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Automating Your Disk Backup and Data Archive Part 3: NetApp Backup with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

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In the first and second parts of this series, we looked at the various ways in which database backups are performed in hybrid cloud and fully cloud-based environments. This included the use of file-based database backups as well as snapshot backups with services like AWS snapshots to make instant, point-in-time copies of a database of any size. We examined both Azure and AWS backup.

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP is an enterprise cloud data management platform built on top of the compute and storage resources provided by AWS and/or Azure. NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP makes available the same software used to run NetApp on-premises storage appliances in a cloud environment, thus providing significant advantages for storage and data management.

In this last part of the series, we’ll delve into the NetApp data backup solutions in Cloud Volumes ONTAP and how they can be used to create database backups in the same scenarios discussed previously in part one using AWS and in part two with using Azure. We will also consider the additional benefits of using Cloud Volumes ONTAP for other data replication operations, such as cloning.

Database Backup Solutions with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP

Backups are a necessity for database systems, especially in large enterprise databases where updates happen on a continual basis as new transactions take place. Such enterprise-level databases tend to be extremely large, so backups can be challenging, and approached differently depending on whether the storage solution is based in a hybrid or cloud-only architecture. In either case, the NetApp backup-to-cloud solutions with Cloud Volumes ONTAP provide ways to protect your data and provide enterprise backup solutions for databases.

Hybrid Cloud Systems with NetApp Storage

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP works together seamlessly with on-premises NetApp storage appliances, which makes it perfect for deploying environments to the cloud that still need to integrate with in-house systems. In the case of NetApp backups, if the on-premises database system is using iSCSI storage allocations from a NetApp storage system, application-consistent snapshot backups can be used to perform instant, space-efficient backups of a database of any size.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP snapshots created using NetApp SnapCenter are application-aware, making DB quiescence integral. This guarantees consistent backups of the database. These database backups can then be transferred off-site to a Cloud Volumes ONTAP instance through the use of SnapMirror® data replication.

SnapMirror is NetApp’s enterprise data replication technology and can be used to synchronize storage volumes between ONTAP systems for various use cases such as disaster recovery, cloud migration and more. After an initial baseline copy of the data, SnapMirror will copy over only the blocks that have changed in subsequent synchronization operations. This makes it fast and very efficient, even when working with large amounts of data.

For database backups, SnapMirror works especially well, as the data in an application database usually changes incrementally over time, rather than all at once. This backup solution is effective whether you’re using them for Azure or AWS disaster recovery, or another use case.

As discussed earlier in this series, application-consistent snapshots differ from crash-consistent snapshots in that they are performed in coordination with the application using the underlying storage, which in this case is the database system. Cloud Volumes ONTAP can easily bring a database to an application-consistent state and snapshot it, which is a major added value to its snapshot mechanism.

Rather than relying on complicated scripts to carry out this process, NetApp uses SnapCenter®, which can integrate with all major database platforms, including Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, as well as Windows file systems and VMware virtual machines. SnapCenter also supports plugins for SAP HANA and Exchange, can perform Role Based Access Control (RBAC), access through RESTful APIs, supports customization and extension, fully integrates with SnapMirror and more.

If database file backups are being used, as opposed to snapshot backups, these files can be stored in an NFS or CIFS file share served out from an on-premises NetApp system. This would make backup files available to all systems with access privileges to the share, and SnapMirror could be used to then transfer these files off-site to a Cloud Volumes ONTAP system.

Cloud Systems

Using NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP is just like using NetApp storage systems on-premises, with the same features and benefits readily available. A database system using iSCSI or NAS storage allocations from Cloud Volumes ONTAP can make use of application-consistent snapshot backups in exactly the same way as in an on-premises environment. SnapMirror can also replicate those backups to other Cloud Volumes ONTAP deployments, in a cloud-only or multi-cloud environments.

Cloud Volumes ONTAP HA for AWS high availability uses two storage nodes to provide continuous operation for the data being hosted. These nodes use synchronous replication to ensure an RPO of zero seconds, which means that when a snapshot is performed on a database, the same snapshot data is available on both nodes of the Cloud Volumes ONTAP HA system. This provides synchronous backup redundancy between nodes without the need to copy the backups after they have completed.

To provide region redundancy for the database backups, SnapMirror can be used to replicate the snapshot backups to another instance of Cloud Volumes ONTAP. This works in the same way as described earlier, using efficient, incremental transfer of only the blocks that change between snapshot backups.

The Added Value of Cloud Volumes ONTAP

There are more benefits that come with using Cloud Volumes ONTAP for database than just data protection. In this next section we’ll take a look at some of these benefits, including space-efficient data cloning and cost-cutting storage efficiencies, features that aren’t available using Azure or AWS snapshots.

NetApp FlexClone: Creating Database Clones

A common requirement for DevOps and software developers is for database cloning. However, temporary working copies of production databases can often be large in size. Using traditional techniques of restoring database backup files can take a long time to complete, as well as requiring enough additional storage space for a second, and maybe a third or fourth, copy of the database. Cloud Volumes ONTAP addresses this issue through its snapshot cloning feature, FlexClone®.

Using FlexClone, any snapshot can be used as the basis for instantly creating a new, writable storage volume. This clone volume is very space efficient and only consumes space for the data changes that are written to it. These features make it ideal for creating the short-lived copies of a database that are often required for software testing.

FlexClones can be created through OnCommand® Cloud Manager, which is the single-pane web-based UI used to deploy and manage instances of Cloud Volumes ONTAP. Through Cloud Manager, DevOps users can also access the RESTful API interface to automate this process and integrate it into their workflows.

Lowering Database Backups Costs with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

In addition to FlexClone, Cloud Volumes ONTAP deployments on AWS and Azure can both take advantage of the cost-cutting storage efficiencies to lower Azure storage consumption and AWS storage consumption, respectively.

Data deduplication allows your system to automatically eliminate wasteful duplicate block copies. Data compression keeps files stored as compactly as possible for the lowest amount of storage consumption. Thin provisioning only allocates storage as it is being written, as it is needed, which makes sure you only pay for the disk space that you actually use. And on AWS, data tiering to lower-cost Amazon S3 can make keeping infrequently-used files affordable and easy to access when needed. Thanks to this feature from NetApp, disaster recovery costs, for example, can be significantly lowered.

To see how your total costs for deploying with Azure or AWS can be lowered, take a look at our AWS calculator or Azure calculator.


Snapshots come into play for NetApp, Azure, and AWS database deployments. In part one of this series we looked at the way file-based and snapshot-based backups can be used for AWS database backups and in part two we saw the same with Azure database backups. There are pros and cons to both the AWS and Azure solutions, and in this article we looked at an alternative way to automate your database backup: Cloud Volumes ONTAP snapshots.

As we have seen in this article, the NetApp data backup solutions featured in Cloud Volumes ONTAP enable sophisticated handling of database backups, with support for backup redundancy, database replication, cloning, space- and time-efficient snapshots, multicloud and hybrid deployments, and the added benefits of cost-saving storage efficiencies.

Through the use of NetApp backup technology such as SnapMirror and SnapCenter, creating application-consistent snapshot backups of mission-critical database systems becomes easily achievable.

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