Commvault Turns Snapshots Into 'Proper' Backups

As we discussed a few weeks ago, you can certainly argue that snapshots, when combined with replication, could serve as an adequate backup system. My biggest objection was that snapshots lack the catalog that conventional backup applications build as they back up data. Commvault's SnapProtect fills that gap by providing catalogs and a management console for snapshots across a variety of arrays and other snapshot providers.

Howard Marks

March 21, 2011

2 Min Read
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As we discussed a few weeks ago, you can certainly argue that snapshots, when combined with replication, could serve as an adequate backup system. My biggest objection was that snapshots lack the catalog that conventional backup applications build as they back up data.  Commvault's SnapProtect fills that gap by providing catalogs and a management console for snapshots across a variety of arrays and other snapshot providers.

SnapProtect integrates Commvault's Simpana backup with the snapshot capabilities of most midrange and enterprise disk arrays or even CommVault's own software provider. With SnapProtect, you can schedule snapshots through the Simpana backup console.

When your backup schedule calls for a snapshot, Simpana calls the Commvault VSS provider, for Windows servers, and the snapshot API for your disk array to create an application consistent snapshot. Application consistent snaps are also supported for Oracle and on several Linux distributions and Unix flavors with the usual scripting.

The Simpana backup server then mounts the snapshot, runs the database integrity check you may have specified and catalogs the snapshot. From that point on, you can restore files, or Exchange objects like e-mail messages, through the Simpana console from the snapshot just as if it were a conventional backup but without having to actually copy the data off your disk array.   

When you decide to actually copy your data off your primary array for longer-term retention, Simpana backup with SnapProtect can use any of the snapshots you've created as its data source. Like VMware vStorage API backups, this process offloads the backup load from the source server and your data center LAN since the Simpana media server mounts the snapshot across the SAN and copies the data to whatever backup repository you decide to use.  This has most of the advantages of the SCSI block copy LAN-free backups that were pitched as major reason to use a Fibre Channel SAN back in the day, without most of the drawbacks.

For reasons I can't really explain, I am intrigued by the idea that rather than have the data for my server backups come from whenever the backup job for that particular server came up in the backup schedule, I can have all my server backups for the week use the Friday 7 p.m. snapshot data. That way my weekly full backup will reflect my whole data center at a single point in time. I can't come up with a good reason for it, but it just seems cool.

So Commvault's SnapProtect option makes snapshots look like conventional backups and uses snapshots to enable good, LAN-free backups. Looks like the future to me.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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