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NetApp Solutions SAP

TR-4614: SAP HANA backup and recovery with SnapCenter


Nils Bauer, NetApp

Companies today require continuous, uninterrupted availability for their SAP applications. They expect consistent performance levels in the face of ever-increasing volumes of data and the need for routine maintenance tasks such as system backups. Performing backups of SAP databases is a critical task and can have a significant performance effect on the production SAP system.

Backup windows are shrinking, while the amount of data to be backed up is increasing. Therefore, it is difficult to find a time when backups can be performed with minimal effect on business processes. The time needed to restore and recover SAP systems is a concern, because downtime for SAP production and nonproduction systems must be minimized to reduce data loss and cost to the business.

The following points summarize the challenges facing SAP backup and recovery:

  • Performance effects on production SAP systems. Typically, traditional copy-based backups create a significant performance drain on production SAP systems because of the heavy loads placed on the database server, the storage system, and the storage network.

  • Shrinking backup windows. Conventional backups can only be made when few dialog or batch activities are in process on the SAP system. The scheduling of backups becomes more difficult when SAP systems are in use around the clock.

  • Rapid data growth. Rapid data growth and shrinking backup windows require ongoing investment in backup infrastructure. In other words, you must procure more tape drives, additional backup disk space, and faster backup networks. You must also cover the ongoing expense of storing and managing these tape assets. Incremental or differential backups can address these issues, but this arrangement results in a very slow, cumbersome, and complex restore process that is harder to verify. Such systems usually increase recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) times in ways that are not acceptable to the business.

  • Increasing cost of downtime. Unplanned downtime of an SAP system typically affects business finances. A significant part of any unplanned downtime is consumed by the requirement to restore and recover the SAP system. Therefore, the desired RTO dictates the design of the backup and recovery architecture.

  • Backup and recovery time for SAP upgrade projects. The project plan for an SAP upgrade includes at least three backups of the SAP database. These backups significantly reduce the time available for the upgrade process. The decision to proceed is generally based on the amount of time required to restore and recover the database from the previously created backup. Rather than just restoring a system to its previous state, a rapid restore provides more time to solve problems that might occur during an upgrade.

The NetApp solution

NetApp Snapshot technology can be used 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 because the NetApp Snapshot technology does not move or copy data blocks when the Snapshot copy is created or when data in the active file system is changed. Therefore, the creation of Snapshot copies can be scheduled without considering peak dialog or batch activity periods. SAP and NetApp customers typically schedule multiple online Snapshot backups during the day; for example, every four hours is common. These Snapshot backups are typically kept for three to five days on the primary storage system before being removed.

Snapshot copies also provide key advantages for restore and recovery operations. NetApp SnapRestore data recovery software enables the restore of an entire database or, alternatively, a portion of a database to any point in time, based on the available Snapshot copies. Such restore processes are finished in a few minutes, independent of the size of the database. Because several online Snapshot backups are created during the day, the time needed for the recovery process is significantly reduced relative to a traditional backup approach. Because a restore can be performed with a Snapshot copy that is only a few hours old (rather than up to 24 hours), fewer transaction logs must be applied. Therefore, the RTO is reduced to several minutes rather than the several hours required for conventional single-cycle tape 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 handled 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. The secondary location can also be used if it is necessary to restore a backup that is no longer available from a Snapshot copy: a month-end backup, for example.

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 sends the backup data to the destination by using a NetApp SnapVault disk-to-disk backup.

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 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, a full database backup requires less disk space.

The solution can also be seamlessly extended to a hybrid cloud operation model. Data replication for disaster recovery or offsite backup purposes can be done from on-premises NetApp ONTAP systems to Cloud Volumes ONTAP instances running in the cloud. You can use SnapCenter as a central tool to manage the data protection and data replication, independent if the SAP HANA system run on-premises or in the cloud. The following figure shows an overview of the backup solution.

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Runtime of Snapshot backups

The next screenshot shows a customer’s HANA Studio running SAP HANA on NetApp storage. The customer is using Snapshot copies to back up the HANA database. The image shows that the HANA database (approximately 2.3TB in size) is backed up in 2 minutes and 11 seconds by using Snapshot backup technology.

Note The largest part of the overall backup workflow runtime is the time needed to execute the HANA backup savepoint 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 an RTO comparison of file-based and storage-based Snapshot backups. The RTO is defined by the sum of the time needed to restore the database and the time needed to start and recover 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 1 hour and 10 minutes to restore a database 1TB in size.

With storage Snapshot copy backups, the restore time is independent of the size of the database and is in the range of a couple of seconds when the restore can be performed from primary storage. A restore from secondary storage is only required in the case of a disaster when the primary storage is no longer available.

Time needed to start database

The database start time depends on the size of the row and column store. For the column store, the start time also depends on how much data is preloaded during the database start. In the following examples, we assume that the start time is 30 minutes. The start time is the same for a file-based restore and recovery and a restore and recovery based on Snapshot.

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.

Storage Snapshot copy data backups are typically scheduled with a higher frequency because they do not influence the performance of the SAP HANA database. For example, if Snapshot copy 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 = ¼).

The following figure shows an RTO example for a 1TB database when file-based data backups are used. In this example, a backup is taken once per day. The RTO differs depending on when the restore and recovery were performed. If the restore and recovery were performed immediately after a backup was taken, the RTO is primarily based on the restore time, which is 1 hour and 10 minutes in the example. The recovery time increased to 2 hours and 50 minutes when restore and recovery were performed immediately before the next backup was taken, and the maximum RTO was 4 hours and 30 minutes.

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The following figure shows an RTO example for a 1TB database when Snapshot backups are used. With storage-based Snapshot backups, the RTO only depends on the database start time and the forward recovery time because the restore is completed in a few seconds, independent of the size of the database. The forward recovery time also increases depending on when the restore and recovery are done, but due to the higher frequency of backups (every six hours in this example), the forward recovery time is 43 minutes at most. In this example, the maximum RTO is 1 hour and 13 minutes.

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The following figure shows an RTO comparison of file-based and storage-based Snapshot backups for different database sizes and different frequencies of Snapshot backups. The green bar shows the file-based backup. The other bars show Snapshot copy backups with different backup frequencies.

With a single Snapshot copy data backup per day, the RTO is already reduced by 40% when compared to a file-based data backup. The reduction increases to 70% when four Snapshot backups are taken per day. The figure also shows that the curve goes flat if you increase the Snapshot backup frequency to more than four to six Snapshot backups per day. Our customers therefore typically configure four to six Snapshot backups per day.

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Note The graph shows the HANA server RAM size. The database size in memory is calculated to be half of the server RAM size.
Note The restore and recovery time is calculated based on the following assumptions. The database can be restored at 250MBps. The number of log files per day is 50% of the database size. For example, a 1TB database creates 500MB of log files per day. A recovery can be performed at 100MBps.