Redefining Microsoft SQL Server Data Management. PAS Specification

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1 Redefining Microsoft SQL Server Data Management APRIL Actifio 11, 2013 PAS Specification

2 Table of Contents Introduction Background Virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Virtualizing the Copy Operation Discovery... 4 Application Consistency... 4 Physical Servers... 5 Virtual Servers... 5 Virtualizing the Store Operation... 6 Globally De-duplicating and Compressing Changed Data... 6 Virtualizing the Storage Repository... 6 Virtualizing the Move Operation... 6 Traditional Primary Storage Replication... 7 Backup Replication... 7 DeDup Async Replication... 7 Virtualizing the Restore/Recovery Operation Mount... 9 Clone... 9 Restore... 8 Conclusion About Actifio... 9 actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 2

3 Introduction Actifio copy data storage introduces data virtualization technology into the management of copy data in both physical and virtual environments, resulting in a single, radically simple solution that can dramatically reduce costs and efficiently manage all copies of production data for backup, disaster recovery, test, development or any other application that requires a copy of the data. Actifio provides a comprehensive and efficient solution for protecting Microsoft SQL Server environments, with the benefits shown in Table 1. This paper describes how Actifio s patented Virtual Data Pipeline technology is applied in Microsoft SQL Server environments to deliver these benefits. Actifio MS SQL Server support at a glance SQL Server 2005, 2008, 2008R2, 2012 Microsoft Failover Cluster setups Background Actifio pioneered the industry s first storage system optimized for managing virtual copies of production data, eliminating redundant silos of IT infrastructure and data management applications. While data storage technology is undergoing some fundamental shifts, such as production data storage moving from disk to SSD and copy data storage moving from tape to disk, very little has changed over the last two decades in the way data is managed. The common approach to data management has been to deploy complex, expensive infrastructure silos-- built with point tools for each of protection, disaster recovery, business continuity, test & development, analytics, compliance or other applications each making and managing redundant copies of data. Actifio copy data storage solutions introduce data management virtualization to deliver a SLA-driven solution that decouples the management of data from storage, network and server infrastructure. The result is a radically simple solution that can reduce costs by up to 90% and efficiently manage all copies of production data for backup, disaster recovery, test, development or any other application that requires a copy of production data. Physical and Virtual SQL Server servers Instant recovery of SQL Server objects such as data files, tables, and rows TABLE 1: ACTIFIO VALUE IN MS SQL SERVER ENVIRONMENTS BENEFIT ACTIFIO DETAILS No Production Impact High Performance Using Actifio dedicated resources, storage of copy data and related processing for deduplication, compression, and replication is offloaded from the production SQL Server databases. Actifio s turnkey solution does not require any intrusive agents or other significant resources from the customer s environment. Utilizes efficient block level protocols such as Fibre Channel and iscsi, on dedicated, highly available enterprise class hardware for fast and performant data access. Snapshot based data capture and incremental forever data movement for fast and efficient SQL Server database backups and replication. Granular Recovery Provides object level access and recovery of SQL Server information such as data files, tables, and rows, using standard SQL Server tools. Scalable Efficient solution for both standalone and clustered environments actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 3

