Why use NetApp snapshots even when you do not have Premium bundle software?

If you are extremely lazy and do not want to read any farther, the answer is “use snapshots to improve RPO and use ndmpcopy to restore files, LUNs and SnapCreator for app-consistent snapshots.

Premium bundle includes a good deal of software besides Base software in each ONTAP system, like:

  • SnapCenter
  • SnapRestore
  • FlexClone
  • And others.

So, without Premium bundle, with only Basic software we have two issues:

  • You can create snapshots, but without SnapRestore or FlexClone you cannot restore them quickly
  • And without SnapCenter you cannot make application consistent snapshot.

And some people asking, “Do I need to use NetApp snapshots in such circumstances?”

And my answer is: Yes, you can, and you should use ONTAP snapshots.

Here is the explanation of why and how:

Snapshots without SnapRestore

Why use NetApp storage hardware snapshots? Because they have no performance penalty and also no such a thing as snapshot consolidation which causes a performance impact. NetApp snapshots work pretty well and they also have other advantages. Even though it is not that fast as with SnapRestore or FlexClone to restore your data captured in snapshots, you can create snaps very fast. And most times, you need to restore something very seldom, so fast creation of snapshots with slow restoration will give you better RPO compare to a full backup. Of course, I have to admit that you improved RPO only for cases when your data were logically corrupted, and no physical damage was done to the storage because if your storage physically damaged, snapshots will not help. With ONTAP you can have up to 1023 snapshots per volume, and you can create them as fast as you need with no performance degradation whatsoever, which is pretty awesome.

Snapshots with NAS 

If we are speaking about NAS environment without SnapRestore license, you always can go to the .snapshot folder and copy any previous version of a file you need to restore. Also, you can use the ndmpcopy command to perform file, folder or even volume restoration inside storage without involving a host.

Snapshots with SAN 

If we are speaking about SAN environment without SnapRestore license, you do not have such ability as copying a file on your LUN and restore it. There are two stages in case you need to restore something on a LUN:

  1. You copy entire LUN from a snapshot
  2. And then you can either:
    • Restore entire LUN on the place of the last active version of your LUN
    • Or you can copy data from copied LUN to the active LUN.

To do that, you can use either ndmpcopy or lun copy commands to perform the first stage. And if you want to restore only some files from an old version of the LUN from a snapshot, you need to map that copy to a host and copy required data back to active LUN.

Application consistent storage snapshots 

Why do you need application consistency in the first place? Sometimes, in an environment like the NAS file share with doc files, etc., you do not need that at all. But if you are using applications like Oracle DB, MS SQL or VMWare you’d better have application consistency. Imagine you have a Windows machine and you are pulling hard drive while Windows is running, let’s forget for a moment that your Windows will stop working, this is not the point here, and let’s focus on data protection side of that. The same happens when you are creating a storage snapshot, data captured in that snapshot will be similarly not complete. Will the pulled off hard drive be a proper copy of your data? Kind of, right? Because some of the data will be lost in host memory and your FS probably will not be consistent, and even though you’ll be able to restore logged file system, your application data will be damaged in a way it hard to restore, because against of the data lost from host memory. Similarly, snapshots will contain probably damaged FS, if you try to restore from such a copy, your Windows might not start, or it might start after FS recheck, but your applications especially Data Bases definitely will not like such a backup. Why? Because most probably you’ll get your File System corrupted because applications and OS which were running on your machine didn’t have a chance to destage data from memory to your hard drive. So, you need someone who will prepare your OS & applications to create a backup. As you may know, application consistent storage hardware snapshots can be created by backup software like Veeam, Commvault, and many others, or you even can trigger a storage snapshot creation yourself with relatively simple Ansible or PowerShell script. Also, you can do application-consistent snapshots with free NetApp SnapCreator software framework, unlike SnapCenter, it does not have a simplistic and straight-forward application GUI wizards which help to walk you through with the process of integration with your app. Most times, you have to write a simple script for your application to benefit online & application-consistent snapshots, another downside that SnapCreator is not officially supported software. But at the end of the day, it is relatively easy setup, and it will definitely pay you off once you finish setting up.

List of other software features available in Basic software

This Basic ONTAP functionality also might be useful: 

  • Horizontal scaling, nod-disruptive operations such as online volume & LUN migration, non-disruptive upgrade with adding new nodes to the cluster
  • API automation
  • FPolicy file screening
  • Create snapshots to improve RPO
  • Storage efficiencies: Deduplication, Compression, Compaction
  • By default ONTAP deduplicate data across active file system and all the snapshots on the volume. Savings from the snapshot data sharing is a magnitude of number of snapshots: the more snapshots you have, the more savings you’ll have
  • Storage Multi-Tenancy
  • QoS Maximum
  • External key manager for Encryption
  • Host-based MAX Data software which works with ONTAP & SAN protocols
  • You can buy FlexArray license to virtualize 3rd party storage systems
  • If you have an All Flash system, then you can purchase additional FabricPool license which is useful especially with snapshots, because it is destaged cold data to cheap storage like AWS S3, Google Cloud, Azure Blob, IBM Cloud, Alibaba Cloud or on-premise StorageGRID system, etc.

Summary

Even Basic software has a reach functionality on your ONTAP system, you definitely should use NetApp snapshots, and set up application integration to make your snapshot application consistent. With hardware NetApp storage snapshots, you can have 1023 snapshots per volume, create them as fast as you need without sacrificing storage performance, so snapshots will increase your RPO. Application consistency with SnapCreator or any other 3rd party backup software will build confidence that all the snapshots can be restorable when needed.

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