NetApp's Michael Goddard has posted useful directions on how to automate SnapProtect backup using OnCommand WFA (Workflow Automation).  It's in the WFA/OnCommand Community site:


It includes a data-model gathered from the SnapProtect SQL database for efficiency, and two example workflows with commands that will backup existing Subclients or restore in-place VM’s.

In this short webcast, independent IT analyst George Crump of Storage Switzerland, presents “Can Snapshots Replace Backups”?


In it, he discusses the pros and cons of using snapshots for backups, and only mentions vendors during the Q&A.  So first, kudos to George for doing strictly educational webcasts vs. some of the thinly disguised infomercials we sometimes see.  I highly recommend this recorded event if you want to understand things to consider when someone suggests that you look at snapshots for data protection.


As a NetApp guy, I have to point out one of his slides entitled “Modernizing Snapshots”.  He discusses the major things to look for in snapshots.  I won’t try to steal all his thunder, but in essence, he’s saying that all snapshots are not created equal and we could not agree more.  Here are a few of his key points in bold text, and my comments on them as they relate to NetApp (but I still recommend checking out the webcast).


  1. Optimize snapshot method by using pointer based snapshots.  As he suggests, snapshots that use pointers vs. actual copies are faster and more space efficient.  With NetApp, a Snapshot copy is a point-in-time file system image. Low-overhead Snapshot copies are made possible by the unique features of the WAFL® (Write Anywhere File Layout) storage virtualization technology that is part of Data ONTAP®,  our Storage OS. Like a database, WAFL uses pointers to the actual data blocks on disk, but, unlike a database, WAFL does not rewrite existing blocks; it writes updated data to a new block and changes the pointer. A NetApp Snapshot copy simply manipulates block pointers.   So … fast and space efficient.
  2. Optimize snapshot method by implementing compression and  deduplication.  NetApp® data deduplication and data compression are fundamental components of our core Data ONTAP® OS. These innovative data reduction features can be used across multiple applications and storage tiers–including primary data, backup data, and archival data–to help you manage your data resources with greater efficiency.  Efficiency means saving you time and money.
  3. Integrate with other tools. As most people know, our SnapVault and SnapMirror capabilities have been fully integrated with Data ONTAP for many years, and in the past few years, we and other backup vendors like CommVault, Symantec, and Syncsort have integrated our snapshot based solutions into their (your) backup solutions.  So you can enjoy the benefits of snapshots that George discusses, while continuing to use your favorite backup vendor.  Everyone wins.
  4. Replicate snapshots to local and DR sites. In the diagram below, we show how customers combine our local and remote snapshots with our premier backup software, SnapProtect, to create a fully integrated, application and virtualization-aware data protection solution, all managed from a single pane of glass.


So again, thanks to George Crump for asking the question “Can Snapshots Replace Backups?” and for his eloquent but concise answer on what to look for, to answer this question for yourself.


Recently, we introduced a SnapProtect feature called “SnapProtect for Open Systems”, aka “SPOS”.  It’s available in SnapProtect v10 SP4.  SPOS supports backups from direct attached and non-NetApp storage to NetApp Data ONTAP 7-Mode targets with file catalog, granular recovery and path-to-tape for Windows, Linux and Solaris file systems.  And it’s “application aware” of Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle applications.


Many mostly-NetApp shops have some files on their hosts or directly attached to their hosts and before now, they needed to use another backup product to protect them.  With SPOS, they can use SnapProtect for more than just NetApp storage.


This functionality requires a SnapProtect controller license on the destination (7-Mode Data ONTAP system) for SPOS backups.   That is, a SnapProtect controller license is required on the NetApp Data ONTAP 7-Mode controller, where the data firsts lands (as a result of the SPOS backup) from the non-NetApp source.  Clustered environments (operating system and/or applications) are not supported.


This short, 5 minute video demonstrates how to back up and restore files on a Linux server.  We’ll soon post a video showing the same thing on a Windows server. 

Just last week, NetApp CTO Jay Kidd published his IT predictions for 2014.  In my opinion, his view of the role of hybrid clouds will have the most impact on Data Protection.  Jay writes “The tension within IT on moving to the cloud will resolve as organizations recognize that a hybrid cloud model is needed to serve their application portfolio. CIOs will sort their application portfolio into those they must control entirely (in on-premise private clouds), control partially (in enterprise public clouds), as well as workloads that are more transient (public hyperscalar clouds), and those best purchased as SaaS.  IT will act as brokers across these diverse cloud models. This will also uncover the need to easily move application data between clouds and to provision consistent storage service capabilities across different cloud models.”


Though Jay doesn’t specifically call it out, Data Protection as a Service (DPaaS) will roll right along with the trend to SaaS and hybrid clouds. It’s no secret that with the increase in data, cost for protecting data is a huge burden.  At least one really well known industry analyst recently told me that it’s the #1 issue with IT managers.  And it’s not only the cost of capacity, but of managing all that backed up, replicated, and archived data.  For some data, the public cloud can really help, but most people are not ready to put their entire Data Protection eggs in that basket.  Hence, the value of the hybrid cloud and DPaaS..


NetApp isn’t directly in the DPaaS business, but many service providers are.  Recently, IDC reported that “NetApp is ranked #1 In Storage System Capacity Shipped For Public Cloud Infrastructure”.  Clearly, a LOT of service providers are using NetApp storage, and the Integrated Data Protection that ships with every copy of Data ONTAP as the backbone of their services.  So here’s the punch line.  If you want seamless Data Protection management, what better way is there than using the same tools you use for your NetApp provisioned private cloud?


If Jay is right, and CIOs accelerate their use of hybrid clouds, I expect that 2014 will be a busy one for DPaaS providers.

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