In the Words of Customers – Customer Story #2 – Brute Force Versioned Replication for Backup and DR

“Just because I’m not a huge enterprise company, doesn’t mean my data is any less important to my business than theirs is to them.” – Midsize enterprise customer 

While many companies deploy traditional storage-based replication for critical applications and data, the disaster recovery (DR) “solution” for much of their data is still “putting tape in trucks” – that is, if they’re doing offsite DR at all. Not surprisingly, many customers are searching for DR options between “creating a duplicate data center, connected by expensive networks” and “loading the tape and praying.” Fortunately, a clever combination of server virtualization with deduplicated storage can deliver a unified backup and DR solution, as the following mid-sized enterprise case story details.

This particular customer was a mid-sized enterprise with two locations – primary and archive. Initially, the company ran nightly and weekly tape backups, which it shipped to its archive location. While this company wanted a better DR solution, they could not afford to duplicate its server and storage, pay for sufficient network bandwidth to replicate their data, and manage complex DR processes, so it delivered joint backup and DR with VMware and Data Domain.

This company’s approach has brute force simplicity to it:

  1. Move all the applications into VMs. Even if the application owner demanded a dedicated server, they placed the application inside a VM.
  2. Copy the VMDK files, via NFS, to the Data Domain every night. (The company has a very fast network in the primary site.)
  3. Replicate the Data Domain to the archive location, using very little bandwidth.

Initially, this approach merely maintained their backup functionality… but the next step was inspired.

  1. Put one standby ESX server and one standby primary storage array in the archive location.
  2. In the event of a single-file recovery, boot a VM and mount the VMDK off the Data Domain.
  3. In the event of a disaster recovery, boot a VM and mount the VMDK off the Data Domain and storage VMotion the VMDKs associated with the performance-sensitive applications to the standby primary storage.

With this simple and inexpensive approach, this company has delivered (relatively) high-performance DR for critical apps and low performance DR for second-tier apps without compromising its traditional backup/recovery support. In particular, the company prioritizes its Exchange environment and a handful of business-critical databases. For its lower-end databases and file-serving VMs, it is content to run them on the Data Domain. This approach works because the bandwidth to the remote site is its bottleneck – not the Data Domain.

The company is tracking VMware CBT-based solutions, but currently has enough primary-site bandwidth and performance to do brute-force local versioned replication while utilizing deduplication to minimize the bandwidth for offsite DR replication. 

Each company sets different priorities to address in their environment. In the first customer story in this series, the customer needed high-performance VM backups without the cost and limitation of storage-based versioned replication. Here, the customer needed a viable DR solution without spending more money. Over time, each is likely to encounter the challenge that the other has already solved. Fortunately, they won’t be forced to choose between the two priorities: With VMware CBT and Data Domain, they’ll be able to have full-featured high-performance backup with cost-effective DR.

Next time, we’ll explore how a 3rd customer is balancing its priorities and willingness to deploy new technology.


Stephen Manley

Stephen Manley

CTO, Data Protection and Availability Division
Over the past 15 years at both EMC and NetApp, I have traveled the world, helping solve backup and recovery challenges - one customer at a time (clearly, I need to optimize my travel arrangements!). My professional mission is to transform data protection so that it accelerates customers’ businesses. I have a passion for helping engineers pursue technical career path(without becoming managers), telling stories about life on the road and NDMP (yes, that’s NDMP).

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