A2 Guide for Existing Customers
Looks Can Deceive
From the outside, the A2 and Alike 4.x don’t seem so different.
The revamped and improved A2 web interface looks broadly similarly to Alike 4.x web interface, and all the features you’ve come to depend upon in Alike are all still all available, including agent-based and agentless backup, replication, and vaulting. Like Alike 4.x, the A2 boasts extensive support for XenServer and Hyper-V, as well as options for physical machine protection.
But similarities end there. The A2 is completely rebuilt from the ground up, resulting in a solution that’s easier to deploy, scale, and manage, and most importantly, that delivers the most consistent, high-performance backups of any Alike yet.
Let’s dig in to understand the how.
The A2 is a complete port of Alike from Windows installable software to Linux virtual appliance. This appliance is designed to be deployed on a wide variety of platforms.
Deploying Alike 4.x means licensing and building a Windows machine, and then installing the Alike software on it. With the A2, you download a virtual appliance and deploy it to your hypervisor of choice and are up and running instantly.
You don’t need to learn Linux in order to run the A2, as Alike offers a powerful Web interface and console menu system to handle administration tasks. But you will benefit from the new turnkey approach--as well as a lower total cost of ownership.
Updated Storage Formats
The Alike 4.x ADS format is complex, and exposes its internal file formats and directory structures directly to you. This structure can be challenging to move and maintain, as it is tied to the Alike 4.x installation itself.
By contrast, the A2 by default houses all your ADS data within a single encrypted sparse file. Licensing and scheduling data is stored within this single file. This simplifies common maintenance tasks, such as ADS migration or moving your A2 to a new location.
High-Performance Backup Architecture
The A2 requires a fraction of the I/O operations to complete the same workload of Alike 4.x. Fewer I/O operations means fewer IOPS per backup, and thus the potential to run more backups simultaneously.
Let’s understand why. 4.x Alike sends backup data to your ADS CIFS location by appending to a set of working files housed there. These working files are then processed by Alike during a “commit” phase, in which unique data is moved to the permanent ADS storage files.
The A2’s backups are sent back to the A2 appliance itself, rather than to the ADS location. This allows the A2 to process incoming data in stream. Backup data is thus only written to disk exactly once. The net result is a significant reduction in I/O. This translates to faster backups, improved scalability, and more economical use of network and disk.
Unlike Alike 4.x, the A2 does not depend on an external Windows driver or the ABD for file-level restore. Instead, backup images and files are available instantly from a CIFS share at all times. This provides another level of convenience and speed.
A2 by default stores its data in a sparse file protected with military-grade AES-256 encryption. The A2 also lets you select AES-256 protection at the Alike block level, ensuring your backup data is protected no matter where you send it, even if you select a public cloud.
A2 itself is also less susceptible to viruses and malware than Windows.
Local disk performance is critical to Alike 4.x performance and its ability to scale to large worksets. Slower local disk can cause a significant bottleneck for larger Alike 4.x deployments. Adding lots of RAM to Alike 4.x cannot compensate for local disk performance.
By contrast, the A2 does not rely on local disk for any performance-sensitive operation and uses RAM to cache, buffer, and coordinate simultaneous I/O operations. Adding RAM to the A2 will cause it to allocate more resources to these functions, which can improve scalability against more powerful storage backends.
A Greater Variety of Supported Storage
The A2 introduces a range of new storage types for its data stores. The ADS adds support for GlusterFS and NFS. The ODS adds support for a wide range of vault destinations, such as SSH-based remote storage and Google Cloud, with more planned.
While we don’t fault some of our Alike 4.x customers trying to make the most of their existing Microsoft licensing investments, this occasionally leads to Alike being installed on Windows hosts that are already busy doing other things. As every Windows install is a slightly different combination of Windows kernel, Windows updates, third-party drivers, and installed applications, Alike 4.x must be programmed around all sorts of curious and unusual circumstances.
The A2, by comparison, is basically vacuum-sealed. Nothing runs on it but Alike. The A2 benefits from a very predictable and controlled runtime environment.
Putting it All Together
The A2 is Quadric Software’s vision for the future of virtual backup. It has the performance, security, and convenience to meet any backup requirement, and the versatility to be deployed in organizations of all shapes and sizes.