StorSimple as a backup target with Backup Exec

Overview

Azure StorSimple is a hybrid cloud storage solution from Microsoft. StorSimple addresses the complexities of exponential data growth by using an Azure storage account as an extension of the on-premises solution, and automatically tiering data across on-premises storage and cloud storage.

In this article, we discuss StorSimple integration with Veritas Backup Exec and best practices for integrating both solutions. We also make recommendations on how to set up Backup Exec to best integrate with StorSimple. We defer to Veritas best practices, backup architects, and administrators for the best way to set up Backup Exec to meet individual backup requirements and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Although we illustrate configuration steps and key concepts, this article is by no means a step-by-step configuration or installation guide. We assume that the basic components and infrastructure are in working order and ready to support the concepts that we describe.

Who should read this?

The information in this article will be most helpful to backup administrators, storage administrators, and storage architects who have knowledge of storage, Windows Server 2012 R2, Ethernet, cloud services, and Backup Exec.

Supported versions

Why StorSimple as a backup target?

StorSimple is a good choice for a backup target because:

  • It provides standard, local storage for backup applications to use as a fast backup destination, without any changes. You also can use StorSimple for a quick restore of recent backups.
  • Its cloud tiering is seamlessly integrated with an Azure cloud storage account to use cost-effective Azure Storage.
  • It automatically provides offsite storage for disaster recovery.

Key concepts

As with any storage solution, a careful assessment of the solution’s storage performance, SLAs, rate of change, and capacity growth needs is critical to success. The main idea is that by introducing a cloud tier, your access times and throughputs to the cloud play a fundamental role in the ability of StorSimple to do its job.

StorSimple is designed to provide storage to applications that operate on a well-defined working set of data (hot data). In this model, the working set of data is stored on the local tiers, and the remaining nonworking/cold/archived set of data is tiered to the cloud. This model is represented in the following figure. The nearly flat green line represents the data stored on the local tiers of the StorSimple device. The red line represents the total amount of data stored on the StorSimple solution across all tiers. The space between the flat green line and the exponential red curve represents the total amount of data stored in the cloud.

StorSimple tiering StorSimple tiering diagram

With this architecture in mind, you will find that StorSimple is ideally suited to operate as a backup target. You can use StorSimple to:

  • Perform your most frequent restores from the local working set of data.
  • Use the cloud for offsite disaster recovery and older data, where restores are less frequent.

StorSimple benefits

StorSimple provides an on-premises solution that is seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Azure, by taking advantage of seamless access to on-premises and cloud storage.

StorSimple uses automatic tiering between the on-premises device, which has solid-state device (SSD) and serial-attached SCSI (SAS) storage, and Azure Storage. Automatic tiering keeps frequently accessed data local, on the SSD and SAS tiers. It moves infrequently accessed data to Azure Storage.

StorSimple offers these benefits:

  • Unique deduplication and compression algorithms that use the cloud to achieve unprecedented deduplication levels
  • High availability
  • Geo-replication by using Azure geo-replication
  • Azure integration
  • Data encryption in the cloud
  • Improved disaster recovery and compliance

Although StorSimple presents two main deployment scenarios (primary backup target and secondary backup target), fundamentally, it's a plain, block storage device. StorSimple does all the compression and deduplication. It seamlessly sends and retrieves data between the cloud and the application and file system.

For more information about StorSimple, see StorSimple 8000 series: Hybrid cloud storage solution. Also, you can review the technical StorSimple 8000 series specifications.

Important

Using a StorSimple device as a backup target is supported only for StorSimple 8000 Update 3 and later versions.

Architecture overview

The following tables show the device model-to-architecture initial guidance.

StorSimple capacities for local and cloud storage

Storage capacity 8100 8600
Local storage capacity < 10 TiB* < 20 TiB*
Cloud storage capacity > 200 TiB* > 500 TiB*

* Storage size assumes no deduplication or compression.

StorSimple capacities for primary and secondary backups

Backup scenario Local storage capacity Cloud storage capacity
Primary backup Recent backups stored on local storage for fast recovery to meet recovery point objective (RPO) Backup history (RPO) fits in cloud capacity
Secondary backup Secondary copy of backup data can be stored in cloud capacity N/A

StorSimple as a primary backup target

In this scenario, StorSimple volumes are presented to the backup application as the sole repository for backups. The following figure shows a solution architecture in which all backups use StorSimple tiered volumes for backups and restores.

