How to Stop Database Backup Fights

Gene Maxwell

Gene Maxwell

Technical Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I am known by many as the creator of documentation that helps others easily understand technology. This is because I discovered that I myself was a visual learner as I worked in many different IT roles over the years. Prior to my technical marketing role, I was an EMC technical consultant for six years. I also have many years of experience as a customer in IT responsible for data center management & disaster recovery, including backups. My hobbies include building PCs, collecting movies (Casablanca is my favorite), singing and playing my guitar. I have a twin brother who is three minutes older than I am.


Sound familiar? 

Is this a regular fighting match in your IT organization over who has control of Oracle database backups and recovery? Are you one of the participants or are you someone on the sideline who’d like to sell tickets and make a few bucks?  The challenges seem endless and everyone’s getting tired of all this in-fighting.

Here are some of the punches we’ve seen thrown:

  • (left) DBAs want daily full backups to maximize critical database recovery, (block) backup team say full backups take too long and are hard to get done within backup windows.
  • (right) DBAs want to be able to do more than one backup on some days, (left) backup team can barely get one done within backup windows and backup resources are needed for other backups.
  • (left) DBAs want to keep weeks or months of full backup retention, (right) backup team says they take up too many resources and want to limit them to a couple of days or at most, a week.
  • (left) DBAs want some backups done now on-demand, not just when scheduled, (block) backup team is busy doing other things on their regular schedule and there are resource limitations of bandwidth and target backup devices.  (right) DBAs are tired of asking, (left) backup team is tired of interruptions.
  • (right) DBAs want reports on-demand regarding backup success and off site copies, (uppercut) backup team is busy doing all the rest of their work and tired of being bothered all the time.

How can you stop the fighting?  

Actually,  it’s not as difficult as you may think it is. In fact, it’s a very simple 2 steps:

  1. First, switch your slow unreliable Oracle database backups over to an extremely fast deduplication storage solution. 
  2. Then give your Oracle DBAs total control of their own backups and recovery using the Oracle RMAN utility that they already know and trust. 

If you’re the backup admin, don’t panic yet, we’ve got you covered too! You can also leverage data protection management software that can give backup admins a single view of all replication and backup – even if you’re not controlling it. Here’s what our RMAN direct to a deduplicated storage solution:

  • Speed up your backups typically by 50% or more so that daily full backups can be completed within backup windows with breathing room to spare for data growth.
  • Ensure data integrity for critical Oracle databases with the industry’s best data protection
  • Allow Oracle DBAs to perform their own DB backups & recovery using RMAN GUI or CLI.
  • Provide RMAN full catalog awareness for all local and DR database copies.
  • Provide longer space efficient database retention through efficient variable length inline deduplication technology.
  • Provide cost effective and bandwidth efficient replication controlled by RMAN.
  • Eliminate slow unreliable physical tape & all the associated problems and risks.
  • Dramatically improve backup & recovery reliability and performance through automatic path load balancing and failover with less failed backup jobs to restart.
  • Provide the ability to establish logical quotas to limit shared deduplication capacity to agreed upon limits with the DBAs.  One threshold issues warnings, another will stop new backups.
  • Eliminate expensive backup application licensing for Oracle databases because the DBAs will be using Oracle RMAN utility to perform database backups and recoveries.
  • Stop the fighting and let the Oracle DBAs do their own backups and let the backup administrators focus resources on the rest of their backups.

If you’re ready to stop the fighting, improve your Oracle database backups, and make your DBAs happy, we’re ready to help with the industry’s leading Oracle database backup and recovery solution.  It’s like having your cake and eating it too,

Tape Is Dead, Part II

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).

How should I back up data that doesn’t deduplicate? It’s one of the questions I’m asked often – by both our engineers and our customers. In fact, a TBW reader raised the issue in response to my recent post. Therefore, I’d like to explain how we approach such fundamental challenges and then share the approaches that I recommend to our customers. 

