Database administrators (DBAs) face very different challenges than we did five years ago. The adoption of the hybrid cloud, rising security and backup concerns, and the expectation of non-disruptive service are rapidly changing the IT environment. Like many IT shops, NetApp IT is doing more with less, including supporting a large number of databases (400 plus) on a smaller budget.


While performance management remains a top priority, just as critical are issues such as disaster recovery, auditing, compliance, and maintenance. We rely on a variety of tools, including NetApp’s data protection products, to manage our databases. In this blog, I’ll share how our team uses NetApp products in these four areas:

  • Business continuity/disaster recovery
  • Performance management
  • Capacity management
  • Auditing & Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) compliance




How NetApp Products Help Us Overcome These Challenges

Our team uses a variety of NetApp’s data protection products, including SnapCenter®, SnapMirror®, FlexClone®, and SnapVault®, in our everyday routine. Clustered Data ONTAP® (cDOT) is the underlying operating system that helps automate our enterprise application lifecycle tasks. I will start with a discussion of SnapCenter, our management tool.


SnapMirrorSnapCenter, NetApp’s data protection and clone management tool, combines management and backup of our 400-plus databases into one central platform. We use SnapCenter to simplify our storage planning, backup, and restore operations. For example, in the past we manually specified file backups daily, which was both time consuming and prone to errors. This process is now completely automated. We also use SnapCenter to:

  • Provide automatic scheduling of backups at the volume level, not file level. This ensures regular and quality backups and makes it easier to scale our operations.
  • Perform daily database refreshes. Using an end-to-end workflow from production through backup eliminates the many manual tasks associated with tracking and backing changes.
  • Ensure automatic backups of Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and other compliance-related data. With SnapCenter we send the backup data to tapes (a process soon to be performed in the cloud using AltaVault).
  • Grant users the ability to manage their application-specific backup/restore/clone jobs without our intervention.

For the past eight years we have used SnapManager® for SQL Server® to run all our SQL database backups in one location. Currently, we run the SQL feature as a separate product, but we will be moving to a new SQL plug-in for SnapCenter, which means one less tool to manage and more efficient SQL server management.


SnapMirror, a data transfer feature of clustered Data ONTAP, is a critical tool in our database management arsenal because of its ability to compress and replicate data between Point A and Point B. We use it to ensure block-level changes are replicated in the database. It is an invaluable tool for generating multiple copies for dev/test, reporting, cloning, and disaster recovery replication. We also use SnapMirror to:

  • Set up automated scheduling for the recurring refreshes of critical databases, such as those that are compliance-related (SOX, Audit), making the process both consistent and predictable.
  • Support high availability (HA) requirements; we can recover a database in minutes instead of hours thanks to SnapMirror’s replication and compression features.
  • Copy files during a data center migration. SnapMirror can copy files in a fraction of the time, reducing downtime.
  • Provide lifecycle management for database clones, accelerating application testing and development.


FlexCloneFlexClone is a fast, efficient functionality we rely on for automation and capacity management. The thin provisioning capability delivers multiple instant, point-in-time, space-efficient copies of replicated volumes and logical unit numbers (LUNs), saving terabytes of disk space. SnapMirror and FlexClone work hand in hand to enable stored data to be used for dev/test or data mining. While SnapMirror tracks changes over time, FlexClone generates point-in-time copies that are essential for rapid application testing and development. We use SnapMirror to replicate data on a different filer, then spin these off using FlexClone. And because a clone uses only a small amount of space for metadata, it only consumes additional space as data is changed. We can use both with Oracle and SQL databases. We use FlexClone to maintain performance and automate many of our services including:

  • Spin off a copy when we have a critical issue in a large database. The FlexClone version is ideal for troubleshooting while the production version keeps running.
  • Generate copies of disaster recovery volumes for use during application testing so we don’t need to break the SnapMIrror relationship with the database, eliminating the loss of data backups.
  • Create a database copy from which management reports can be generated, leaving application development or test to use the untouched production database.
  • Migrate very large databases without business interruption for pre-cutover testing.
  • Provide a quick return to service if a server or storage goes down in our Oracle 11G environment; FlexClone’s schema-as-a-service solution enables point-in-time recovery of individual schemas.


SnapVault, a HA backup and recovery feature of cDOT, is used to protect data with unique requirements, such as compliance data. In the past, we had to manually move a database to storage, then move it to a vault.  In the latest release we can transfer from production directly to the vault, which is much more efficient and requires no manual intervention. With SnapVault we can store data on a filer and then capture user changes over time. It’s a version of tape backup; we can retrieve the data and all its edits at any time. SnapVault is also used for keeping multiple copies of production databases for code releases. If developers want to retrieve a database from three releases ago, they can take multiple snapshots of a database, store it in a vault, then restore it to a point-in-time as needed.


cDOT as the Foundation

Our use of NetApp products relies on the underlying cDOT software, which provides the u. Its non-disruptive feature is essential to ensuring continuous access to databases during updates, migrations, and other volume-related changes.


These NetApp products have been instrumental in helping our database team work more efficiently and provide fast, efficient data replication and disaster recovery. We can meet recovery-point objectives ranging from minutes to hours. We keep both the active mirror and prior backup copies to enable selective failover points in the disaster recovery copy. These products-along with rigorous work processes-help us protect our data while maximizing our database performance in a wide variety of business and IT environments.


The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to view learn more about the program? Visit

Dinaharan Ayyalusamy