StorSimple as a primary backup target logical diagram

Primary target backup logical steps

  1. The backup server contacts the target backup agent, and the backup agent transmits data to the backup server.
  2. The backup server writes data to the StorSimple tiered volumes.
  3. The backup server updates the catalog database, and then finishes the backup job.
  4. A snapshot script triggers the StorSimple cloud snapshot manager (start or delete).
  5. The backup server deletes expired backups based on a retention policy.

Primary target restore logical steps

  1. The backup server starts restoring the appropriate data from the storage repository.
  2. The backup agent receives the data from the backup server.
  3. The backup server finishes the restore job.

StorSimple as a secondary backup target

In this scenario, StorSimple volumes primarily are used for long-term retention or archiving.

The following figure shows an architecture in which initial backups and restores target a high-performance volume. These backups are copied and archived to a StorSimple tiered volume on a set schedule.

It is important to size your high-performance volume so that it can handle your retention policy capacity and performance requirements.

StorSimple as a secondary backup target logical diagram

Secondary target backup logical steps

  1. The backup server contacts the target backup agent, and the backup agent transmits data to the backup server.
  2. The backup server writes data to high-performance storage.
  3. The backup server updates the catalog database, and then finishes the backup job.
  4. The backup server copies backups to StorSimple based on a retention policy.
  5. A snapshot script triggers the StorSimple cloud snapshot manager (start or delete).
  6. The backup server deletes expired backups based on a retention policy.

Secondary target restore logical steps

  1. The backup server starts restoring the appropriate data from the storage repository.
  2. The backup agent receives the data from the backup server.
  3. The backup server finishes the restore job.

Deploy the solution

Deploying the solution requires three steps:

  1. Prepare the network infrastructure.
  2. Deploy your StorSimple device as a backup target.
  3. Deploy Backup Exec.

Each step is discussed in detail in the following sections.

Set up the network

Because StorSimple is a solution that's integrated with the Azure cloud, StorSimple requires an active and working connection to the Azure cloud. This connection is used for operations like cloud snapshots, management, and metadata transfer, and to tier older, less accessed data to Azure cloud storage.

For the solution to perform optimally, we recommend that you follow these networking best practices:

  • The link that connects your StorSimple tiering to Azure must meet your bandwidth requirements. To achieve this, apply the necessary Quality of Service (QoS) level to your infrastructure switches to match your RPO and recovery time objective (RTO) SLAs.
  • Maximum Azure Blob storage access latencies should be around 80 ms.

Deploy StorSimple

For a step-by-step StorSimple deployment guidance, see Deploy your on-premises StorSimple device.

Deploy Backup Exec

For Backup Exec installation best practices, see Best practices for Backup Exec installation.

Set up the solution

In this section, we demonstrate some configuration examples. The following examples and recommendations illustrate the most basic and fundamental implementation. This implementation might not apply directly to your specific backup requirements.

Set up StorSimple

StorSimple deployment tasks Additional comments
Deploy your on-premises StorSimple device. Supported versions: Update 3 and later versions.
Turn on the backup target. Use these commands to turn on or turn off backup target mode, and to get status. For more information, see Connect remotely to a StorSimple device.
To turn on backup mode: Set-HCSBackupApplianceMode -enable.
To turn off backup mode: Set-HCSBackupApplianceMode -disable.
To get the current state of backup mode settings: Get-HCSBackupApplianceMode.
Create a common volume container for your volume that stores the backup data. All data in a volume container is deduplicated. StorSimple volume containers define deduplication domains.
Create StorSimple volumes. Create volumes with sizes as close to the anticipated usage as possible, because volume size affects cloud snapshot duration time. For information about how to size a volume, read about retention policies.

Use StorSimple tiered volumes, and select the Use this volume for less frequently accessed archival data check box.
Using only locally pinned volumes is not supported.
Create a unique StorSimple backup policy for all the backup target volumes. A StorSimple backup policy defines the volume consistency group.
Disable the schedule as the snapshots expire. Snapshots are triggered as a post-processing operation.

Set up the host backup server storage

Set up the host backup server storage according to these guidelines:

  • Don't use spanned volumes (created by Windows Disk Management). Spanned disks are not supported.
  • Format your volumes using NTFS with 64-KB allocation size.
  • Map the StorSimple volumes directly to the Backup Exec server.
    • Use iSCSI for physical servers.
    • Use pass-through disks for virtual servers.

