Users handle NetApp backup in the array

NetApp backup strategies can consist of carving out space in the array instead of adding a separate disk target.

NetApp’s backup business plans have come under scrutiny by industry analysts since the vendor failed in its bid to buy Data Domain more than two years ago, but not all of NetApp’s customers need a separate disk backup system.

Raleigh, N.C.-based pharmaceutical consulting company Campbell Alliance Group, Inc. and Canadian-based water park builder WhiteWater West Industries Ltd. are examples of NetApp customers who carve out room on their NetApp arrays for backup. They use either the vendor’s snapshot technology or one of its software partners to back up data.

Juan Granados, director of IT for Campbell Alliance, knew he needed a better backup system after he performed a baseline test restore of the company’s Knowledge Management System in early 2010, and discovered the system took nearly three weeks to restore 10 TB of data from tape.

“It quickly became apparent that would not be business-viable going forward,” Granados said. “Our staff is mostly consultants traveling to client sites who need access to data. Time is money for people who need access to data. We were doing everything traditionally [on tape], but we needed to find a way to do things cleaner and faster. We wanted to go to disk.”

The company brought in a NetApp FAS2040 for storage and backup. He planned to use the NetApp system for file shares and other storage needs, but wanted to get the backup problem fixed first. It wasn’t until the second half of 2010 that he discovered NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup (NSB), which he said helped reduce the backup window from 13 hours per day to about an hour or two, as well as enabling him to increase the number of back ups from one to two times each day.

NSB is developed and sold by Syncsort, but is tailored specifically to turn NetApp storage into a backup target. It takes advantage of NetApp’s snapshot technology, and performs what Syncsort calls Zero Impact Block Level client-side data reduction to send only blocks of data that have changed since the last backup.

“Syncsort takes a full snap once, then it just backs up changed data at block level,” Granados said.

Campbell is heavily virtualized with VMware ESX, and Granados said he takes advantage of NSB’s Instant Virtualization and Full Virtualization features to speed backups. Full Virtualization creates a virtual machine with a complete copy of source data in a VMDK file, and Instant Virtualization maps to the source data to reduce recovery time.

Granados said his company still uses tape for disaster recovery, but he plans to purchase a NetApp V-Series 3140 storage virtualization box for an offsite location and mirror data between sites for DR. He considers it a big advantage to be able to use his main storage system as his disk backup.

“Other dedupe backup appliances are unitaskers -- they have a NAS device dedicated to backup and that’s all their good for,” Granados said. “This way I can carve out space for NAS, file shares, and backup.”

Snaps for Exchange push tape into background

WhiteWater West uses NetApp as its primary storage, but the storage arrays also play a big role in the company’s backups -- especially Microsoft Exchange -- according to senior systems engineer Dan Morris.

Morris said he has a FAS3120 connected to a 24-slot tape autoloader in his main office in Richmond, British Columbia, and a FAS2050 four hours away in Kelowna, B.C., and moves important accounting files between systems with NetApp’s SnapMirror replication.

Morris said before turning to NetApp three years ago, his storage consisted of standalone servers with direct attached storage. “It was pretty much impossible trying to back those up,” he said. “When you run out of space, what do you do? If one shelf fills up, do you go out and buy a new one and Robocopy to the new one?”

WhiteWater uses NetApp’s snapshot technology for instant backup and restores, allowing the company to keep only 30 days of Exchange data online.

“Every night NetApp snapshots Exchange, and we have only had to recover a file from tape once,” Morris said. “It was outside of the snapshot retention range. I don’t have to worry about the data I keep on disk, and you can restore whatever you want from SnapManager.”

Morris said he uses Symantec Backup Exec for tape backups and his disk backups go to the NetApp arrays with SnapManager. Whitewater is a Microsoft Hyper-V shop, so he runs SnapManager for Hyper-V to snap and restore virtual machines.

“Our tape is for full-blown disaster recovery, if both buildings blow up,” Morris said.

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