As organizations become more dependent on their IT systems to accomplish business goals, protecting those workloads becomes increasingly important. The lifeblood of many companies resides in their Oracle databases and databases from other vendors. Without that data, business simply can’t be done.
Wikibon’s Dave Vellante and SiliconAngle.com’s John Furrier discussed this topic in theCube at Oracle Open World 2012. In this professional alert, I will summarize the discussion between Vellante and Furrier and provide some guidance for CIOs facing similar challenges.
Wikibon's Dave Vellante and Silicon Angle's John Furrier sit down to talk about the changing market of Backup and Recovery, particularly now as Oracle has "begun to dip their toes in the water."
Watch the full video here
Emerging backup considerations
Several ongoing and emerging trends put pressure on backup administrators in an Oracle environment:
- Explosion of data. Nearly 30% of Oracle shops are managing more than 100 TB of data that needs to be backed up. That’s a lot of data, and the quantity continually increases.
- Increasing trend toward virtualizing Oracle. Increasingly, this means VMware, although Oracle Virtual Machine (OVM) still plays a role. Virtualization can add significant challenges to the backup paradigm by consolidating the multiple physical servers streaming backups to a backup repository, creating huge streaming and compute needs around backup with fewer physical resources to accommodate the need.
- Backup and recovery needs are one of the top three drivers of data growth. The solution has been to simply add more disks to handle this backup explosion. In other words, just to protect the data that the organization continues to accumulate, many are forced to constantly add more disks to their backup systems.
- Tape is not dead. Forty-five percent of customers report that more than 1/2 of backup data resides on tape. Tape is being relegated into an archive role but still presents a significant operational challenge.
Backup choices for Oracle users
Oracle users have three broad options when it comes to backup.
- Import/export: These are logical backups that take logical definitions of a database and export them out to a file. This is an archival snapshot in time of the database and is independent of the database version. However, you have to quiesce the database first. This is a point-in-time backup/recovery option.
- User-managed backups: This can be done in one of two ways, both of which are generally scripted. Cold/offline backups require that the DBA shut down the database and backup up both it and the log files. In hot/online mode, the DBA places the DB into an archive log mode. These methods have a long history, but user managed backups are error-prone. The whole process is dependent on the DBA. User-managed backups are considered a legacy approach for Oracle users and can have significant long-term TCO. The recovery process is manual.
- Recovery Manager (RMAN): RMAN, originally introduced in Oracle 8, is the increasingly preferred backup option for Oracle databases. Driven by the Oracle backup API with direct communication with the DB, RMAN also allows for incremental backups to take place. Further, RMAN provides end-to-end visibility into the backup and recovery process. Further, restores are much simpler and can be automated. RMAN can integrate with all kinds of backup software. On the downside, RMAN is still new to a lot of shops.
Based on information from several Peer Incites and various vendor discussions, everyone should consider a few recommended best practices in Oracle backup and recovery:
- Implement redundancy: Many customers use different backup methods to ensure that data is truly protected. I have no solid recommendation on this point except to point to your organization’s risk management policies as guidance for whether or not this is necessary in your organization.
- Test recovery: Backups are easy, but recovery isn’t. If you aren’t testing your backups by doing actual recoveries, you’re not doing backup at all. Too often, organizations discover too late that certain items weren’t actually backed up or they discover that the backup media is unusable.
- Separation or data and metadata: Separate backup data and files from the recovery metadata to keep backups consistent and to avoid losing both the data and the metadata.
- Consider virtualization’s impact: If you’re going to virtualize Oracle applications, consider the impact that is introduced by the hypervisor. The big initial attraction of server virtualization is that it increased average utilication from 15% to about 85%. This means that virtualized environments will see a drastic reduction in overall server capacity, some of which was used to run backups. This may require that organizations rethink the entire backup and recovery scenario. Most organizations have been doing at least some level of virtualization for years, but as more of them virtualize tier 1 and truly mission-critical business tools, it becomes increasingly important for CIOs to have a solid understanding for how these new workloads impact the environment both on an operational level and when it comes to backup and recovery. Because virtualization results in fewer “pipes” for data traversal, backup windows might be extended and there may be other second order consequences from moving to a virtual platform.
- RMAN: Use it. It’s now considered a best practice, and it’s simpler than the other options out there.
- Use dedupe: Consider using disk-based backup with deduplication. I highly recommend that CIOs invest in storage that provides significant deduplication capability for both production and for backup.
- Consider the cloud: For some, the cloud is becoming a potential backup target. Simply pushing delta-based incremental backups over the wire may be a way for organizations to continue to grow their backup repository without having to make significant capital expenditures.
Action Item: For CIOs that operate Oracle shops, the time is now to put your backup and recovery processes through a full reassessment, particularly if you’ve made the leap to, or are considering making the leap to virtualizing your Oracle environment. New feature and new technologies can make this critical business process faster, more robust, and less expensive overall.