The answer is simple. Both are oversized to protect what they have been built for.

Cars are built for humans who cannot even withstand a crash at low speeds without proper protection by the car. In case of a crash the weight of the passengers and the car could easily be 10 times or even 50 times more than normally. To withstand the unbelievable forces of negative acceleration, modern cars weigh 2 to 5 times more than absolutely necessary -- which results in big engines, expensive cars, and high fuel consumption. To build a perfectly safe car you would probably even need a 10 to 100 times weight factor.

IT infrastructures have been built to store and manipulate data which could easily disappear for many reasons. Compared to the total data volume stored, the changed or moved data volume is minimal.

But what happens if disaster strikes? In that case you need to move the full amount of data back from a hopefully existing backup in the shortest possible time. Maybe you can afford long-distance replication - and you are done. But most organizations can’t. To make matters even worse, government regulations or internal retention policies dictate that IT must be able to retrieve data from 10+ years ago, just in case.

The most common solution for IT is to copy data to another disk or tape, or both. To guarantee data retrieval over a long period of time it is sufficient to copy all changes to a remote place and to keep it there. For a fast full recovery of an entire server or storage array the current backup data must be accessible directly. A chain of data changes of the last decade is the slowest possible way to recover a full server.

As a result, many administrators do it the other way around. They create periodic full backups of all data and for long term retention they simply keep those backups. The costs of full backups, however, are immense. You need the IT infrastructure to copy all your data consistently in a short backup time window. This copy process typically requires 10 to 100 times more IO than normal operation. It breaks all efforts you took to virtualize your servers for more efficient resource usage, without even talking about the amount of wasted storage containing 50 copies of the same file.

HP might not know the answer for the car problem yet, but HP does know how to solve the backup problem.

The unique HP Data Protector Virtual Full backup solves the problem for all Windows and UNIX file servers. HP Data Protector copies all changes in the file system incrementally to a separate disk. This is an inexpensive way to backup the data and to keep it for an infinite amount of time. For a fast full recovery, a 'Virtual Full Backup' can be consolidated from the existing incremental backups without the need to store duplicate files. The virtual full does not need to copy any data from the source. With Virtual Full you get a full backup for the price of an incremental backup, but with the recovery speed of a full backup. In case you want a full backup on tape HP Data Protector just copies the Virtual Full to tape.

There is more than file servers? You are right! To be continued …

Last but not least -- I’m always interested in solving backup and recovery problems. If you have ideas about how to address a particular challenge or if you have have run into backup issues yourself, please drop me an e-mail at


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