Reconciling Avamar & Networker Disparate Backup Metrics

The Bocada Team | September 12, 2019

These days, it’s not uncommon to find backup environments using both Avamar and Networker to protect enterprise data. After all, as analysts point to time and time again, managing complex heterogeneous environments is the norm. With both applications owned by Dell EMC, it is fair to assume that their backup metrics would be similar and therefore having both would be a seamless environment with streamlined processes.

This is not the case. 

Developed at different points in time by different companies with different approaches to enterprise backup, normalizing reporting for Avamar and Networker can feel like an impossible feat yielding inconsistent results. Without an independent, centralized approach to aggregating these solutions’ raw data, backup and storage teams will be hard pressed to reconcile and report on their backup performance. 

Different Origins Mean Different Backup Approaches 

The disparities in backup metrics come from each of these tools’ origins. Entering the market in 1990, Networker was one of the first enterprise-scale backup products. Client-side data was pulled from Networker and stored directly to tape. At a time when organizations weren’t swimming in terabytes of data, the direct transfer of backup data day-after-day was manageable. Deduplication wasn’t a big deal. Yet! 

Almost ten years later, Avamar came about with deduplication as one of its core value propositions. Developed to do client-side dedup, end-users could centralize remote backup on a single backup instance. Upon its acquisition by EMC, it was touted as letting customers achieve up to a 300:1 daily data reduction ratio, a much-needed feature for enterprise IT teams now realizing backup data volumes were going to continue growing at increased rates. 

Different Backup Behaviors Means Challenging Backup Oversight 

Because these two tools were developed with different goals, they feature different ways of reporting on their backup activity. While they have both since been acquired by EMC, these disparities have not been natively addressed. As a result, backup teams will continue to face reporting and oversight challenges when managing both of these tools. 

SCENARIO #1: Different Backup Methods Impact Centralized Reporting & Billing

It’s frequently said that Networker reports on “data transferred” while Avamar reports on “data protected.” This comes back to how these tools came about in the first place.

Because Networker was initially created to pull backup data and store it on tape, it has historically pulled full and incremental backup data. That is, it’s transferring a lot of data time and time again, even if it’s duplicative data. In contrast, Avamar’s built-in client-side deduplication means it’s transferring less data and users instead are seeing the data it’s actively protecting

As an IT department or MSP with both Avamar and Networker in-use, what do you end up reporting on? Reporting on the data being protected doesn’t adequately reflect the amount of data being actively managed at any given time. In contrast, reporting on the data being transferred doesn’t adequately reflect the amount of critical data being stored. 

This challenge is compounded once billing gets factored in. Billing based on backup storage alone doesn’t reflect the wide range of servers and other hardware being used to pull in that backup data. Yet many MSPs do this today in spite of which backup products they are using, shorting themselves of potential revenue.  

SCENARIO #2: Deduplication Procedures Skew Reporting & Costs

As we just mentioned, Avamar was developed with deduplication capabilities out-of-the-box. However, because Networker doesn’t feature built-in dedup capabilities its users typically rely on Data Domain to cull out redundant data. While both are effective deduping solutions, they each have proprietary approaches. The end result: very different dedupe ratios. 

These disparities will leave organizations managing a heterogeneous Avamar-Networker environment with an incomplete understanding of their dedupe ratios. Further, understanding a backup team’s effectiveness at optimizing backup storage becomes challenging too.  

Billing comes into play here too. MSPs billing for backup-as-a-service (BaaS) or IT departments allocating budget costs will be hard-pressed to settle on a single billing approach. Do you charge for transferred data? Or, do you just charged for deduped data being actively stored? At what point, if any, do hardware costs factor into your billing model if you require incremental tools like Data Domain to mitigate data growth? 

There is no easy answer. However, organizations juggling Avamar and Networker environments have no single in-application tool to reconcile this.

Normalizing & Automating Backup Reporting 

In spite of centralized ownership under the Dell EMC backup and storage portfolio, Avamar and Networker have not been consolidated. As a result, organizations leveraging these tools, as well as other backup products, have no simple way to normalize and aggregate data efficiently. Muddying the waters further is that backup teams have little visibility into whether any approach they agree on meets industry standards. 

Independence has always been a hallmark of compliance and oversight, and its value holds true in this scenario as well. Independent solutions like Bocada that make a point of staying outside of performing backup activities themselves have a vested interest in consolidating disparate backup activities in actionable, normalized, and simplified ways. We know backup environments are only getting more complex. That’s why our core promise to customers is to automate backup oversight and streamline backup operations. After all, backup admins should be spending their time on strategic ways to optimize backup performance and drive cost efficiencies, not figuring out ways to parse raw data.