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The recent release of the EMC ProtectPoint 3.1 has a lot for SQL Server administrators using XtremIO to be excited about.  ProtectPoint integrates features of primary storage with EMC’s Data Domain protection storage to greatly reduce both backup/restore execution run times and operational complexity.  ProtectPoint features are accessible from both SQL Server Management Studio and T-SQL so it makes it easier for both the infrastructure and DBA teams to leverage all available assets for data protection.

 

Many customers using XtremIO storage for SQL Server databases have discovered the power and ease of use of XVC virtual copies for reducing the overhead of backing up large databases.  A recent white paper titled Introduction To XtremIO Virtual Copies will explain many of the features and use case for readers not familiar with XVC.  There is a section devoted to Offloading Backup Operations that is particularly useful for this discussion.

Since XtremIO storage assisted backups use the arrays virtual copies as the backup target,  you end up with both the source and the backup on the same storage device.  If you lose the array, you lose them both.  There are several approaches commonly used to increase the level of copy availability.  You can mount the storage copies to a non-production host and run a backup tool on that server.  You can replicate the storage copies/backups from the array with the source to another storage array.  Both of these approaches involve some level of scheduling and possibly scripting work that can increase operational complexity.

 

A ProtectPoint SQL Server backup takes a point-in-time virtual copy on the XtremIO system and moves the data blocks to the Data Domain system using the RecoverPoint appliance for transport.  This is accomplished without backup or replication assistance from the database host. The RecoverPoint system tracks the data that has changed since the last backup sent to the Data Domain protection device and sends only the changed data to the Data Domain system.

 

ProtectPoint advatages:

  • Provides the ability to perform backups and restores of Microsoft SQL database data that resides on XtremIO primary storage system to protection storage on an EMC Data Domain system.
  • Perform backups and restores of Microsoft SQL Server using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), CLI, or T-SQL scripts.
  • Backup and restore either an entire SQL Server instance or only the required databases.
  • Restores automatically from a replicated backup on a secondary Data Domain system when the primary Data Domain system is unavailable.
  • Supports listing and lifecycle management of backups using the native database backup functionality, and deletion of backups that are no longer required.
  • Provides the ability to perform backups and restores over an Ethernet (IP) or Fibre Channel (FC) connection.

 

I recently was able to connect up with my EMC colleague Ryan Kucera based out of the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago.  Ryan provides pre-sales support to EMC customers interested in the intersection of Microsoft and EMC products.  Ryan fired up a WebEx session and walked me through a demo of  backing up and restoring a 2+TB SQL Server 2014 database  with ProtectPoint.

 

The setup in Ryan's lab for this demo is SQL 2014 running on a HyperV VM with Windows 2012R2.  Storage is supplied from a 2 brick XtremIO cluster connected to the VM using HyperV virtual HBAs.  There are also 2 RecoverPoint appliances in a cluster that replicate XtremIO virtual copies to a Data Domain 4200 that is providing protection storage off array from the XtremIO cluster.  The image below shows the relationship between the components of the solution:

 

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The yellow circle is our "Production" site with the SQL Server VM, XtremIO and RecoverPoint.  The Grey circle is our "Protection" assets with RecoverPoint, Data Domain and an optional host for accessing the backup copies independent of the production server.

 

The screen shot below shows the UI for selecting a database that you want to protect.  The Microsoft app agent for ProtectPoint is software that comes with ProtectPoint and is installed on the Windows host where SQL Server is running.  The agent supports FULL Database and Transaction Log backups.  Since Data Domain is a de-duplicating protection storage appliance, we only need to run FULL database backups from the client side.

 

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Once the ProtectPoint configuration for a database is complete, the RecoverPoint appliances will begin to replicate the data from the XtremIO primary storage to the Data Domain even though no backup operation has been requested.  Since the XtremIO is an all flash storage array with very fast data reads, the time required for the initial synchronization depends on the Data Domain model and available resources.

 

When a backup is initiated, a virtual copy is taken on the XtremIO array and replicated to the Data Domain via the RecoverPoint appliances.  This completely eliminates any backup overhead from impacting the production SQL Server host.  Since the initial sync of the data made a full copy of the database on the Data Domain, we are only sending the incremental changes that have occurred since the initial sync.  Every subsequent FULL database backup also only has to send incremental changes similar to what a DIFFERENTIAL SQL Server backup would do.  A substantial advantage of using Data Domain and ProtectPoint is we don't have to manage two schedules for different types of backups - we always use full and always get the benefit of incremental.

 

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Once the backup is complete, the replication between the XtremIO and Data Domain will be idle until the next backup is requested.  We show both the client side message box and a screen clip from the RecoverPoint management GUI.

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The time required for completing a backup depends on the amount of changes to the database since the last backup and the model and resources available on Data Domain.  The purpose of this article was to educate the reader about the capabilities and architecture of the solution.  A future post will discuss the restore capabilities of ProtectPoint.

 

For more information in the meantime, you can go the ProtectPoint product page on emc.com

 

Thanks for reading,

Ryan Kucera

and

Phil Hummel @GotDisk

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