4 Virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server Data Management Actifio created the Virtual Data Pipeline (VDP) technology to virtualize production data copy management, eliminating redundancies and re-purposing the unique data for multiple data management applications. VDP efficiently captures a copy of changed data from the Microsoft SQL Server databases allowing for direct access to the data from the Actifio solution, without any data movement. The Virtual Data Pipeline is a distributed object file system, virtualizing the core primitives of data management: copy, store, move and restore. This technology allows the instant creation of virtual copies of point-intime data from the collection of unique blocks of data. A single solution can now be deployed to replace one or more of backup software, disaster recovery, business continuity or test and development tools and can be used as a platform for search, compliance and analytics tools. The resulting simplicity of operations and reduction in infrastructure significantly drives down capital and operational costs. The following sections explain the details of virtualizing the copy, store, move and restore operations in this environment. Virtualizing the Copy Operation Discovery Actifio performs a deep discovery of the SQL Server environment by querying the Actifio connector a lightweight software component that is installed on the servers running SQL Server. The connector will discover all the databases present on each server and the administrator can apply predefined SLA protection-templates to these databases. The lightweight Actifio Connector is used for discovery and for coordination purposes such as ensuring application consistent backups and truncating logs. It is not involved in any SQL Server backup data movement, therefore consumes virtually zero system resources. Application Consistency Actifio leverages the Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to capture application-consistent snapshots of the SQL Server databases in both physical and virtual server environments. VSS snapshots work against open SQL Server databases and provide an efficient means to quiesce the database to capture an application consistent state. Microsoft has included VSS in all versions of Windows since Windows 2003 and it is readily available with SQL Server by default. FIGURE 1: VIRTUAL DATA PIPELINE ARCHITECTURE 1. COPY: Most efficient and scalable data capture Block-level, incremental snapshot with change block tracking 2. STORE: Independent copy with multiple formats, any storage device 3. MOVE: Dedup Async to drive down network usage 4. RESTORE: App-aware instant mount to any host Maintains temporal and causal relationship between the objects Raw format for instant restore, optimized format for longer retention Storage virtualization for private, public or hybrid cloud storage actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 4

5 FIGURE 2: ACTIFIO APPLICATION MANAGER Physical Servers When SQL Server runs on physical servers, Actifio can quickly capture views of the databases by leveraging its built-in Copy On Write (COW) snapshot technology at the storage level. The Actifio Connector is installed on all SQL Server hosts, standalone or clustered, to provide tighter integration with SQL Server and ensure application-consistent backups. It coordinates the Actifio storage-level snapshot with the Microsoft VSS snapshot on the server, and also facilitates log truncation as needed. Actifio can natively compare the current and the previous snapshots at the block level to determine which blocks differ and need to be processed for deduplication, compression, and replication. For example, if Actifio collects changes on an hourly basis then only the last hour of changed blocks would be stored in the Actifio system for that data capture operation. This optimizes the amount of storage consumed and reduces the overall load on the system, as data is only processed one time. In traditional backup environments, data is processed over and over again every time there is a full backup. The Actifio architecture combines the benefits of full system snapshots along with the benefits of block level, incremental forever data movement. Virtual Servers For SQL Server running on a virtual server, Actifio uses VMware snapshot technology to quickly capture application-consistent views of the blocks on the virtual disks attached to the Virtual Machine (VM). The Actifio Connector is only required in the VMs for log truncation, but can also facilitate deeper discovery of SQL Server databases. Three VMware technologies aid in protecting SQL Server on VM s: VMware Snapshots, VMware Tools, and Changed Block Tracking (CBT). Actifio is fully integrated with VMware vsphere (version 4.0 or higher). vcenter is queried to find the location of the VM to be managed and to initiate the VM snapshot. When Actifio triggers the VMware snapshot, the guest Windows operating system of the VM is alerted to the snapshot through the VMware Tools software that is installed on the guest OS. When copying the snapshot data, Actifio leverages a feature of the vstorage APIs for Data Protection called Changed Block Tracking (CBT) to capture changes from the production environment using a true incremental-forever architecture. Changed Block Tracking lets Actifio copy only the blocks that have changed since the last data collection. For example, if Actifio collects changes on an hourly basis then only the last hour of changed blocks would be copied from the production VM onto Actifio during any operation. Upon the first backup of a VM, a staging disk is created within Actifio for each virtual disk of the VM. Storage consumption for this staging disk is minimized by using thin provisioning as well as by using VMware Changed Block Tracking to retrieve only the non-empty blocks. Actifio supports two architectures for moving captured changed data blocks from the production VMs to Actifio PAS: actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 5

