A Network Attached Storage (NAS) server is a storage system connected to a network providing access to a variety of clients, and optimized for file-level access. It doesn’t seem that long ago when NAS systems were just a few Terabytes, and a traditional full backup could complete in a weekend. Well those days are long gone, as data growth continues exponentially and we now move into the Petabyte range. I could write an entire blog on why this continues to happen, but let’s just say that larger NAS systems with higher performance continue to be more affordable, and it just seems so easy to keep all that data … forever and ever. Only when budgets, floor space, power and cooling, and recovery issues are brought into question, does the IT team take an in-depth look at solving the challenges, especially related to meeting backup and recovery SLAs and archiving.

I am sure there are a few approaches to solving the NAS data protection dilemma, but I would like to briefly cover three: NDMP Acceleration, Snapshots, and Archiving.

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NDMP acceleration was first introduced by EMC in 2006 with the Avamar NDMP Accelerator Node. To this day, it is still an industry-leading and unique solution to the NAS backup challenge. The NDMP Accelerator connects to Isilon, VNX and NetApp NAS servers via IP, and is multi-threaded to allow for up to 8 parallel streams of backup (or restores or any combination up to 8 total). Multiple NDMP Accelerators can be used in parallel to handle the most demanding environments. A Level-0 Full backup is only requested one time. After that only Level-1 incrementals are ever needed to create daily full backups. Avamar’s variable-length deduplication and unique metadata handling executes a daily full in a fraction of the time, and makes recovery simply a one-step process. Independent lab testing has shown that this approach is 2.5 times faster than traditional NAS backup. Avamar is tightly integrated to Data Domain Systems through DD Boost Software, so all backup data can be sent directly to the Data Domain system, while the Avamar Data Store will maintain the metadata.

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Snapshots are a complementary approach for NAS backup and recovery, as they provide shorter RPOs and are often used by storage administrators for operational recovery. A snapshot is a point-in-time copy of data created from a set of pointers to production data. Typically, snapshots use a copy-on-write implementation that makes an initial snapshot followed by updates as data is changed. NetWorker snapshot management for NAS is the integration of the NAS snapshot process with the NetWorker management interface. It enables NetWorker to create and manage new snapshots or discover and leverage existing NAS snapshots for data protection. NetWorker seamlessly integrates management of snapshots for block and file storage including VMAX, VNX, Isilon, and NetApp. NetWorker also supports snap and replicate workflows for enhanced protection and snapshots managed by NetWorker can be rolled over to protection storage, such as a Data Domain system for longer term retention and compliance.

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Lastly, let’s take a look at archiving. There are numerous benefits associated with archiving, and here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Reduce the workload for backup, by moving files from a production tier to an archive tier, so the backup software does not have to process these files over and over again.
  2. Faster and easier e-discovery through an indexed file-system.
  3. Improved email performance

EMC SourceOne is archiving software that provides flexible and highly scalable policy-based archiving of critical business information such as email, file and social media content. By deploying archiving solutions, users can automatically move less valuable business data to less expensive storage tiers to save on storage costs and improve overall server and network performance. In this case, leverage SourceOne to identify and move “older/less active” data from the NAS to a Data Domain system where variable-length deduplication will provide the highest storage efficiency in the archive tier, and thus moderate the exponential data growth. Furthermore, by storing both backup data and archive data on a Data Domain system, you will get global deduplication across both data sets for the maximum savings in protection storage.

These solutions are all part of EMC’s Data Protection Suite.

For more in-depth reading, please see the Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) White Paper:

Lab Validation Report for EMC Data Protection Suite for File Applications

Heidi Biggar

Marketing and IT Consultant, Data Protection and Availability Division at EMC Corporation
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.
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