Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Amanda Enterprise: IT Manager’s Backup Solution

A backup server represents a very important component of any IT infrastructure. red hat logoYou need to pick the right components to implement a scalable, robust and secure backup server. The choice of the operating system has crucial implications. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) provides many of the features needed from an ideal OS for a backup server. Some of these include:

Virtualization: RHEL includes a modern hypervisor (Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Hypervisor) based on the Kernel-Based Virtual Machine (KVM) technology.  Amanda backup server can be run as a virtual machine on this hypervisor. This virtual backup server can be brought up as needed. This provides optimal resource management, e.g. you can bring up the backup server just at the time of backup window or for restores. A virtualized backup server also makes it much more flexible to change the resource levels depending on the business needs, e.g. if more oomph is needed from the backup server prior to a data center move.

High I/O Throughput:
Backup server represents huge I/Os, typically characterized by large sequential writes. RHEL, both as real and virtual system, provides high I/O throughput needed for a backup server workload. RHEL 5 allows for switching I/O schedulers on-the-fly. So, a backup administrator can fine tune I/O activity to match with higher level function (e.g. write-heavy backups vs. read-heavy restores).

Security: Securing a backup server is critical in any overall IT security planning. In a targeted attack, a backup server provides a juicy target because data that is deemed to be important by an organization can be had from one place. Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) in RHEL implements a variety of security policies, including U.S. Department of Defense style mandatory access controls, through the use of Linux Security Modules (LSM) in the Linux kernel. Amanda supports RHEL SELinux configuration. It allows users to run backup server in a secure environment.

Scalable Storage:
Storage technologies built into RHEL provide scalability needed from backup storage. The Ext3 filesytem supports up to 16TB file systems. Logical Volume Manager (LVM) allows for backup storage on a pool of devices which can be added to when needed. System administrators can also leverage Global File System (GFS) to provide backup server direct access to data to be backed up, by-passing the production network.

Compatibility: RHEL is found on compatibility matrix of any modern secondary storage device - whether it be a tape drive, tape library or a NAS device. RHEL also supports wide variety of SAN architectures, including iSCSI and Fibre Channel. This, along with Amanda’s use of native drivers to access secondary media, gives IT managers the widest choice in the market for devices to store backup archives.

Manageability: Easy update mechanism, e.g. using yum, from Redhat Network makes it easier for the administrator to keep the backup server updated with latest fixes (including security patches). Amanda depends on some of the system libraries and tools to perform backup and recovery operations. A system administrator can pare down a RHEL environment to only have bare-minimum set of packages needed for Amanda, and then use RHN to keep these packages up-to-date.

Long Retention Lifecycle: Many organizations need to retain their backup archives for several years due to business or compliance reasons. Each version of RHEL comes with seven year support. This combined with open formats used by Amanda Enterprise makes it practical for IT managers to have real long-term retention policies, with a confidence to be able to recover their data several years from now.

starbucks coffee
In summary, if you are in the process of making a choice for your backup server, RHEL should certainly be in the short-list for operating systems, and (yes, we are biased) Amanda in the short-list for backup software.  We will discuss this combination in detail in a webinar on January 21st. Red Hat is warming up this webinar by offering a $10 Starbucks card for every attendee. Join us!

Comments are closed.