“Did we back that up?”

 

As a former system administrator, this isn’t something that I particularly enjoy hearing on a Friday afternoon. Too often, data protection is an afterthought, regardless of what your disaster recovery plan states.

 

This multipart series will explore the various methods to protect your mission-critical data on a NetApp® SolidFire® Element® OS system.

SnapMirror

It’s nice to have an option to set and forget for protecting your data. Even if your organization has backup policies in place, why not establish a second mountable copy that you can control retention and recovery with? Oh, and hey, why not include both disaster recovery and archiving capabilities at the same time?

 

With the release of Element OS 10.1, we have yet another tool in our already robust data protection arsenal. Not only does NetApp currently provide synchronous, asynchronous, snap, and object target replication, we now integrate into SnapMirror® technology.

 

Okay, okay… Let’s get to it. If you have a Netapp SolidFire or Netapp HCI (Element OS) cluster running some important workloads and you want to use SnapMirror to mirror to that FAS with extra free space, this is for you.

Before We Start

First, here’s a list of hard prerequisites that will keep you from wasting your time. These may require hardware or upgrading.

  • Element OS 10.1. Released in December 2017. If you don’t have it, download it now! For HCI users, 10.x will be coming very soon.
  • ONTAP OS 9.3. Your FAS target must be running ONTAP® 9.3 or later. The good news is that 9.3 is now officially GA!
  • ONTAP and Element OS have network connectivity. This may sound obvious but remember that Element OS has both an SVIP and an MVIP that need to connect to the SnapMirror target. This may require you to add a couple of interfaces and/or a router to your configuration. My recommendation is to plug in a couple of 10GbE to your SolidFire storage switch from the FAS and create the necessary interfaces.

We will go through the other “soft” requirements later, step by step. These are the items that may take some prep work; the others are simply configuration options in either ONTAP or Element OS.

Summary of Steps

Since the intent of this post is to guide you in a complete configuration procedure, here is a preview of the steps.

  1. Configure the physical interfaces in ONTAP.
  2. Create the intercluster logical interfaces (LIFs) in ONTAP.
  3. Create an optional target SVM in ONTAP.
  4. Enable the SnapMirror capability in Element OS.
  5. Create a SnapMirror endpoint in Element OS.
  6. Create a volume pair relationship in Element OS.

Installation

Nope. If you meet the above criteria, it’s already installed. Remember what I said about integrated?

Configure ONTAP

Configuration of SnapMirror endpoints gets this ball rolling. First, make sure that your FAS is ready to make the connection.

 

**Important Note**

 

I assume that if you are an Element OS user, you haven’t completed any of the following ONTAP configuration. This added configuration workflow is not in the Element OS administration guide, so the information in this section may be helpful if you’re not familiar with ONTAP.

Create the New Network Interface

First, you need to configure the network to connect to the Element OS cluster. Log in to your ONTAP 9.3 or later system and go to Network > IPspaces. Click Create to create your new IPspace for SolidFire.

Next, you create the broadcast domain that you will use for the interface. Go to Network > Create Broadcast Domains. Here you will create the appropriate broadcast domain with jumbo frames and the physical interfaces that you connected to the SolidFire storage network.

Create the Required ONTAP LIFs

Go to Configuration > Advanced Cluster Setup.  In the Cluster Peering option box, click Proceed.

You now have an option to set the IP addresses of the intercluster LIFs that you will use to connect to the SVIP on SolidFire. Notice that my IP addresses are on the storage network, and the physical ports are the 10GbE ports that I connected to my SolidFire storage switch on the same VLAN as my storage network.

 

After verifying your configuration, click Submit and Continue.

This is all that you really need to do to create the intercluster LIFs seen here in the interface list. The rest of the pairing will happen from the Element OS system.

Go back to Network > Network Interfaces to verify that your LIFs are active. It should look similar to this.

Create Your Target SVM (Optional)

Now you need to create the SVM that you will use as a target for the SnapMirror relationship that you will create later. You can of course use any SVM that you choose, or even multiple ones. I’m sure that everyone who has ever used a FAS knows how to create an SVM, so I’m going to create one with the name EasyButton to use as a target.

 

Now that you have everything you need in your environment for the SnapMirror target portion, you will configure the SolidFire system as the SnapMirror source.

Configure SolidFire for SnapMirror

I mentioned earlier that you need to do a few things to the configuration of the SolidFire cluster before you can continue. One of these things is to enable the SnapMirror functionality. When you do this, it makes a permanent change to the configuration that can’t be undone. This is similar to enabling VVols on the cluster.