6 1. Ethernet Network (IP): Actifio can copy the changed blocks directly through VMware API calls. Data moves directly between the ESX servers and Actifio using the customer s IP network. 2. Storage Area Network (Fibre Channel): Actifio can copy the changed blocks over the storage network for VMs that use Storage Area Networks (SANs) to connect to their datastores, whether via iscsi or Fibre Channel. Actifio will copy the changed blocks directly from the datastore(s) over Fibre Channel, bypassing the ESX servers for the data movement and offloading this data movement from the customer s IP network. Moving data from one storage system directly to another one is the most efficient way to move data in the data center. In Summary, Actifio uses the following workflow to copy data from the VMware environment: 1. Create a VMware snapshot of the VM through the vcenter API. Application consistency is achieved through VMware Tools. 2. Use VMware CBT to identify which blocks have changed since the last operation. 3. Copy only the changed blocks onto the Actifio system. 4. Delete the VMware snapshot through the vcenter API. This approach leverages VMware snapshots as an efficient way to achieve application-consistent points in time while effectively transferring them onto the Actifio system, using only incremental data movements. This design eliminates the performance issues that can be associated with large data transfers and with maintaining and deleting older VMware snapshots from ESX servers. this environment, VMware does not manage the storage and therefore does not provide snapshot services. Actifio leverages its storagelevel snapshot capability to offer an efficient solution for SQL Server protection in clustered configurations in a similar manner to protection of physical servers. In both cases, only changed blocks are copied to minimize data movement and provide incremental-forever backups with instant restores. Virtualizing the Store Operation Once application-consistent changed blocks are imported into Actifio, the next step is to globally deduplicate and compress the changes between the last two snapshots at a block level. Newly captured data is deduplicated across all physical and virtual servers managed by Actifio, and is then compressed prior to being written to disk. Global data deduplication and compression provide the benefits shown in Table 2. Globally Deduplicating and Compressing Changed Data Actifio s Virtual Data Pipeline (VDP) File System processes only the blocks that have changed between the last two snapshot-based data captures. This process executes within the Actifio system, offloading all data management processing from the user s production environment. VDP uses patented progressive data processing algorithms to perform this deduplication and optimize the use of storage capacity. Actifio copies data blocks incrementally to avoid a heavy load on the ESX environment and on the storage systems. In addition, Actifio only uses VMware snapshots for a very brief period of time; the snapshots are retained just long enough to copy the changed blocks and then they are deleted. This technique results in a minimal performance impact within VMware for snapshot deletion since very few changed blocks need to be merged back to the original volumes. When SQL Server is deployed in a clustered setup on virtual servers, the database sits on physical mode raw device mappings (prdm). In Virtualizing the Storage Repository In addition to reducing the storage footprint, Actifio enables the use of any storage repository to store the reduced data footprint. Users can now have their SLA s dictate the type of storage they need to use, rather than be dictated by the vendor or the choice of production data storage device. Many users have re-purposed their existing storage for storing data copies or have opted for lower cost storage devices. This capability further lowers the overall storage costs. Benefits of Actifio for SQL Server Protection Minimal backup window data is captured using snapshots and not backups Incremental forever after the initial copy, all backups are incremental (no more fulls ) Store snapshots on any storage and reclaim expensive tier 1 storage production storage Provides object level access including data files, tables and rows Incremental backups deduped and compressed Virtualizing the Move Operation Data movement, especially replication, is the single biggest inhibitor to efficient data management in a geographically distributed environment. Actifio delivers robust, efficient and scalable data movement technology that not only drives down the overall network usage but also eliminates the need for a dedicated WAN accelerator/optimizer. In addition to offering traditional synchronous and asynchronous primary storage replication, Actifio leverages its global deduplication and compression to provide efficient data replication between sites. Actifio offers two types of deduplicated data replication: Backup Replication and Dedup-Async Storage Replication. actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 6