Best practices for StorSimple and Backup Exec

Set up your solution according to the guidelines in the following sections.

Operating system best practices

  • Disable Windows Server encryption and deduplication for the NTFS file system.
  • Disable Windows Server defragmentation on the StorSimple volumes.
  • Disable Windows Server indexing on the StorSimple volumes.
  • Run an antivirus scan at the source host (not against the StorSimple volumes).
  • Turn off the default Windows Server maintenance in Task Manager. Do this in one of the following ways:
    • Turn off the Maintenance configurator in Windows Task Scheduler.
    • Download PsExec from Windows Sysinternals. After you download PsExec, run Azure PowerShell as an administrator, and type:
      psexec \\%computername% -s schtasks /change /tn “MicrosoftWindowsTaskSchedulerMaintenance Configurator" /disable
      

StorSimple best practices

  • Be sure that the StorSimple device is updated to Update 3 or later.
  • Isolate iSCSI and cloud traffic. Use dedicated iSCSI connections for traffic between StorSimple and the backup server.
  • Be sure that your StorSimple device is a dedicated backup target. Mixed workloads are not supported because they affect your RTO and RPO.

Backup Exec best practices

  • Backup Exec must be installed on a local drive of the server, and not on a StorSimple volume.
  • Set the Backup Exec storage concurrent write operations to the maximum allowed.
    • Set the Backup Exec storage block and buffer size to 512 KB.
    • Turn on Backup Exec storage buffered read and write.
  • StorSimple supports Backup Exec full and incremental backups. We recommend that you not use synthetic and differential backups.
  • Backup data files should contain data only for a specific job. For example, no media appends across different jobs are allowed.
  • Disable job verification. If necessary, verification should be scheduled after the latest backup job. It is important to understand that this job affects your backup window.
  • Select Storage > Your disk > Details > Properties. Turn off Pre-allocate disk space.

For the latest Backup Exec settings and best practices for implementing these requirements, see the Veritas website.

Retention policies

One of the most common backup retention policy types is a Grandfather, Father, and Son (GFS) policy. In a GFS policy, an incremental backup is performed daily and full backups are done weekly and monthly. This policy results in six StorSimple tiered volumes. One volume contains the weekly, monthly, and yearly full backups. The other five volumes store daily incremental backups.

In the following example, we use a GFS rotation. The example assumes the following:

  • Non-deduped or compressed data is used.
  • Full backups are 1 TiB each.
  • Daily incremental backups are 500 GiB each.
  • Four weekly backups are kept for a month.
  • Twelve monthly backups are kept for a year.
  • One yearly backup is kept for 10 years.

Based on the preceding assumptions, create a 26-TiB StorSimple tiered volume for the monthly and yearly full backups. Create a 5-TiB StorSimple tiered volume for each of the incremental daily backups.

Backup type retention Size (TiB) GFS multiplier* Total capacity (TiB)
Weekly full 1 4 4
Daily incremental 0.5 20 (cycles equal number of weeks per month) 12 (2 for additional quota)
Monthly full 1 12 12
Yearly full 1 10 10
GFS requirement 38
Additional quota 4 42 total GFS requirement

* The GFS multiplier is the number of copies you need to protect and retain to meet your backup policy requirements.

Set up Backup Exec storage

To set up Backup Exec storage

  1. In the Backup Exec management console, select Storage > Configure Storage > Disk-Based Storage > Next.

    Backup Exec management console, configure storage page

  2. Select Disk Storage, and then select Next.

    Backup Exec management console, select storage page

  3. Enter a representative name, for example, Saturday Full, and a description. Select Next.

    Backup Exec management console, name and description page

  4. Select the disk where you want to create the disk storage device, and then select Next.

    Backup Exec management console, storage disk selection page

  5. Increment the number of write operations to 16, and then select Next.

    Backup Exec management console, concurrent write operations settings page

  6. Review the settings, and then select Finish.

    Backup Exec management console, storage configuration summary page

  7. At the end of each volume assignment, change the storage device settings to match those recommended at Best practices for StorSimple and Backup Exec.

    Backup Exec management console, storage device settings page

  8. Repeat steps 1-7 until you are finished assigning your StorSimple volumes to Backup Exec.

Set up StorSimple as a primary backup target

Note

Data restore from a backup that has been tiered to the cloud occurs at cloud speeds.