The Fundamental Challenge
Difficult challenges require a system-level solution approach because the problems are too complex to be solved by one component. It is this systems view that drives my push to transition from tape to disk.

Over the past twenty years, tape-centric backup systems have evolved about as far as they can. Meanwhile, disk-centric backup continues to evolve rapidly because disk storage systems alter the constraints in the system. Therefore, “backup to disk” isn’t code for “write a tar image to a Data Domain VTL” (especially since VTL still implies a tape-centric backup approach).

Usually, one of the disk backup approaches can meet our customers’ RPO/RTO and reliability needs at the right cost… or come closer to the mark than anything else available. More importantly, with both the freedom and investment to innovate, disk-centric backup architecture will more effectively address IT challenges today and in the future.

The Approach: Four Use Cases
There are four “non-dedupe” backup use cases I hear about:

  1. Low-retention, non-repeating data (e.g., database logs): Customers usually choose between two options: Option 1: Store the logs on the backup appliance, getting only local compression, but with consolidated protection storage management.  Option 2: Store the logs on non-deduplicating disk systems and coordinate the storage management (e.g., replication). Regardless, disk is usually the best option to handle the performance requirements for high value data with such an aggressive half-life.
  2. High churn environments (e.g., test data): These data sets experience 30%+ daily change. Most customers opt for short-term retention because the data is so short-lived. In that case, I recommend snapshots/clones and/or replication. While the snapshots consume a significant amount of space, they save a tremendous amount of IOPs. Too often, organizations ignore the heavy I/O load caused by backups. Not only are most of the backup reads not served from cache, but they often pollute the cache.  In high-churn environments, IOPs are even more precious, since the storage system’s disks are so heavily loaded with the application load (and the churn makes flash a non-ideal fit). Therefore, at a system level, it is often less expensive to consume extra space for snapshots than to consume the IOPs for traditional backups.

    As an additional benefit, the snapshots enable faster recovery from current versions of data. The choice to replicate becomes a cost/benefit analysis around the availability of data vs. the cost of a second storage array and network bandwidth. Tape-centric approaches compromise application performance (or require overbuying the primary storage performance), recover stale copies of the data, and recover the data so slowly that customers prefer to regenerate the data (e.g,. application binaries, satellite images, oil and gas analytics, or rendered movie scenes).

  3. Environments in which you don’t run multiple full backups and have little cross-backup dedupe (e.g., images, web objects, training videos): If data is never modified and rarely deleted, customers don’t run full backups. Since a backup appliance derives much of its space savings from deduplicating redundant full backups, dedupe rates fall in the absence of multiple fulls. The best approach for protecting these data sets is replication, especially if the replicated copy can service customer accesses.

    Since the data is not modified, there is little value from retaining multiple point-in-time copies. Therefore, the most critical recovery path is that of a full recovery; nothing is faster than connecting to a live replica, nothing is scarier than depending on multiple incremental tape restores. Furthermore, these types of datasets tend to have distributed access patterns, so technologies like EMC’s VPLEX can improve both protection and performance with the same copy (another way of deduplicating copies).

  4. Environments in which the application behavior compromises dedupe (e.g., compressing data that you modify): Think of an application that either modifies compressed files in place (e.g., open file, decompress file, modify file, recompress file) or creates multiple compressed copies of data (e.g., compressed or encrypted local database dumps). This workflow tends to create 10x more data modification than the actual new data.

    In these cases, you have two options:  Option 1: Decompress the data for the backup and/or write the database dumps directly to the dedupe storage, so you can get the optimal deduplication. Option 2: Treat the data as Type 1 or Type 2 discussed above.

    However, if the customer is unwilling to decompress the data and wants long-term retention, this is the most plausible instance in which to leverage tape. I’m just not sure it’s widespread enough to justify deploying a tape environment; I would fully explore cloud options first.

When I advocate for disk, I’m asking the industry to both consider at the entire portfolio of disk solutions and the possibilities that can be developed. As we’ve been discussing on LinkedIn, as soon as you make disk your design center, it opens a whole new set of architectural approaches. And that’s the transition that is so exciting – moving from putting disk inside a tape-centric architecture to really designing around disk.