7 TABLE 2: DATA DEDUPLICATION AND COMPRESSION BENEFITS BENEFIT ACTIFIO DETAILS Storage Economics Globally deduplicated and compressed data is economically stored on disk for longer retention. WAN Optimization Deduplication and compression optimizes the data set for transport between sites. Traditional Primary Storage Replication Actifio offers 2 types of traditional primary storage replication: synchronous and asynchronous. These replications are similar to the replication technologies typically offered by traditional storage arrays. Synchronous replication can be achieved up to a 300 Km distance and will guarantee that all data is synchronized between two sites. Asynchronous replication removes the distance limitation and will send data over the WAN as fast as the bandwidth allows. Both of these technologies are designed for real-time replication of data resulting in every write being replicated between sites. The advantages of using Actifio synchronous or asynchronous replication are: 1. Actifio replication does not require any storage array vendor licenses as data is sent from one Actifio system to another. 2. Actifio replication is heterogeneous from any supported array to any supported array. Tier 1 to Tier 2 and/or Vendor A to Vendor B. 3. Actifio replication preserves write-order, even across multiple LUNs in a consistency group. 4. Actifio replication is fully integrated with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). Backup Replication The backup replication process begins after the deduplication process ingests and stores the unique data captured by the Copy and Store processes. This workflow minimizes the bandwidth required to move data between locations. A proprietary deduplication-aware replication protocol enables the transmission of only the globally unique blocks that are needed in the remote Actifio system, ensuring the most efficient movement possible. This architecture ensures maximum efficiency for WAN bandwidth utilization. For example, a 1 GB service pack that was applied to 10 SQL Server VMs would generate much less than 10 GB of replication traffic with Actifio technology. First, the 10 GB of changes would be single instanced down to the 1 GB of common new blocks that were written to each server. Next, a percentage of those blocks are probably already in the dedup repository from previous patches or from existing Windows binaries. Because of this effect, the 1 GB of blocks from the service pack may deduplicate down to 600 MB since the other 400 MB of the blocks are already in the repository. Finally, the 600 MB of new blocks may compress down to 300 MB before being sent over the wire. In this case, 300 MB of data would be sent over the WAN instead of 10 GB of data due to Actifio s global deduplication technology. Furthermore, if the remote site is performing local data protection, it is possible that no data would be transmitted at all as the needed blocks may already exist in the deduplication pool at that site. Dedup-Async Replication The third type of primary storage replication is an industry first, uniquely delivered by Actifio, called Dedup-Async. This is the industry s most efficient way of moving data, driving down bandwidth requirements while allowing RTOs comparable to traditional synchronous and asynchronous methods. Dedup-Async replication provides asynchronous data replication but uses globally deduplicated and compressed data movement over the network. The Dedup-Async protocol uses the following workflow with an abbreviated cycle time: 1. Take a snapshot of the physical or virtual server 2. Deduplicate and compress only the incremental block-level changes since the last cycle 3. Replicate the new globally unique compressed blocks to the DR site 4. Rehydrate the new unique blocks to ready the entire dataset for a failover condition This approach has all of the benefits of asynchronous storage replication but only uses a fraction of the bandwidth required with traditional replication technologies. It also provides the ability to have applicationconsistent replicated copies at the DR site, shortening recovery time by avoiding the need for integrity checking that is typically performed with a crash-consistent copy. In addition, the backup replication and Dedup-Async replication services utilize the same bit stream for even more efficiencies. With traditional technologies, a customer will require bandwidth for primary storage replication as well as backup replication. With Actifio PAS, these two services share the same bandwidth. For example, when the primary storage blocks are replicated by Dedup-Async replication, those blocks do not need to be resent when backup replication starts some time later, since those blocks are already at the DR site. The end result is that both primary storage and backups can be replicated sharing the same globally deduplicated and compressed data stream. The Dedup-Async architecture also allows Actifio to create virtual copies of the data for DR and failover testing without interrupting the flow of data between sites. With Dedup-Async you can perform DR tests of actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 7

