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Snapshot Management & Replication: A Buyer's Checklist

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Synopsis

Enterprises today increasingly turn to array-based snapshots and replication to augment or replace legacy data protection solutions that have been overwhelmed by data growth. The challenge is that native array snapshot tools – and alternative 3rd party solutions – have varying degrees of functionality, automation, scripting requirements, hardware support and application awareness. These approaches can add risk as well as administrative complexity and make it more difficult to realize the full potential of snapshots – whether in single disk vendor estates or in heterogeneous storage environments.

THE BASICS:

GUI DRIVEN – ERADICATE SCRIPTING

Managing snapshots has typically meant relying on tools from the disk array vendors, which can often require extensive scripting, monitoring and maintenance, both in general and specific to individual applications. Scripts introduce expense and risk but they also make it almost impossible to audit changes and produce effective reports.

APPLICATION AWARENESS

Historically, array-based snapshots have not been application aware, and often simply capture data blocks that are only crash consistent at a volume level. So you might meet your protection criteria – fast with little impact. The problem is recovery – often requiring labor-intensive manual transaction playback with less than optimal success rates. This approach makes snapshots for Operational or Disaster Recovery very risky.

HYPERVISOR AWARENESS

Server virtualization adds a layer of storage abstraction that array-based snapshots are often unaware of, making coordinating snapshots with hypervisors a complex process. This can also further complicate application protection with snapshots.

INDEX FOR FAST & GRANULAR FILE RECOVERY

Recovering a specific file from a snapshot often requires time intensive manual searching within each individual snapshot due to the lack of a comprehensive catalogue that provides index and search capabilities.

ADVANCED FEATURES:

MULTI-VENDOR MANAGEMENT CAPABILITY

Array tools are typically limited to vendor-specific arrays, i.e. they cannot be used across arrays from multiple different vendors, leading to increased cost and complexity. Where application support is available, the array vendor’s tools will often have a different management GUI per application or even by type of array, increasing training requirements.

POLICY BASED MANAGEMENT

The type of snapshot taken, frequency, how long it is retained and whether it is replicated can differ from vendor to vendor, array to array, application to application. Centralizing this under a common GUI for all the arrays in play simplifies daily management, automating processes all without the need for scripting.

CONSOLIDATED ALERTS AND REPORTING

When snapshots are managed by a multitude of different applications, potentially from different vendors, getting a handle on what’s going on can be difficult, so can setting up alerts and exception rules. Centralized alerts and reporting can provide insights enabling you to make decisions before problems arise, avoiding issues and reducing TCO.

FLEXIBLE LICENSING

Everything you need in one flexible license so you don’t have to worry about adding different types of arrays, OS or applications – you just cover the data capacities on the primary storage with a single capacity based license. Easy bolt-on of fully integrated replication, backup and dedupe functions.