Can You Backup a Nutanix Cluster to Amazon S3? – Comtrade Software Briefing Note

Data centers of all types are increasingly trying to figure out how to store backups in the cloud. VMware and Hyper-V customers have a variety of options for doing this, but Nutanix customers using the Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) have historically been left out. Is it possible to do this? In addition, what about backup from one Nutanix cluster to another?

Why would someone want to backup to the cloud, vs backing up to another system onsite? The simple reason is disaster recovery. One only has to turn on the news to see multiple states, territories, and countries where there have been disasters large enough to take out a metropolitan area. Customers who backup their data to local systems, or backup to tapes that go in a truck to a storage facility down the road, might find themselves hampered in a major disaster.

Backing up to the cloud creates options in case of disaster. Consider a major pharmaceutical company with two data centers in Puerto Rico. They were backing up to each other, which is usually a solid practice. The administrators then copied occasional backups to tape and handed them to Iron Mountain. Hurricane Irma significantly damaged one data center and took out power to both of them. As of this writing, one data center is up and running via diesel generators, but they are worried they will run out of diesel. And no one is sure what the Iron Mountain facility looks like. It is safe to assume that this company now wishes it had backed up to the cloud.

What about backing up one Nutanix cluster to another? Does that make sense? If you can isolate them from each other, the answer is yes. While it is true that one copy should be outside the realm of influence of any potential disaster, it’s also true that a local copy will be infinitely useful for minor disasters. Minor disasters impact a single facility or even part of that facility. An example might be a server failure, a network switch failure or a storage system failure. Minor disasters also occur much more frequently than the headline grabbing major disaster. Backing up to another Nutanix cluster provides excellent protection from minor disasters.

Storage Switzerland previously covered Comtrade Software and its product, HYCU (pronounced like haiku). It is a backup and recovery product designed specifically for Nutanix. As of now, it supports only the AHV hypervisor. Comtrade talks of expanding beyond that, but for now this is what the product supports.

Comtrade announced recently that it now supports backing up a Nutanix cluster to another cluster. What it suggests is to have a storage dense cluster, and to use it as the target for backups for multiple clusters. Backup data is transferred via the Nutanix scale-out storage protocol (ABS), allowing it to be load balanced from the Nutanix production system to the target system. This should significantly decrease backup times. With the data stored, ready to go in the storage dense cluster, recovery can occur very quickly. At that point, the VM could be migrated back to the primary cluster.

In addition, HYCU is expanding its initial cloud support beyond AWS, which we covered in our first briefing note. It now supports backing up your Nutanix cluster to Cloudian and Scality. Comtrade is working on expanding this list even further.

StorageSwiss Take

HYCU’s tightly integrated backup and recovery product is specifically designed for Nutanix clusters. Nutanix customers should therefore get significant benefit from using such a product to back up their systems. We previously expressed concern that the Nutanix AHV market was limiting, and these new features don’t expand the total addressable market for Comtrade. However, Comtrade does claim to be working on other hypervisors. Nutanix claims that 25% of their customer base is now using the AHV hypervisor and while small HYCU seems to be the only game in town for AHV data protection.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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