8 FIGURE 2: DEDUP-ASYNC REPLICATION ARCHITECTURE your SQL Server databases (on virtual servers or physical servers) at any time with no interruption to data replication and with no additional capacity requirements. A virtual copy of the data is created at the DR site and is immediately available for testing or analysis. Dedup-Async also provides sophisticated incremental failback capabilities to make the restoration of service at the primary site very simple in the event of a failover condition to the DR site. Virtualizing the Restore / Recovery Operation Actifio delivers the unique capability to enable applications to directly use point-in-time data without the need for a traditional restore operation. This is because Actifio is an intelligent copy data storage system that can instantly create a view of the application data from a past point in time, and allow applications to access it efficiently via Fibre Channel or iscsi, just as if accessing a traditional storage system. This unique technique of enabling applications to directly access historical data eliminates the traditional restore time and data movement and significantly increases application availability at much lower cost. Any application consistent data point stored in the system can be accessed on any system connected to the Actifio solution. Common use cases are to recover a VM after a software issue, to retrieve a table or row that was deleted accidentally, or to use a virtual copy of a production database for test and development. There are three different methods than can be used to access the data stored on the Actifio: Mount, Clone and Restore. Mount The mount function is the most frequently used data access method as it directly leverages the virtual copies of data stored on Actifio. Since Actifio already has the data and can service I/O directly, there is no need to copy the data anywhere. Virtual copies of the data can be mounted instantly on any system in the environment using efficient block-level protocols including iscsi and Fibre Channel. By eliminating the data movement from the process, data sets of any size can be accessed instantly on any server in the environment, virtual or physical. A 2 TB data set can be accessed in the same amount of time as a 2 GB data set, in seconds, since the data is mounted instead of copied. Virtual copies of any database can be used for logical recovery, for test and development, or for full VM instant recovery. When mounting virtual disks from a VM to an existing physical host or VM, the user chooses the desired host. For a VM, the new disks are added as Virtual or Physical Mode Raw Device Mappings (vrdms/ prdms). For physical hosts, the connector will assign a drive letter to the volumes and make the volumes accessible within Windows. In either case, standard SQL Server tools can be used to access the mounted database for recovery or for other uses. If the production database runs on a VM and Actifio is used to protect the entire VM then a point-in-time copy can be mounted as a new VM. When creating such a new VM, the user specifies a VM name, a vcenter server, an ESX server, and a datastore. Actifio creates the VM actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 8

9 using virtual copies of the point-in-time images presented as vrdms and marked as non-independent, so that this VM can be further protected using Actifio if desired. The VM is automatically registered with vcenter but the virtual network interfaces are unplugged in order to avoid network IP conflicts. The datastore specified is only used to host the VM configuration and vrdm mapping files, which consume almost no space in the datastore. Clone The clone function is used to create an independent copy of a database for any number of reasons: test and development, audit, compliance, data warehousing, forensic analysis, e-discovery, user acceptance testing, etc. Virtual server or physical server databases can be copied from any application-consistent point in the system to a separate storage location anywhere in the customer environment. For example, a VM running SQL Server can be cloned to a new VM that appears exactly as it did 6 months ago for e-discovery. For VMs, creating a clone is similar to mounting to a new VM, except that the virtual disks are actually copied to newly created VMDK files in one or more of the ESX server s data stores, as specified by the user. For databases from physical servers, the clone operation will create a bit for bit copy of the SQL Server database volume(s) on storage from an attached storage array. Restore The restore function effectively reverts the production data to look exactly as it did at the time of the data collection point. When restoring a VM, Actifio powers down the production VM, deletes all the virtual disks (all data will be lost), and creates new virtual disks with the same data from the time of the restore point. When restoring a physical server, the underlying disk will be reverted to its state at the time of the original data capture. Conclusion Actifio copy data storage solution is based on patented Virtual Data Pipeline (VDP) technology, which provides the most efficient way to manage data growth while solving your biggest IT challenges around information protection and availability. Using Actifio to manage and protect MS SQL Server databases delivers significant benefits to IT, including: Near-zero backup window: data is captured using snapshots and not backups Instant access: mount and clone operations with no data movement required Incremental forever: after the initial copy, all backups are incremental (no more fulls ) Extreme granularity: provide object-level access including data files, tables, and rows Storage and WAN optimized: incremental backups deduped and compressed to optimize long-term storage and replication Reclaimed storage: store snapshots on any storage and reclaim expensive tier-1 production storage About Actifio Actifio pioneered the industry s first storage system optimized for managing virtual copies of production data, eliminating redundant silos of IT infrastructure and data management applications. Actifio Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) platform is based on patented Virtual Data PipelineTM (VDP) technology, delivering dramatically enhanced business availability by eliminating backup and restore windows and the creation of virtual point-in-time copies of data on-demand, for use by any business application. Integrating data deduplication, network and processor utilization optimization, Actifio provides the most efficient way to manage data growth while solving your biggest IT challenges around information protection and availability. For additional information, visit Actifio at contact Actifio at or For more information on how Actifio can radically simplify your data management, visit actifio.com Redefining Microsoft SQL Data Management 9

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