An Index into Unstructured NetApp Data

Industry pundits continue to chronicle how the deluge of unstructured data (user files, images, PDFs, email, etc.) is overwhelming many data center storage environments. While applying the right storage technology to shore up data is important, having visibility into those vast stores of information is equally, if not more critical. Syncsort’s new ECX Enterprise Catalogue solution may just be the answer for helping organizations fill the data management gap in Network Appliance and VMware environments.

Corralling NetApp and VMware Data

For over a decade, the data protection arm of Syncsort’s business has been delivering efficient backup solutions to safeguard critical data on Network Appliance storage. Through deep integration with both the NetApp OnTap file system and the suite of SnapVault and SnapManager solutions, Syncsort has developed core expertise that efficiently manages and protects data stored on NetApp filers. They have now applied this expertise towards developing an Enterprise Catalogue which provides deep insight into all the data under NetApp snapshot protection, as well as the underlying VMware infrastructure.

Point-in-time snapshots have long been leveraged by Network Appliance users to protect data and to share data in a variety of business use cases, like enabling developers to non-disruptively load production data into a test and development environment. Over time, many organizations can quickly accumulate hundreds or even thousands of snapshots across dozens of filers.

An Ocean of Snapshots

Trying to keep track of all these snapshots, much less all the files contained within them, becomes virtually impossible. This poses several problems for organizations. First, trying to locate individual files across a sea of snapshots can sometimes take many hours or even days to complete. This could have serious consequences if data needs to be rapidly retrieved for EDiscovery or for some other regulatory compliance reason. It could also hinder data analytics or decision support applications that are trying to mine data for revenue generating purposes.

Secondly, the speed at which new business applications are rolled out across virtualized server infrastructures often results in situations where data is not adequately protected or is even overprotected. Without the ability to perform a query on all the copies of snapshot protected information across the enterprise for a given application, it’s very difficult to confirm that corporate data policies are being maintained.

Infrastructure Inefficiencies

Lastly, storage reclamation efforts are hindered because there is no easy way to determine how much data is stale or no longer being accessed across all the snapshots in the environment. As a result, high cost primary storage capacity is often wasted.

In fact, many of the same operational efficiency issues can also impact VMware infrastructures. Virtual machines (VMs) can be quickly spun up to support a temporary business application or software development project. Often these VMs are not decommissioned once a given project is completed, resulting in orphaned VMs, unused storage and underutilized networking capacity. In short, the lack of data visibility into Network Appliance platforms and VMware infrastructures can translate into increased costs and missed business opportunities.

Catalogue Driven Control

Syncsort’s ECX Enterprise Catalogue deploys as a virtual appliance on a VM and, according to Syncsort, installs in a matter of minutes. Once installed, ECX provides immediate insight into all the snapshot volumes across dozens or even hundreds of Network Appliance Filers. ECX Catalogue data can scale into the billions of objects, enabling very large data centers to maintain a single catalogue instance across their entire installed base of NetApp Filers and vSphere hosts.

The ECX Catalogue can also be configured to only present data on a subset of the environment. This is important for enterprises or Cloud Service Providers supporting multi-tenant infrastructures. Once the ECX Catalogue is up and running, users can perform rapid data searches using key words and/or file names to retrieve information. It also provides the visibility required to determine if data is being adequately protected or if there is an inconsistency in that protection.

For example, if there is a version of a replicated production snapshot volume that is present in the primary data center but not in a secondary data center, ECX will flag that data as out of synch so corrective measures can be taken. ECX also enables compliance managers to produce audit trail reports which demonstrate whether or not data protection service levels are being adhered to. And just as importantly, storage planners can leverage ECX to reclaim storage capacity, drive down costs and improve operational efficiencies.

Storage Swiss Take

Unstructured data is putting significant strains on the infrastructure and people resources in enterprise data centers and CSP facilities alike. Even though Syncsort’s ECX Catalogue is only compatible with Network Appliance and VMware, its entry into the market is a timely one. Organizations no longer have the luxury of purging data just to clear space on the data center floor. Tools which can efficiently catalogue copious amounts of unstructured data so that hidden files can be easily accessed will soon become indispensable.

Syncsort is not a client of Storage Switzerland

As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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