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Snapshot, replication change backup management and scheduling

Snapshot, replication among storage tools are fueling a shift in how enterprises protect data. Data protection vendors are adding features that allow users to roll data back to specific points rather than just restoring from backups.

Recent increases in IT complexity and data growth have compounded the long-running issues of data growth and shrinking backup windows. Also, the need for near continuous uptime has some shops looking for alternatives to traditional backup, which has led to a rise in snapshot, replication and other tools.

The concept of "zero backup," is predicated on the idea that the more redundancy you have in place, the less frequently you need to run traditional full backups. "Less frequently" is the key though: Experts agree that zero backup does not replace traditional backup, but rather, is a way to address some of the challenges associated with it.

Mainstay data protection vendors have been working to meet the need, adding features that allow users to roll data back to specific points in time rather than relying exclusively on restoring from backups.

Snapshot, replication get sharper focus

Snapshot, replication and other emerging best practices for data protection are fueled in part by better hardware and feature-rich automation software. The technology advances are changing day-to-day level management and scheduling for backups, said Peter Eicher, a CommVault Systems Inc. senior manager of product marketing for data deduplication and data protection.

"One of the things you get with snapshots and a strong management tool is the ability to do backups off the snapshots. You still need to do backups and get data off the array, but that's the kind of thing [with snapshots] that you can do less often, because you're capturing data with snapshots for operational recovery," Eicher said.

Despite hoopla around software-defined storage and hyper-convergence, traditional hardware arrays remain a vital component for handling applications that are "getting gigantic," Eicher said, noting how one CommVault customer has a single application running across 300 disk logical unit numbers (LUN).

CommVault in 2012 launched a program for array vendors to broaden the footprint of its Simpana IntelliSnap Recovery Manager snapshot management technology. The IntelliSnap Connect Program includes a software development kit and open application programming interfaces to enable storage vendors to integrate array-based snapshots based on CommVault's Simpana software module.

IntelliSnap Recovery is integrated in primary storage arrays by NetApp Inc., Hitachi Ltd., Oracle and other hardware vendors. Eicher said other vendors are forging partnerships with CommVault as a way of keeping pace with competitors, although he declined to disclose any OEM deals.

Established backup vendors are not the only ones making moves to manage snapshots for data protection. Hyper-convergence vendor Maxta Inc. this year added Snapshot Scheduler to beef up the snapshot-management functionality in its Maxta Storage Platform (MxSP) system. Snapshot Scheduler lets users create thousands of snapshots per virtual machine and automatically generates management policies for scheduling, tracking and retention.

Snapshot Scheduler provides a user interface to select the day and time that specific VMs get backed up, how frequently snapshots are taken, and how long the images are retained. Snapshot Scheduler stores the information in its database and automates scheduling and policy management. Scheduled backups run in the background.

"Several of our customers want to use the efficiency of snapshots to replace traditional backup, but to make it work they needed the means to specify backup policies and the software to manage thousands of snapshots. We believe that we are the first software-defined company to integrate comprehensive policy making for snapshots, and enable customers to replace traditional backup with snapshot," Maxta Founder and CEO Yoram Novick said.

"It wasn't that many years ago that the backup administrator did it all: They chose the solution, ran the backup jobs, built the restores … but business needs are changing that dynamic. We're seeing virtualization administrators, file storage administrators, database administrators and other workload owners demanding more control over their own backup and recovery. They don't want to wait on a backup solution they didn't choose before they can jump back into gear," said Jason Buffington, a senior analyst with The Enterprise Strategy Group.

Storage teams need to look at how they tier backup technologies across the organization for different workloads, said Robbie Wright, a senior product marketing manager for virtualization and cloud at CommVault. "They may need to provide a gold level service level agreement [for critical data] -- the kind of zero backup methodology that involves a lot of snapshots, granularity and multiple recovery points during the day -- versus a silver or bronze methodology that includes streaming backups and more conventional approaches," Wright said.

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