As you can see from the examples above, the most challenging environments for data protection require a system-level approach. In fact, some of them demand approaches that look beyond just the protection infrastructure. As we’ve talked about in the past, backup teams need to connect with application, virtualization, and storage owners to provide the services that their users need. With those connections, they can deliver better integrated, more innovative solutions to their customers.


This Is Your Brain on Tape Backup

Gene Maxwell

Gene Maxwell

Technical Marketing, Data Protection and Availability Division
I am known by many as the creator of documentation that helps others easily understand technology. This is because I discovered that I myself was a visual learner as I worked in many different IT roles over the years. Prior to my technical marketing role, I was an EMC technical consultant for six years. I also have many years of experience as a customer in IT responsible for data center management & disaster recovery, including backups. My hobbies include building PCs, collecting movies (Casablanca is my favorite), singing and playing my guitar. I have a twin brother who is three minutes older than I am.

By Gene Maxwell, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, EMC Backup Recovery System

Ever wondered what your brain looks like on tape backup? Here’s what my brain came up with:

  • Stressed out about recovery times
  • Backups are way too slow
  • Failing backups are killing your #s
  • Boss is unhappy about results
  • Your performance isn’t good
  • Tape cartridges are piling up
  • Skyrocketing backup costs

This is your brain on deduplicated disk storage backups:

  • You are confident about recovery
  • Backups are finishing ahead of schedule
  • Backup success rates are way up
  • Happy boss singing your praises
  • Your performance looks great
  • You’re reducing your backups costs
  • More space in your Data Center
  • Your team is recognized for their great work

Is your old fashioned and unreliable tape based backup infrastructure giving you serious headaches?   Are your backups extending further and further into production windows?  Are you worried what the auditors are going to say if they find out about those backup tapes that got lost?

There is a simple way to fix all of this.  Replace your old-fashioned tape-based backups with backups to deduplicated disk storage.  The results will amaze you and your brain will be thrilled with all the benefits you will get. Let your brain relax and focus on more important things.  Backups to deduplicated disk storage will:

  • Simplify your backup environment by eliminating the need to manage tape cartridges
  • Speed up your backups & allow them to finish within your backup windows
  • Give you breathing room for the data growth you will have
  • Improve backup reliability and your backup success %
  • Dramatically reduce the effort to re-run backups that fail
  • Free up valuable data center floor space by eliminating bulky tape silos and tape cartridges
  • Reduce backup costs by eliminating tape cartridge handling, storage, and shipping
  • Enable a cost effective “tapeless” Disaster Recovery approach
  • Minimize legal risks by eliminating physical tape movement & lost tapes

There’s an old saying.  If it hurts to keep pounding your head against the wall, stop doing it.  Let your brain be happy about doing backups with deduplicated disk storage.


Cloud vs. Evil

Howard Rubin

Howard Rubin

Consultant Product Marketing Manager, Data Protection and Availability Division
My name is Howard and I’m a marketing guy. There I said it! Admitting to it is the first step right? Truth be known, I started “life” as a phone support guy then got promoted to Sales Engineer due to my good looks. That role dragged on far too long. Hanging out in data centers at 3am installing and troubleshooting ATM and Frame Relay gear got old; just like that technology. When I’m not marketing tech stuff, I’m either playing with my own tech gear at home or travelling to some exotic destination with my incredible wife, Mary. Fifty/Fifty chance it’s a shopping or exotic beach destination next time you get my out-of-office message.

By Howard Rubin, Product Marketing Manager, Backup and Recovery Systems

My blog last month entitled Cloud Control to Major Tom talked about the top five reasons enterprise don’t leverage cloud technology.  I focused on one specific reason pertaining to loss of control and visibility as being one of the top five.  This week I’d like to focus on another bullet on that top 5 list:  The belief that cloud computing needs to mature more.  In a publicly available report by Enterprise Strategy Group, 29% of the 256 respondents in their study noted this to be the reason for them not to adopt a cloud strategy.

