My Latest Project: BackTrac Backup System

My life has been pretty busy as of late, mostly with a new project I am working on called Backtrac. I am developing a network backup solution, written entirely in Python - using the Django framework as a front-end web interface. This came at quite a good time, as I've been asked to give a presentation on any highly technical topic, on which I know my stuff. The plan is to use Backtrac as a base, and to explain the technical concepts behind the system that make it work. The things I am going on concentrate on are:

  • Pyhon in general
  • Filesystem hardlinks
  • The MVC concept, and Django

This should be enough content to fill a 15-minute slot, I hope.

Now I'll explain a little bit about how Backtrac works, for the benefit of those not coming to the presentation.

What I wanted to achieve with Backtrac was a smart backup system, that doesn't necessarily have to be the fastest. I wanted a very detailed web interface, with scheduling capabilities and log view. I decided on Django for this, seeing as I had already decided on Python for the system itself.

The nodes in the system use XML-RPC to communicate, and SMB for the actual file-copying. The real bonus of this system is that it takes advantage of a little-understood feature, present in most modern file systems, called hardlinks. Hardlinks enable the user to essentially point to the same piece of data on a disk from more than one position. Essentially the concept is that if a file has been backed up before, why back it up again? Just create a link or "shortcut" (a hardlink) to the previously backed-up file. This is the basis for Backtrac.

Also, Django is turning out to be a real treat. This is the first time I have used an MVC like Django, and I'm really enjoying it. Web development is exciting again! I do agree with one point however, that Django makes the easy things easy, and the hard things impossible. Not quite impossible in my case, but I've had to do some pretty strange things to get Django to do what I want.

Finally, I've had the Backtrac project approved on, so watch out - I'll be doing the initial import soon and getting some web content online. First though, I have to decide on the best way to distribute the application. This is a bit more complicated than it might otherwise be, because there are three different aspects of the system - the client application, the server application, and the Django project. On this topic or any other, as usual, opinions are most welcome.