 

Some other things to consider when using SnapMirror on SolidFire:

  • The volume must have the enable SnapMirror flag set.
  • The volume must be 512e block size when created.
  • The volume cannot already be participating in SolidFire Remote Replication.
  • The volume must not currently be in Replication Target mode.

Now that you have that out of the way, here are the configuration details for the SolidFire side.

Enable SnapMirror on the Cluster

This is simple enough. On the top Cluster menu, select Settings and choose the green Enable option.

Create a SnapMirror Endpoint

Next, connect to the target by creating an endpoint.

  • Note about endpoints for SnapMirror. Currently, in SnapMirror 10.1, you can create a total of four endpoints. This is not an architectural limitation, but it is currently a supported limitation. Expect this limit to increase in future versions.

Select Data Protection from the top menu, then choose SnapMirror Endpoints. Click the green Create Endpoint option.

The connection screen to the FAS that you want to use as the target opens. Enter your IP information and then enter the admin user and password to the target system. Click Create Endpoint again.

 

Success!

Now look at the window to the left of the configuration panel to verify that everything looks as it should. Click the blue X to close the subwindow. Notice that the LIFs that we created, the name of the FAS, and the correct management IP are showing. We also have a connected state. The only thing it seems that we don’t have is connected volumes, so we should fix that.

 

If you don’t see the LIFs in the configuration page, there’s a good chance that you don’t have them configured on the target FAS. In that case, you won’t be able to create a volume relationship. However, if you followed the earlier instructions, you should be in good shape.

Create a SnapMirror Volume Pair

On the Volumes submenu of the Management menu, select the 1TB VMware volume as a candidate.  Click the Configuration button and select Edit from the drop-down menu.

The popup menu now contains the option to enable this volume for SnapMirror. Select that option and save the changes. Back on the Edit menu, select Create a SnapMirror Relationship. On the popup menu that opens, select an endpoint, SVM, volume name suffix, and aggregates accessible to that SVM. You can also select an existing volume. When finished, click Create Destination Volume.

 

The volume is created on the FAS using the management network from the SolidFire cluster. If the storage network is not configured or connected, you can still complete the volume creation on the FAS side without error.

Finally, complete the configuration of the relationship by assigning a policy. As an option, you can also assign a schedule and bandwidth limit. This is a valuable option if you have high change rate workloads that you don’t want to compete for bandwidth with other traditional backup jobs.

 

When the configuration is complete, you can initialize the volume with the Radio button. In the example, I initialized and then clicked Create Relationship.

If you get an error message about a policy not being compatible during this step, you probably are not using ONTAP 9.3 or later on the target.

 

Now you have a fully configured SnapMirror relationship. You can see a health status, all of the variables that you set in the previous step, and some relevant statistics.

 

I’ve found that if you have set up a snap schedule with a small interval and a large volume, you will get an occasional error message. That’s because the initial copy doesn’t have time to transfer before the next snap is created in the schedule.  The error clears after the initial transfer completes. If you get an error message, denoted by a red icon in the relationships status, you can mouse over it for details. Almost every error that I’ve seen at this point was caused by LIFs not being configured to connect back to the SVIP. This could have been the result of the ONTAP configuration or of a switching issue.

The status and state may take a while to update on the initial transfer. If you’re anxious, you can watch the target volume on the FAS until the % used remains unchanged. (After that, you can go watch a plant grow in your office for some added excitement.) Watching the target volume does have the benefit of letting you know that something is wrong right away instead of waiting for the SolidFire cluster to tell you.

SUCCESS!  You now have a SnapMirror volume.

Do You Automate?

“I don’t always automate, but when I do, I use APIs.”

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I would probably use Python or PowerShell to automate administration tasks. We have added 20 new pages of SnapMirror specific methods to our API guide. In fact, everything that I’ve covered in this blog so far can be done with an API. Yes, we are serious about automating the world, especially data protection.

Other Thoughts

It’s always nice to have another tool in your bag of data recovery tricks. With SnapMirror you have a robust data protection and archive tool that you probably already own, that can be configured natively for your private cloud deployment on Element OS. You gain all of the benefits of SnapMirror protection, with the rich data services of Element OS, in one package.

 

In the next blog post in this series, we will explore additional options for native data protection with Element OS, including some helpful examples.

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Shayne Williams

Shayne Williams is a Global Architect for the Cloud Infrastructure division at NetApp.  Currently, his primary focus is to help provide validated private cloud solutions for NetApp’s Global 100 customers. He has worked for various industry storage vendors, focused on providing infrastructure solutions for large applications.  As a previous customer, he has direct experience with workflow automation and Data Center management that offers customers a valuable firsthand perspective on solution delivery.