posted by Chander Kant on Tue 29th Nov 2005 08:51 UTC
IconThis was a mixed Thanksgiving weekend for open source communities. We had a renewed PR onslaught from proprietary software vendors ("Linux is anti-commercial") and even hardball politics. But there were lot of interesting announcements made: Firefox 1.5, codenamed "Deer Park" will finally be unwrapped on November 29th (I have been using the beta, and I love it). Among all this activity and with little fan-fare, the Amanda project launched its new Wiki and Forums.

Amanda is the world's most popular open source Backup and Archiving software. Amanda allows system administrators to set up a single backup server to back up multiple hosts to a tape- or disk-based storage system. Amanda uses native dump and/or GNU tar facilities and can back up a large number of workstations running various versions of Linux, Unix, OS X or Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Amanda's developer and user community can easily be characterized as modest and understated. But given tens of thousands of systems being protected by Amanda, hundreds of thousands of downloads of the software and inclusion in every major distribution it is hard not to notice her. Amanda recently got the Linux Journal Readers' Choice Award for Favorite Backup System. O'Reilly considers Amanda one of the Top Five Open Source Packages for System Administrators.

The Amanda wiki represents the logical next step in Amanda's evolution. It allows for collaborative enhancement and fine-tuning of documentation enabling system administrators to help each other. An ever improving open documentation like this represents yet another huge advantage that open source projects such as Amanda have over their proprietary counterparts.

Amanda wiki contains Amanda user information, man pages and developer information. Developer information includes all APIs used in Amanda between the media and the backup clients. Availability of APIs in the wiki will help in greater collaboration within the developer community.  The wiki also contains a wishlist of Amanda features. Some of these planned features include support for backing up live applications, optimizing disk-based backups and support for client-initiated backup (e.g. to support mobile devices, which may not be around at planned backup schedule).

Amanda Forums will be a valuable tool for Amanda users to exchange data protection techniques in general and information specific to Amanda. Amanda developers will also find it useful in discussing new features and API development.

Beta for an upcoming release (2.5.0) of Amanda came out recently and is available for download here.  This long awaited release incorporates the ability of backups to span multiple media devices. This feature removes the need for creating multiple backup entries (disklist entries) to backup large amount of data. This release is compatible with the earlier Amanda release (2.4.5). This allows Amanda users to migrate the Amanda backup server to 2.5.0 without migrating Amanda clients (i.e. systems being protected) to 2.5.0. Amanda has a significant installed base, so this rolling upgrade would help system administrators to upgrade the existing installations.

Recently security of backup process has been a hotly discussed topic. Encryption of data while it is being moved from a client to a backup server as well as while it is stored on the backup media is critical for privacy concerns and compliance requirements. New security features, such as data encryption support (done either on the clients or the backup server) and support for ssh for communication between backup server & client, help Amanda users in addressing these issues. The new release also has abstracted secure communication API that will allow developers to add different communication plugins between backup server and client.

Overall the focus of the release is on simplicity of installation, security of communication & backed up data, and scalability of the backup process.

Amanda project page
Amanda Wiki
Amanda Forums

About the Author:
Chander Kant is the CEO of Zmanda, Inc. Zmanda provides open source data protection and archiving solutions and services.

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