Backup and recovery using Amazon FSx for ONTAP

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You can use NetApp Snapshot technology to create database backups in minutes. The time needed to create a Snapshot copy is independent of the size of the database because a Snapshot copy does not move any physical data blocks on the storage platform. In addition, the use of Snapshot technology has no performance effect on the live SAP system. Therefore, you can schedule the creation of Snapshot copies without considering peak dialog or batch activity periods. SAP and NetApp customers typically schedule multiple online Snapshot backups during the day; for example, every six hours is common. These Snapshot backups are typically kept for three to five days on the primary storage system before being removed or tiered to cheaper storage for long term retention.

Snapshot copies also provide key advantages for restore and recovery operations. NetApp SnapRestore technology enables the restoration of an entire database or, alternatively, just a portion of a database to any point in time, based on the currently available Snapshot copies. Such restore processes are finished in a few seconds, independent of the size of the database. Because several online Snapshot backups can be created during the day, the time needed for the recovery process is significantly reduced relative to a traditional once per day backup approach. Because you can perform a restore with a Snapshot copy that is at most only a few hours old (rather than up to 24 hours), fewer transaction logs must be applied during forward recovery. Therefore, the RTO is reduced to several minutes rather than the several hours required for conventional streaming backups.

Snapshot copy backups are stored on the same disk system as the active online data. Therefore, NetApp recommends using Snapshot copy backups as a supplement rather than a replacement for backups to a secondary location. Most restore and recovery actions are managed by using SnapRestore on the primary storage system. Restores from a secondary location are only necessary if the primary storage system containing the Snapshot copies is damaged. You can also use the secondary location if it is necessary to restore a backup that is no longer available on the primary location.

A backup to a secondary location is based on Snapshot copies created on the primary storage. Therefore, the data is read directly from the primary storage system without generating load on the SAP database server. The primary storage communicates directly with the secondary storage and replicates the backup data to the destination by using the NetApp SnapVault feature.

SnapVault offers significant advantages when compared to traditional backups. After an initial data transfer, in which all data has been transferred from the source to the destination, all subsequent backups copy only move the changed blocks to the secondary storage. Therefore, the load on the primary storage system and the time needed for a full backup are significantly reduced. Because SnapVault stores only the changed blocks at the destination, any additional full database backups consume significantly less disk space.

Runtime of Snapshot backup and restore operations

The following figure shows a customer’s HANA Studio using Snapshot backup operations. The image shows that the HANA database (approximately 4TB in size) is backed up in 1 minute and 20 seconds by using Snapshot backup technology and more than 4 hours with a file-based backup operation.

The largest part of the overall backup workflow runtime is the time needed to execute the HANA backup save point operation, and this step is dependent on the load on the HANA database. The storage Snapshot backup itself always finishes in a couple of seconds.

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Recovery time objective comparison

This section provides a recovery time objective (RTO) comparison of file-based and storage-based Snapshot backups. The RTO is defined by the sum of the time needed to restore, recover, and then start the database.

Time needed to restore database

With a file-based backup, the restore time depends on the size of the database and backup infrastructure, which defines the restore speed in megabytes per second. For example, if the infrastructure supports a restore operation at a speed of 250MBps, it takes approximately 4.5 hours to restore a database 4TB in size on the persistence.

With storage Snapshot copy backups, the restore time is independent of the size of the database and is always in the range of a couple of seconds.

Time needed to start database

The database start time depends on the size of the database and the time needed to load the data into memory. In the following examples, it is assumed that the data can be loaded with 1000MBps. Loading 4TB into memory takes around 1hour and 10 minutes. The start time is the same for a file-based and Snapshot based restore and recovery operations.

Time needed to recover database

The recovery time depends on the number of logs that must be applied after the restore. This number is determined by the frequency at which data backups are taken.

With file-based data backups, the backup schedule is typically once per day. A higher backup frequency is normally not possible, because the backup degrades production performance. Therefore, in the worst case, all the logs that were written during the day must be applied during forward recovery.

Snapshot backups are typically scheduled with a higher frequency because they do not influence the performance of the SAP HANA database. For example, if Snapshot backups are scheduled every six hours, the recovery time would be, in the worst case, one-fourth of the recovery time for a file-based backup (6 hours / 24 hours = .25).

The following figure shows a comparison of restore and recovery operations with a daily file-based backup and Snapshot backups with different schedules.

The first two bars show that even with a single Snapshot backup per day, the restore and recovery is reduced to 43% due to the speed of the restore operation from a Snapshot backup. If multiple Snapshot backups per day are created, the runtime can be reduced further because less logs need to be applied during forward recovery.

The following figure also shows that four to six Snapshot backups per day makes the most sense, because a higher frequency does not have a big influence on the overall runtime anymore.

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Use cases and values of accelerated backup and cloning operations

Executing backups is a critical part of any data protection strategy. Backups are scheduled on a regular basis to ensure that you can recover from system failures. This is the most obvious use case, but there are also other SAP lifecycle management tasks, where accelerating backup and recovery operations is crucial.

SAP HANA system upgrade is an example of where an on-demand backup before the upgrade and a possible restore operation if the upgrade fails has a significant impact on the overall planned downtime. With the example of a 4TB database, you can reduce the planned downtime by 8 hours by using the Snapshot-based backup and restore operations.

Another use case example would be a typical test cycle, where testing must be done over multiple iterations with different data sets or parameters. When leveraging the fast backup and restore operations, you can easily create save points within your test cycle and reset the system to any of these previous save points if a test fails or needs to be repeated. This enables testing to finish earlier or enables more testing at the same time and improves test results.

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When Snapshot backups have been implemented, they can be used to address multiple other use cases, which require copies of a HANA database. With FSx for ONTAP, you can create a new volume based on the content of any available Snapshot backup. The runtime of this operation is a few seconds, independent of the size of the volume.

The most popular use case is the SAP System Refresh, where data from the production system needs to be copied to the test or QA system. By leveraging the FSx for ONTAP cloning feature, you can provision the volume for the test system from any Snapshot copy of the production system in a matter of seconds. The new volume then must be attached to the test system and the HANA database recovered.

The second use case is the creation of a repair system, which is used to address a logical corruption in the production system. In this case, an older Snapshot backup of the production system is used to start a repair system, which is an identical clone of the production system with the data before the corruption occurred. The repair system is then used to analyze the problem and export the required data before it was corrupted.

The last use case is the ability to run a disaster recover failover test without stopping the replication and therefore without influencing RTO and recovery point objective (RPO) of the disaster recovery setup. When FSx for ONTAP NetApp SnapMirror replication is used to replicate the data to the disaster recovery site, the production Snapshot backups are available at the disaster recovery site as well and can then be used to create a new volume for disaster recover testing.

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