By Steven Cortez, Senior Systems Administrator based in Greensboro, North Carolina & NetApp A-Team Member
In my line of work, I spend most of my time talking to customers. And as a long-time NetApp fanboy (read my other blog supporting Mercy Hospital for a NetApp Innovation Award), a lot of that time is spent talking up NetApp solutions. However, while I’m always a bit partial to NetApp, my team and I do our due diligence and examine other options. In this case, we were comparing Veeam Backup on NetApp AltaVault vs. an AWS Gateway (as well as the Virtual Tape Library, or VTL, option) to replace a customer’s existing tape solution.
Spoiler Alert: AltaVault is the clear winner here. In addition to having the best performance across all of the tests we performed for both backup and restore, the capacity and reduction of CPU/RAM utilization—as well as features like deduplication and compression—blew AWS out of the water.
From Tape to the Cloud
Like many other companies, our customer was previously backing up his workload to tape via NetBackup, which proved ineffective for a number of reasons. It was not a very cost-effective solution, what with buying and storing tapes and maintaining the supporting infrastructure. With data expanding at such a dramatic rate, the customer could no longer afford to scale its tape solution, and was looking for other options, including the cloud. Our primary goal was to eliminate tape while streamlining the customer’s backup process and utilising cloud resources as a target.
Other customer requirements included:
- 1GB network connection for all backups
- The Veeam server would act as a proxy server
- Provide both full and incremental backups
- The ability to store a copy of data offsite in AWS
While both the AWS and the AltaVault system could achieve the result of utilising AWS instead of tape for backup, the differences in manageability and monitoring were what tipped the scales in favor of AltaVault.
Easy and Painless Setup
Right off the bat, AltaVault is much simpler to set up. I think it took us maybe 30 minutes from deploying the VM and getting it up and running to building our first CIFS share. The latest version of AltaVault makes this process even easier by allowing you to stand up a virtual AltaVault within AWS as well as the ability to back up directly to it. I can’t wait to get the funding opened up on my business so I can actually do this myself.
AltaVault was ridiculously fast. The significantly improved front-end throughput (up to 26Mbps) over AWS means that we can do a lot more with less. How much less? Try 50%. That’s right, AltaVault was even able to achieve over 50% reduction in CPU and RAM utilisation on the Veeam server compared to other POC configurations.
And of course, the actual time to replication was crazy fast, particularly when compared to the customer’s old tape system. That figure was particularly important to our customer, who depended on reliable backup windows to complete replication jobs in a timely and repeatable fashion. Now that they can do those jobs in a fraction of the time, they can redirect that energy and effort into innovating and building the business.
Dramatic reduction in data and capacity usage
As you can see on the graph below, the storage optimisation achieved with AltaVault was dramatic, with up to 4.99x deduplication (from 212.5GB to 42.6GB). This in turn reduced the overall network traffic to the cloud. We were already sending the de-duplicated bits over the network when we were sending our data from the data centre to the cloud, as well as from the customers’ data centre to another vendor’s location (flexibility that AWS did not have). All of this is easy to manage within the AltaVault front-end.
With the Amazon Storage Gateway, we essentially had to provide double the capacity, which included the 50GB write buffer and a 50GB upload buffer that transfers the data from block to S3. Not only did this process take forever, but it’s iSCSI only, which means it has to be mounted directly to the box. The AltaVault can stand alone, even if it’s in a VM.
This was perhaps the biggest improvement over the AWS Gateway. The images above would not even be possible to obtain with AWS, and when you do finally figure out how to get any kind of data out of it, you can’t make sense of it. AltaVault gives you all kinds of information that you can use so you can know in real time what’s running, see how much capacity and disks you’re using, and make real-time decisions about how to optimise your storage. You can also use this data to project for the future and make smart decisions about planning your data storage purchases. With the AWS system, there’s no way to predict what you’ll need for next year, because the data you get just isn’t usable, particularly in the enterprise.
So there you have it, all the reasons why I’d choose AltaVault over an AWS Storage Gateway any day of the week for Veeam backup. While the initial cost might be steep, you definitely get what you pay for, and save yourself a good deal of heartache over the AWS solution.