The following figure shows the mapping of a typical volume to a backup job. In this case, all the weekly backups map to the Saturday full disk, and the incremental backups map to Monday-Friday incremental disks. All the backups and restores are from a StorSimple tiered volume.

Primary backup target configuration logical diagram

StorSimple as a primary backup target GFS schedule example

Here's an example of a GFS rotation schedule for four weeks, monthly, and yearly:

Frequency/backup type Full Incremental (days 1-5)
Weekly (weeks 1-4) Saturday Monday-Friday
Monthly Saturday
Yearly Saturday

Assign StorSimple volumes to a Backup Exec backup job

The following sequence assumes that Backup Exec and the target host are configured in accordance with the Backup Exec agent guidelines.

To assign StorSimple volumes to a Backup Exec backup job

  1. In the Backup Exec management console, select Host > Backup > Backup to Disk.

    Backup Exec management console, select host, backup, and backup to disk

  2. In the Backup Definition Properties dialog box, under Backup, select Edit.

    Backup Exec management console, Backup Definition Properties dialog box

  3. Set up your full and incremental backups so that they meet your RPO and RTO requirements and conform to Veritas best practices.

  4. In the Backup Options dialog box, select Storage.

    Backup Exec management console, Backup Options Storage dialog box

  5. Assign corresponding StorSimple volumes to your backup schedule.

    Note

    Compression and Encryption type are set to None.

  6. Under Verify, select the Do not verify data for this job check box. Using this option might affect StorSimple tiering.

    Note

    Defragmentation, indexing, and background verification negatively affect the StorSimple tiering.

    Backup Exec management console, Backup Options verify settings

  7. When you've set up the rest of your backup options to meet your requirements, select OK to finish.

Set up StorSimple as a secondary backup target

Note

Data restores from a backup that has been tiered to the cloud occur at cloud speeds.

In this model, you must have a storage media (other than StorSimple) to serve as a temporary cache. For example, you can use a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) volume to accommodate space, input/output (I/O), and bandwidth. We recommend using RAID 5, 50, and 10.

The following figure shows typical short-term retention local (to the server) volumes and long-term retention archives volumes. In this scenario, all backups run on the local (to the server) RAID volume. These backups are periodically duplicated and archived to an archives volume. It is important to size your local (to the server) RAID volume so that it can handle your short-term retention capacity and performance requirements.

StorSimple as a secondary backup target GFS example

StorSimple as secondary backup target logical diagram

The following table shows how to set up backups to run on the local and StorSimple disks. It includes individual and total capacity requirements.

Backup configuration and capacity requirements

Backup type and retention Configured storage Size (TiB) GFS multiplier Total capacity* (TiB)
Week 1 (full and incremental) Local disk (short-term) 1 1 1
StorSimple weeks 2-4 StorSimple disk (long-term) 1 4 4
Monthly full StorSimple disk (long-term) 1 12 12
Yearly full StorSimple disk (long-term) 1 1 1
GFS volumes size requirement 18*

* Total capacity includes 17 TiB of StorSimple disks and 1 TiB of local RAID volume.

GFS example schedule: GFS rotation weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule

Week Full Incremental day 1 Incremental day 2 Incremental day 3 Incremental day 4 Incremental day 5
Week 1 Local RAID volume Local RAID volume Local RAID volume Local RAID volume Local RAID volume Local RAID volume
Week 2 StorSimple weeks 2-4
Week 3 StorSimple weeks 2-4
Week 4 StorSimple weeks 2-4
Monthly StorSimple monthly
Yearly StorSimple yearly

Assign StorSimple volumes to a Backup Exec archive and deduplication job

To assign StorSimple volumes to a Backup Exec archive and duplication job

  1. In the Backup Exec management console, right-click the job that you want to archive to a StorSimple volume, and then select Backup Definition Properties > Edit.

    Backup Exec management console, Backup Definition Properties tab

  2. Select Add Stage > Duplicate to Disk > Edit.

    Backup Exec management console, add stage

  3. In the Duplicate Options dialog box, select the values that you want to use for Source and Schedule.

    Backup Exec management console, backup definitions properties and duplicate options

  4. In the Storage drop-down list, select the StorSimple volume where you want the archive job to store the data.

    Backup Exec management console, backup definitions properties and duplicate options

  5. Select Verify, and then select the Do not verify data for this job check box.

    Backup Exec management console, backup definitions properties and duplicate options

  6. Select OK.

    Backup Exec management console, backup definitions properties and duplicate options

  7. In the Backup column, add a new stage. For the source, use incremental. For the target, choose the StorSimple volume where the incremental backup job is archived. Repeat steps 1-6.

