NetApp CommVault OEM Relationship Harnesses the Power of Snapshots in Physical and Virtual Environments

Backup redesign continues to be one of the hottest topics among end users for three years running with blog entries on that topic on DCIG’s website consistently being among the most read. The problem is that many backup redesign offerings turn out to be just a rehash of the way backup has always been done which is inadequate when it comes to protecting growing virtual server environments. Today’s announcement regarding the new CommVault and NetApp OEM relationship changes that by providing enterprises a better method to harness the power of snapshots to better protect their growing virtual and traditional physical environments.

Over the last few years a number of new VM backup solutions and/or features have emerged that take advantage of new virtual server operating system features that provide much faster backup and recovery techniques. Among these image-based backups using VMware’s change block tracking (CBT) and source-based data deduplication have emerged as the two most prominent and successful ways to accomplish this.

But a potential problem with either of these approaches is that they still rely on computer resources on the physical vSphere or Hyper-V host t to complete the backup of VMs it hosts. While these techniques help to reduce the overhead on these hosts, they still consume some compute cycles and network bandwidth.

Further, some level of application knowledge may be required to appropriately schedule the backups of individual VMs so these backups do not negatively impact the performance of other applications or backups of VMs running on that host.

So as more enterprises look to host hundreds, thousands or even potentially tens of thousands of VMs in their environments as some already do, there is a fundamental need to redesign how VMs are protected. New techniques should enable them to be done:

  • Automatically
  • More quickly
  • Non-disruptively
  • Non-intrusively
  • Off-host

Storage array-based snapshot and replication technology has often been viewed as the natural evolution of host-based backups (VM or otherwise.) Unfortunately to date it has been too costly and difficult to implement. Backup software did not do a good job of supporting storage array snapshot features, storage administrators did not want to get in the data protection business and, in those instances where integration between backup software and storage array snapshots did exist, backup software and storage array licensing costs precluded its adoption.

Today’s announcement regarding the new partnership between CommVault and NetApp does more than provide the broader architecture that is needed for the backup and management of VM backups and recoveries to succeed in today’s enterprise virtualized environments. It also overcomes the historical objections associated with using backup software and storage array-based snapshots as well.

The crux of today’s announcement is that NetApp and CommVault have entered into a global OEM relationship whereby NetApp can directly sell SnapProtect  to integrate into virtual and physical environments through a single common data management platform for data stored on the NetApp Array. But the value of this relationship stems from how enterprises can now take advantage of the two leading products in snapshot technology and efficient array replication (NetApp) and storage-array snapshot management technology (CommVault.)

In a 2011 Midrange Array Snapshot Software Buyer’s Guide that DCIG recently completed, NetApp achieved the highest score in storage array snapshot functionality. Harnessing that functionality is, however, easier said than done if the backup software is not capable of managing it.

By NetApp now partnering and reselling CommVault and its SnapProtect™ feature, enterprises can take full advantage of NetApp’s Snapshot®, SnapMirror® and SnapVault® features through CommVault’s interface. For example, CommVault can schedule and manage:

  • NetApp Snapshots of individual VMs in the same way as other backups. CommVault SnapProtect’s heightened integration with NetApp’s Snapshot enables enterprises to get all of the features that they normally expect when doing backups. Restores of individual files, data classification and snapshot managementare donein the same way as the management of any other backup copy residing on disk or tape.
  • NetApp SnapVault which only copies of block of data that have changed since the backup.SnapVault enables to backups to be scheduled and taken more frequently so there are more restore points while minimizing the amount of storage capacity consumed.  Using CommVaultorganizations can also schedule how frequently SnapVault copies are taken and how long they are retained.
  • NetApp SnapMirror to facilitate the offsite movement of data and application recovery.Managing the movement of data offsite and then managing data and application recoveries once data is offsite remains an Achilles’ heel in many backup redesigns. But by CommVault natively managing SnapMirror, organizations can both take advantage of SnapMirror’s thin replication capabilities and bring the management of that replicated data and the recovery of the application data under Simpana’s control.

These multiple integration points between CommVault and NetApp enable enterprises that are looking to implement server virtualization and cloud based infrastructures to seamlessly move the overhead associated with VM backup from the physical servers to the NetApp storage array. Further, these VM snapshots may be left on the NetApp array and used by CommVault as the source for data recovery or copying it off to disk or tape for longer term retention.

But what makes this both affordable and practical for enterprises to implement is that CommVault now has a capacity based licensing model which gives CommVault users get access to ALL Simpana features. So when they deploy CommVault in a NetApp environment, SnapProtect is already part of the solution, not another backup software license that they first have to justify purchasing.

As enterprises virtualize their environments, they also want to redesign their backup infrastructures but have resisted doing so because it was not easy or cost-effective to implement or manage. This new OEM relationship between CommVault and NetApp removes that objection. In so doing it opens the door for enterprises to do more than accelerate their deployment of virtualization. It provides them the tools that they need to facilitate the redesign of their backup infrastructures that support these virtualized environments.

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