Snapshots are a Feature not a Solution Posted on Dec 2nd, 2019 by William Bush

Categories: NetApp, RestoreManager

Snapshots are a thing of great beauty and utility. They have enabled data to be protected and reused quickly and efficiently. They now provide many organizations with the foundation of their data reuse and data protection solutions. Snapshots have regularly saved organizations from major incidents and disasters via the enablement of quick recovery of data.

Storage snapshots are a feature offered via the vast majority of enterprise storage players NetApp, IBM, Pure Storage, Dell EMC and others. The key word in that sentence is FEATURE. Storage snapshots are only a piece of the puzzle and not a complete solution for enterprise data protection. 

NetApp was one of the pioneers of storage snapshots and introduced the "point-in-time" storage snapshot capability. They enabled the orchestration of snapshots, SnapMirrors and SnapVaults via ONTAP and provided end users with a comprehensive scheduling engine in the product, a function that some vendors did not and still do not natively include. If you are or use one of those vendors, don't worry. Check out Catalogic ECX to see how we can fill that gap for you.

The key puzzle piece missing for NetApp users to turn snapshots from a feature into a solution is a central catalog to understand what data sits in these snapshots. Because much of what sits in these snapshots is completely dark. Would you settle for a car insurance plan with mystery coverage limits and no way to file a claim easily? Then, why settle for something similar for your data?

RestoreManager creates a central, online file index of every NetApp snapshot, giving you a single catalog-based view into your files and all their protected versions to go back to. You can search snapshots using multiple criteria and restore files and folders right from within RestoreManager with a single click. The catalog and one-click orchestration extends snapshots from being a feature to a viable solution for operational data recovery.

Furthermore, RestoreManager indexes both primary and secondary storage. Very often, primary snapshots are only maintained for a few days. Many customers rely on SnapMirror and SnapVault array-based replication options to keep a secondary and tertiary copy for DR. Array replications are often the most efficient form of replication because it preserves dedupe and compression. Third party backup appliances tend to rehydrate the data and reduce it back at the target – a lot of burden on both primary and secondary controllers for a net zero effect.

By also indexing SnapMirror and SnapVault destination volumes, Restore Manager can find older versions of files that have been moved off your primary storage. This extension, combined with the more efficient array-based replication methods, extends the snapshot from a feature to not just a solution for operational recovery, but also a solution for disaster recovery.

Similarly, as organizations look to archive data into the Cloud, RestoreManager recently introduced the ability to archive snapshots from NetApp storage to Amazon S3. For S3, users can upload specific files or folders, or upload entire snapshot images. These can be scheduled for incremental updates as well. Files uploaded to S3 remain in the RestoreManager file index and are searchable. Files in S3 remain searchable even if the corresponding NetApp snapshot is deleted. When restoring, files or folders can be chosen to download from S3 when on-prem copies aren’t available.

RestoreManager enables NetApp users to turn snapshots into a valid data protection solution

So how does RestoreManager work?

Immediately after a new Snapshot of a volume has been generated, RestoreManager uses the SnapDiff API to gather the relevant metadata from the files and folders and loads this data to its central database. Searching is now easy with this central index in place. With a single click, you can restore the files you find to a specific folder or to their original location.

Many filters enable targeted searching:

  • By file name, parts of the name or file path, with wildcards being permitted
  • By data type or file ending: jpg, xls, doc, ppt, etc.
  • By deletion period
  • By creation period
  • By file size

RestoreManager can selectively index primary systems only, secondary systems only, or both. The choice is up to the users and depends on file recovery requirements. RestoreManager utilizes a highly scalable Elasticsearch database to store its index and serve your search queries.

RestoreManager supports all versions of the ONTAP operating system for NetApp primary storage systems. For NetApp SnapVault and SnapMirror targets, RestoreManager works with both ONTAP and NetApp Cloud Backup (formerly AltaVault).

RestoreManager now also provides even better value for money following the addition of the Kibana Dashboards which allows the rich metadata catalog to be turned into visual insights:

  • The number of files and total storage space used by files based on their type (e.g. Office files, email, images, etc.)
  • The age of your file data, which can also be grouped by type
  • How to identify unused or under-used storage and VMDKs
  • How to identify stale files that haven’t been accessed over a defined period

Restore Manager now offers Data Analytics as well. Please review our updated datasheets here: Scalable NetApp File Catalog with Data Analytics

If you are interested in learning more, contact us. We can provide product demonstrations on demand as well set you up with a quick and easy proof of concept.