StorSimple cloud snapshots

StorSimple cloud snapshots protect the data that resides in your StorSimple device. Creating a cloud snapshot is equivalent to shipping local backup tapes to an offsite facility. If you use Azure geo-redundant storage, creating a cloud snapshot is equivalent to shipping backup tapes to multiple sites. If you need to restore a device after a disaster, you might bring another StorSimple device online and do a failover. After the failover, you would be able to access the data (at cloud speeds) from the most recent cloud snapshot.

The following section describes how to create a short script to start and delete StorSimple cloud snapshots during backup post-processing.

Note

Snapshots that are manually or programmatically created do not follow the StorSimple snapshot expiration policy. These snapshots must be manually or programmatically deleted.

Start and delete cloud snapshots by using a script

Note

Carefully assess the compliance and data retention repercussions before you delete a StorSimple snapshot. For more information about how to run a post-backup script, see the Backup Exec documentation.

Backup lifecycle

Backup Lifecycle diagram

Requirements

  • The server that runs the script must have access to Azure cloud resources.
  • The user account must have the necessary permissions.
  • A StorSimple backup policy with the associated StorSimple volumes must be set up but not turned on.
  • You'll need the StorSimple resource name, registration key, device name, and backup policy ID.

To start or delete a cloud snapshot

  1. Install Azure PowerShell.

  2. Download and setup Manage-CloudSnapshots.ps1 PowerShell script.

  3. On the server that runs the script, run PowerShell as an administrator. Ensure that you run the script with -WhatIf $true to see what changes the script will make. Once the validation is complete, pass -WhatIf $false. Run the below command:

    .\Manage-CloudSnapshots.ps1 -SubscriptionId [Subscription Id] -TenantId [Tenant ID] -ResourceGroupName [Resource Group Name] -ManagerName [StorSimple Device Manager Name] -DeviceName [device name] -BackupPolicyName [backup policyname] -RetentionInDays [Retention days] -WhatIf [$true or $false]
    
  4. Add the script to your backup job in Backup Exec by editing your Backup Exec job options' pre-processing and post-processing commands.

    Backup Exec console, backup options, pre- and post-processing commands tab

Note

We recommend that you run your StorSimple cloud snapshot backup policy as a post-processing script at the end of your daily backup job. For more information about how to back up and restore your backup application environment to help you meet your RPO and RTO, please consult with your backup architect.

StorSimple as a restore source

Restores from a StorSimple device work like restores from any block storage device. Restores of data that is tiered to the cloud occurs at cloud speeds. For local data, restores occur at the local disk speed of the device. For information about how to perform a restore, see the Backup Exec documentation. We recommend that you conform to Backup Exec restore best practices.

StorSimple failover and disaster recovery

Note

For backup target scenarios, StorSimple Cloud Appliance is not supported as a restore target.

A disaster can be caused by a variety of factors. The following table lists common disaster recovery scenarios.

Scenario Impact How to recover Notes
StorSimple device failure Backup and restore operations are interrupted. Replace the failed device and perform StorSimple failover and disaster recovery. If you need to perform a restore after device recovery, full data working sets are retrieved from the cloud to the new device. All operations are at cloud speeds. The indexing and cataloging rescanning process might cause all backup sets to be scanned and pulled from the cloud tier to the local device tier, which might be a time-consuming process.
Backup Exec server failure Backup and restore operations are interrupted. Rebuild the backup server and perform database restore as detailed in How to do a manual Backup and Restore of Backup Exec (BEDB) database. You must rebuild or restore the Backup Exec server at the disaster recovery site. Restore the database to the most recent point. If the restored Backup Exec database is not in sync with your latest backup jobs, indexing and cataloging is required. This index and catalog rescanning process might cause all backup sets to be scanned and pulled from the cloud tier to the local device tier. This makes it further time-intensive.
Site failure that results in the loss of both the backup server and StorSimple Backup and restore operations are interrupted. Restore StorSimple first, and then restore Backup Exec. Restore StorSimple first, and then restore Backup Exec. If you need to perform a restore after device recovery, the full data working sets are retrieved from the cloud to the new device. All operations are at cloud speeds.

References

The following documents were referenced for this article:

Next steps