NetApp Backups to AWS

By Chris Vest, Sr. Systems Administrator


The pressure to reduce costs has, in some cases, hastily launched cloud migration projects, only to have them get mired by overruns, culminating into the realization that cloud takes a good bit of work to achieve the desired cost savings. This is often exacerbated by a misunderstanding of the technologies, the paradigm shift involved, and outdated requirements definitions for the products to migrate.

We found ourselves with an aging on-prem tape backup system, which provided the incentive to refocus our efforts on migrating our backups to the cloud. AWS continues to expand their options in this arena with a plethora of third-party vendors. We support a GIS oriented customer who uses NetApp for primary storage, so there is further incentive to take a closer look at the offerings from them.


NetApp has been working on their cloud services since 2016, and one of their newer offerings is called Cloud Backup. The backups are separate, independent copies of the source cluster that leverage the built-in SnapMirror features of ONTAP and create a block for block copy (instead of file level) of the ONTAP volumes to the backup target. Since the source ONTAP has already been deduplicated and compressed, the size optimizations have already been applied, minimizing costs. Also note that only the head snapshot for the backup is transferred. No additional snapshots are retained in the backup. Lastly, once the first full backup is complete, each successive backup is an incremental, further minimizing wasted space and transfer costs.


Cloud backup is flexible enough to copy/restore from an on-prem ONTAP to a Cloud Volumes ONTAP if desired as well as backups to object storage (S3, or another ONTAP). It is managed through policies either in System Manager from the on-prem ONTAP, or through a NetApp run web portal called Cloud Manager. The portal offers a number of additional AI driven data analytics, and automation tools as well as a cost analysis tool for both storage and compute. It includes access to more traditional NetApp data management tools to include SnapCenter, DataLock (for Ransomware protection), Sync, and Replication. Lastly, it includes a new cloud data management tool to support storage tiering.


Migrating the backup for the on-prem ONTAP from an EOL’ing tape drive system has become (even more) labor intensive to maintain, so the Cloud Backup solution should increase efficiency in terms of administrative time, cost, and resiliency. Cloud Backups are more efficient for both transport and storage cost, because they are snapshot based deduplicated and compressed block level transfers instead of file level. Using the cloud as a target provides offsite storage satisfying 3-2-1 backup strategy. And finally, cost savings.

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