How to Backup Big NAS – Igneous Briefing Note

One of the top use cases for a network attached storage system (NAS) is to be the catchall for unstructured data to make it easy to distribute data to compute in a shared infrastructure for use by many applications. The data on these systems range from very active data the organization is working on to very inactive data not touched in years. Because of the sheer size of capacity and the high number of files, backing up these systems can bring traditional backup systems to their knees. IT needs to look for a new way to protect these systems in a timely, secure way.

The NAS Backup Problem

Backing up NAS is difficult for many reasons. The first, and most obvious, is the sheer size of the task at hand. Modern NAS systems can have hundreds of terabytes, if not dozens of petabytes of data, on them, which potentially represents several billion files. The challenge increases because most NAS systems will not allow the installation of third party software directly on them, meaning that either these NAS systems must utilize third party backup software supporting legacy protocols like NDMP which cannot handle modern NAS data volume or that all of this data and all of these files need to be copied out through the NAS head and across the network. Finally, the number of files puts a strain on traditional backup indexes so that finding a particular file is a slow time consuming process.

Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud – Backup and Archive for Massive File Systems

Igneous provides a hybrid cloud storage solution that can store massive amounts of data. The solution also has the capability to interface directly with NAS systems (and currently supports NetApp, Dell EMC Isilon and Pure’s Flashblade). It leverages a multi-threaded, latency aware solution with dynamic throttling to provide anytime backup without impacting production performance. It is not uncommon for organizations to have multiple NAS solutions from various vendors. Igneous provides the ability to consolidate backups onto a single secondary storage system while at the same time eliminating the need for NAS backup software.

Setup is also easy. The solution can automatically discover NAS exports and back those up, in parallel. The software will automatically initiate a snapshot, move or copy the data, and then release the snapshot. Moreover, Igneous delivers its whole offering as-a-Service, so customers don’t have to monitor, troubleshoot, or even update software on the systems.

For organizations with smaller branch offices, the solution can be distributed, with an Igneous Service Router implemented at each remote site, which will drive the backup process and copy data to the primary site. Finally, the solution can replicate data to either another Igneous system or directly to the public cloud.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

When it comes to NAS systems though, the elephant in the room is the amount of unstructured data on a NAS that has not been accessed in years. Most of the data, as much as 80%, on a NAS system falls into this category. The problem is that most backup solutions do nothing to help IT eliminate this data, and while their archive systems can perform this function they don’t do backups and they require a separate storage silo.

Igneous can identify and move data that meets certain criteria, like files that have not been accessed within the last year. With that data securely stored on the Igneous systems, IT sees faster backup performance, and primary NAS storage capacity, which is significantly more expensive than Igneous storage, grows at a dramatically slower pace, if at all.

Unlike many pure archive solutions, Igneous does not provide any form of transparent recall (a.k.a. stubs files on the NAS). As far as the company is concerned, the effort required and the fragility introduced by going through the process of creating a stubbed file system with transparent recall isn’t worth it. The reasoning is sound. Data being archived hasn’t been accessed in years, and the chances of it being accessed again are very, very small. Additionally in most cases, if it is accessed again there is a “known reason” for its access. In other words, the access of old data is something IT can plan.

StorageSwiss Take

Big NAS has always been a stumbling block in the backup process. Igneous provides a solution specifically designed for the task and delivers it as-a-Service to minimize management overhead. More importantly, it integrates archiving which not only simplifies the backup process further it curbs the growth of primary NAS storage. For data centers with hundreds of terabytes or more of unstructured data to protect Igneous deserves strong consideration.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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