       Courtesy ISACA.ORG

So exactly what does “mature” mean in this use case?  Are these IT departments waiting for some other IT division or data center location to be the guinea pig?  Perhaps “mature” means they’re waiting for next generation of software and hardware technology that improves upon the imperfections of the current version.   Or maybe they’re just waiting for the cloud providers and market analysts to report double and triple digit growth numbers.  Why make trillions when we could make….billions? But I digress….

The reality is that enterprises are levering cloud technology today to help alleviate their IT pain points.  And those pain points are convincing them to spend to the tune of $110.8 billion on cloud services in 2012 according to a recent Gartner report.   (Dr. Evil might be on to something).

At a high level, let’s take a look at another (top 5) list of reasons why enterprises are looking to leverage cloud service providers for some existing IT processes.   The list includes:

  • Technology infrastructure issues: Can’t afford new hardware or upgrades every year
  • Datacenter issues: Space, cooling, power or remote disaster recovery site
  • Financial issues: CAPEX to OPEX conversion
  • Personnel resource issues: Limited/reduced headcount or technical competence
  • Legal compliance: Support for regulatory and auditing compliances required by the business

So what constitutes market maturity for you?  Why wait for trillion’s when you can solve your pain points today when the industry is already over 100 billion?  Check out EMC’s Velocity Service Providers Trusted Partners who can help adopt a cloud strategy.  You’ll only need one VSPP partner to take that one first step – not a billion.

Perspective Is Everything, Or Is It?

Heidi Biggar

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division
I’m often asked how a political science major at Tufts wound up in the IT world, covering backup, storage, virtualization and cloud of all things. Truth is, it’s really a love for learning, a need to understand the “bigger picture” and a desire to share that view with others that’s steered my path over the past 20 years, from campaign manager to editor, analyst and marketer. After hours, you’ll find me hanging with family, running 10ks through Peachtree City’s 90 miles of cart paths, watching football or reading. I’m a New England transplant enjoying life in the South. In my previous life, I also blogged for ComputerWorld, Enterprise Strategy Group and Hitachi Data Systems, but The Backup Window is my baby. It's been great watching it evolve.

Did you know the movie E.T. was nearly entirely filmed from the eye-level of the children? I didn’t, or at least I don’t recall knowing this; it’s been years since I watched the movie in its entirety.

But what I do remember is being drawn into the story in a way no other film had done before, and I do remember my parents leaving the movie feeling similarly. I just never considered why until this past week.

As it turns out, it has a lot to do with perspective.

By using the filming technique he did (which also meant that adults were seen primarily from the waist down throughout the movie), Spielberg was able to create a very different experience for moviegoers. For adults, it ultimately meant seeing the story not just through the eyes of a child but as a child. Bingo!

Makes me wonder if one of the reasons we have such difficulty keeping New Year’s resolutions is because we often don’t have the right perspective.

Would E.T. have been the same film (enjoying the same level of success) had it been told from the eye-level of an adult? Probably not.

So, in addition to balancing good and bad, focusing on the process not just the end goal, replacing bad habits with better ones and so on, maybe we also need to make sure we have the right perspectives?

Do we really have the perspective of someone who has successfully completed a 15K or dropped 20 pounds? Does your backup team really see backup – the good, the bad and the ugly – from the viewpoint of application or business owners? Again, probably not.

However, if you’re like many folks, you may just be stuck. I’m not sure how much help I can be on the running or weight reduction front, but I do know we can help with the backup perspective.

In this short video, fellow TBW blogger and EMC BRS CTO Stephen Manley explains how backup teams can free themselves — and their businesses — from the grind that’s become daily backup and gain that all-important broader business perspective.

It’s actually Part III of Stephen’s Accelerating Transformation series, but not to worry. I’ll circle back next post and explain why donning a new perspective doesn’t have to meaning losing control. Be sure to check out the video and drop us a note if you’ve got a question.