ESG’s Steve Duplessie has a great new blog post this week titled IT Chasms, Gaps and A New World Order. Featuring Steve’s classic, straight shooting style, it is well worth your while to give it a read. It focuses mostly on networking (the kind with routers, not meeting people for a drink), but he makes a very interesting point about storage that I think are important and want to explore further.
After discussing how important it is for vendors to help customers develop applications faster, Duplessie says this:
The bigger truth is telling a storage buyer that your stuff is awesome because he can go faster running VMware is cool, but telling the App owner that your storage features will enable them to cut test and Q/A time by 30% is where the money is.
Hats off to that! Steve is dead-on here. And one of the ways to do this – I would argue the best way – is by using your backup storage.
Let’s step back a bit. Normally, when you hear vendors talking about using storage for test/dev tasks they start talking about snapshots and clones, and that usually means doing this with your primary storage. Does it work? It does, but there’s a price to pay.
First, primary storage is expensive, and using up high-speed disk resources for tasks that do not require high-performance is spending money you’d rather not spend. Second, it impacts performance. Many disk array snapshots create quite a bit of impact on performance because the copy-on-write model means two writes and one read every time a block is written. To provide a hypothetical example, if “Barry the Unruly Developer” wants to do a lot of test/dev work off your primary disk, you risk serious impact to production performance.
If you happen to use NetApp for your primary storage, you happily avoid this performance penalty because not all snapshots are created equal. But what if you don’t have NetApp primary storage?
That’s where NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup (NSB) can help. NSB lets you back up from any primary storage environment to a NetApp FAS device. When NSB captures data, it stores it using NetApp Snapshots. And guess what? You have full access to cloning capabilities. The benefits of this are many.
1. Everything is running on secondary storage. That means low-cost SATA drives with loads of capacity.
2. Everything is running on secondary storage. That means that no matter how many clones you spin up, no matter how hard “Barry the Unruly Developer” bashes away at the system, the impact to your production environment is zero, as in none whatsoever!
3. Everything is running on secondary storage. That means it’s all consolidated onto a single hardware platform, no matter what mix of primary disk you have. It even protects boot drive data that’s not on a SAN, so Barry has access to all the application information, not just the data volumes.
4. Everything can also run on tertiary storage. Just use SnapMirror replication to send your backups to a DR site, and you can do all your test/dev over there.
5. It’s all super easy. NSB overlays the NetApp Snapshot and FlexClone features with super-simple workflows. That means the person dishing out the storage to the test/dev folks doesn’t have to know how a NetApp FAS works. How many steps does it take to provision a 2 TB SQL database volume clone to a dev? A couple of mouse clicks. You can see how it’s done here.
6. It’s physical. It’s virtual. It’s virtu-physical! NSB can take any backup from any server and boot it from a FlexClone into a new VM in about ten minutes start to finish. That’s right. When “Barry the Unruly Developer” demands a SQL Server instance to work on, you can say “Ten minutes Barry!” And ten minutes later Barry has a brand new VM running he can play with all he likes. All running off a FlexClone, using zero extra storage footprint. And running – did I mention this? – from secondary storage or even tertiary, if you’d rather have Barry as far away as possible! To see how this works, click here.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. We have users doing this every day, leveraging their backup data for tasks beyond recovery: development, testing, data mining, reporting, even virus scanning. Anything you want to do that requires copies of your data and you would prefer to off-load from production hardware.
Saves time. Saves money. So easy that your most inexperienced IT person can be designated as “the guy that Barry gets his data from.” (And not to worry inexperienced IT person – you can schedule NSB to deliver Barry his data every day, automatically).
It makes you smile. It makes Barry smile. What’s not to love?