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NDMP Backups Too Slow?: How to Shorten Your Backup Windows with Cloud Backup

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ONTAP users with network-attached storage (NAS) data may think that a Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP)-based technology is the solution for their backup challenges, but with the exponential growth of datasets today, NDMP is more likely to slow down your backup process, increase your costs, and potentially lose your data. NetApp has a better option for NAS backup.

NetApp Cloud Backup uses block-level incremental forever backups that are encrypted end to end to efficiently back up NAS data to object storage in the cloud or on NetApp StorageGrid appliances.

In this blog, we’ll introduce you to some of the reasons why NDMP just isn’t cutting it anymore, and show you how you can find out more about Cloud Backup in your new guidebook.

Download the full ebook on how to overcome NDMP challenges here.

What’s So Bad About NDMP?

First, a bit of history. Network-attached storage, or NAS, provides file-level data storage over a computer network. Because of the network limitations that existed when NAS was first introduced about 20 years ago, and the tape-based storage in use at the time, there was a high level of difficulty in backing up NAS data. Backups had to be done over IP networks to stream data to the backup server. NetApp developed a way to overcome that challenge when it created the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP).

NDMP made it possible to separate and control traffic of the backup application from the actual data being backed up. So now, instead of streaming everything through the IP network, the NAS server could receive the control commands from the backup application via NDMP and then send the backup data to a directly attached tape or through a SAN network.

While this solution has worked in the past, a lot has changed over the years. Most importantly, there is more data being stored by companies than ever, and that means NAS volumes can easily reach petabyte-scale dimensions.

In this context, NDMP presents some limitations that are worth mentioning as they can be a headache for both NAS backups that don’t necessarily hold massive volumes of data (such as departmental NAS filers) and for scale-out NAS environments.

Let's take a look at the main limitations inherent to th NDMP protocol:

  • Overhead costs
    The management overhead involved when running NDMP as part of your backup policy. The NDMP architectures require at least a dedicated management server on which the backup software is installed. Installation of the backup software, training on how NDMP works and maintenance of this backup server, these all add to additional admin work.
    To find more about the hidden costs of NDMP, check out how the costs add up using out TCO calculator here.
  • Slow performance
    NDMP was designed for single stream backups per NAS node. This can slow down performance if your backup application does not have a multiplexing solution for this or if you are dealing with an NDMP version which doesn't support it. For example, to back up 10 TB of data using NDMP, it can take you as long as two weeks.
  • Reliability
    Due to the longer backup time required for NDMP backups, there is a good chance that you will miss your backup window in the process. This means that the backups that you do retain are likely to have significant amounts of data missing. This can make NDMP backups an unreliable way to replace your primary data set if something goes wrong.
  • System stress
    NDMP backups can put a lot of stress on the production environment due to the amount of processing required to create backups. The increased computational capacity that is needed to prepare NDMP backups can be especially challenging when it’s done within mission-critical production systems since it negatively affects the overall system performance. Because of that overburden on the system, some organizations need to rely on deploying a dedicated backup infrastructure and that can become very costly.
  • Inefficient
    NDMP requires users to recreate the full, baseline copy of the dataset on a fairly frequent basis, not just the delta data. That takes a lot of time and can cause a backup window to be missed. ONTAP users who rely on NDMP-based backups also face the loss of ONTAP’s cost- and space-reducing storage efficiencies, such as data deduplication and compression. Without these efficiencies in place, NDMP backups take longer to create, longer to transfer, and consume more storage space—all of which add up to increase your costs.
  • Restore issues
    NDMP has poor restore performance when restoring from long chains of incremental backups. That's the reason behind having to perform a periodic full backup for every 9 incremental backups. This impediment strains the network resources and makes it very inefficient for large volumes of data.
  • Cloud Adoption
    Backing up to the cloud using only NDMP is not possible. Topologies supported by NDMP backup vendors require backup media to be directly connected to the NAS server, to the NDMP MediaAgent server, or to a remote third server connected to the main NAS filer. These more complex setups are known as the NDMP-2 Way, NDMP Remote, or NDMP-3 Way topologies, respectively.
  • Indexing
    Like all backup solutions, NDMP-based backup indexes are databases that keep a record of all the metadata of the data in each backup. This includes file name, creation date, the file size, and more. This indexed data is important because it can be used by certain operations, such search functions and file browsing, without going to the actual backup. It also allows for some restore operations. However, this indexed data consumes network bandwidth and it also consumes storage resources in the local NDMP server.
  • Security
    NDMP doesn’t encrypt your data while it’s in transit, only when it’s at rest. Without this kind of end-to-end encryption, your data is left unencrypted and exposed while it’s being transferred via the network, making you vulnerable to data theft, viruses, ransomware attacks, and other cyber threats.

Solving NDMP-Based Backup Challenges With NetApp Cloud Backup

We’ve seen how NDMP-based backup solutions can present some serious challenges when it comes to creating quick, dependable backups. NetApp, in line with today’s evolved NAS backup solutions, has developed a solution for backing up ONTAP NAS data with NetApp Cloud Backup.

Cloud Backup creates block-level, incremental forever backups that are stored in object format in the cloud on AWS, Azure, or GCP or on-prem in NetApp StorageGrid appliances. The Cloud Backup service offers you all of the advantages of a modern NAS backup solution fully incorporated into the Cloud Manager ecosystem and your NetApp ONTAP environment.

Cloud_Backup_diagram_mobile-1The Cloud Backup architecture.

Check out this demo video to see how Cloud Backup works.

Cloud Backup Benefits

  • Incremental forever backups. With incremental forever backups, Cloud Backup cuts down your operational complexity, shortens the backup window, reduces costs.
  • Retaining storage efficiencies. ONTAP users can be assured that the same efficiencies that keep footprint and costs low for their data are retained in the backup copies of the data. This makes restores faster than with file-level backups.
  • Direct backups. Cloud Backup copies are directly created from the original data source to the backup target on object storage, with no intermediary.
  • Set and forget. Automatic backup schedules and policies mean that Cloud Backup helps you meet the most demanding recovery objectives without additional overhead.

Download Our eBook to Find Out More

Don’t let NDMP-based backups slow you down. Download a free copy of our new guidebook on how to overcome the limitations of NDMP-based backups here and try Cloud Backup today.

Find out how Cloud Backup:

  • Reduces overhead costs
    Where NDMP can increase your overhead, Cloud Backup is a simple, intuitive service
  • Offers full compatibility
    NDMP solutions aren’t built for NetApp, Cloud Backup is
  • Solves NDMP’s restore issues
    Incremental forever backups are superior to the repeated full backups required by NDMP.
  • Improves performance
    Cloud Backup works in minutes for backup jobs that can take weeks using NDMP
  • Easily adapts to the cloud
    NDMP can’t use the cloud, but Cloud Backup seamlessly sends backups to object storage on AWS, Azure, or GCP.
  • Limits indexing bandwidth
    NDMP indexes consume a lot of network bandwidth, but Cloud Backup copies use metadata more efficiently.
  • Secure
    Backups are transmitted to the cloud with the TLS 1.2 HTTPS protocol to secure your data while in-transit. The destination bucket is protected with AES-265 bit encryption. Together this provides the full end-to-end protection you can’t get with NDMP-based backup solutions.


Semion Mazor, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist