In the previous post, we provided an overview of the PowerFlex integration with AppSync 4.3. You can read all about it here.

This post will be focusing on the AppSync repurposing feature for database and file systems.

Dell EMC AppSync™ enables integrated copy data management (iCDM) with Dell EMC primary storage systems. AppSync simplifies and automates the process of generating and consuming copies of production data. By abstracting the underlying storage and replication technologies, and through deep application integration, AppSync empowers application owners to satisfy copy demands for operational recovery and data repurposing. In turn, storage administrators must only be concerned with initial setup and policy definition management, resulting in an agile, frictionless environment. AppSync automatically discovers the application, analyzes the layout structure, and maps it through the virtualization layer to the underlying storage device. AppSync orchestrates all the activities required from copy creation and validation through mounting, at the target host, and launching, or recovering, the application copy. The supported workflows also include refresh, expire, and restore to production

AppSync allows you to create copies of your database and file systems for application testing and validation, test and development, reporting, data masking, and data analytics. AppSync identifies copies that are created from a repurpose action as first generation and second-generation copies. The source of a second-generation copy is a first-generation copy. You can create multiple second-generation copies from a first-generation copy. AppSync supports repurposing on File systems, SQL Server and Oracle databases.

There are two types of repurposing:

● Native array repurposing – The first-generation copy is a copy of the source database. For example, in the case of an PowerFlex array, snapshot of the source is the first-generation copy.

● RecoverPoint bookmark repurposing – The first-generation copy is a copy of the LUNs at the local or remote replication sites in the RecoverPoint consistency groups.

AppSync repurposing supports several types of workflows, such as creating application-consistent local or remote copies, automating mounting and application-recovery scenarios, and scheduling these operations.

Repurposing workflows focus on a single application at a time, and do not use a copy-count-rotation policy, which occurs with service plan workflows. Repurposing workflows are generally not used to protect the application or are considered a backup solution. Repurposing is most often used to replicate production environments and use the copies for quality assurance testing, development, offloading reporting, and patch management. For more details about the repurposing workflow, see the AppSync User and Administration Guide.

Repurposing workflows offer multigeneration copies. A first-generation copy is one copy removed from the source, and it can be optionally copied to a second-generation copy, or a copy that is twice removed from the source.

First-generation copy:

  • Copy of production
  • Can be application consistent
  • Can be used as a restore point in time

Second-generation copy:

  • Copy of a copy with first generation as the source
  • Fast creation time
  • No application integration
  • Cannot be used as a restore point

Repurposing use cases:

The following are typical repurposing use cases with AppSync. This is not an exhaustive list, but it can help you identify some possible workflows.

  • On-demand copies: This is a copy of a single application that is used for an extended time and then discarded, maintaining copy retention. The discarded copy is not used for backup purposes to restore from. Copies can be used for performing patch-management testing, performance tuning against nonproduction environments, or offloading reporting. This practice reduces the amount of I/O that is performed against a production environment.
  • Data masking: A first-generation copy is created and mounted for sensitive data to be masked. When the sensitive data is masked, the copy is unmounted to create a second-generation copy. This second-generation copy, which has the sensitive data removed, can then be used.
  • Remote copy retention: This provides long-term retention on a remote appliance, sometimes identified as a disaster recovery copy, which can be accomplished using repurposing. Remote copies can be created using the array native replication sessions. AppSync supports using the silver and gold service plans with native replication for long-term retention on the remote appliance.
  • Copy-of-copy: This is similar to a data-masking requirement. Repurposing supports creating a first generation, application-consistent copy of a single application, which is used as the source for multiple second-generation copies. These second-generation copies can be used for purposes such as the following:

    – Providing multiple copies of the same point-in-time (PIT) to developers; these are identical copies for training purposes or as a baseline for collaboration efforts

    – Alleviating the need to quiesce the production environment unnecessarily for many copies.

    – Refreshing the second-generation copy while not having to change the PIT

Repurposing considerations

The following are typical repurposing considerations to make with AppSync:

  • Repurposed copies are used primarily for testing or development for extended periods of time and are discarded or expired when the process is complete.
  • Repurposed copies do not figure into RPO calculations (refer to the AppSync User and Administration Guide for more details regarding RPO alerts).
  • Restores are supported from the first-generation copies only.
  • Second-generation copies are not application consistent. There is no application discovery, mapping, or application integration such as freeze and thaw of a database, and callouts are supported for unmounting only. See the AppSync User and Administration Guide for more details about callout scripts.

Protecting Microsoft SQL Server Databases

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 and beyond includes native capabilities for creating sync and async replicas via AlwaysOn Availability Groups. Availability replicas provide high availability, scale out readable copies, disaster recovery and migration and upgrade capabilities. The SQL Server availability features do not replace the requirement to have a robust, well tested backup and restore strategy, the most fundamental building block of any availability solution.

While many methods of data protection exist, one of the simplest and most-effective methods involves using snapshots. Snapshots allow recovery of data by rolling back to an older point-in-time or copying select data from the snapshot. Snapshots continue to be an essential data-protection mechanism that is used across a wide variety of industries and use cases. Snapshots can preserve the most important mission-critical production data, sometimes integrating with other data protection technologies. For versions of Microsoft SQL Server running on Microsoft Windows Server, Dell EMC AppSync can leverage the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to take an application consistent snapshot of the databases. This method of snapshot mimics the process of a full backup and can be used as such.

Automating & Orchestrating Protection

Integrated copy data management (iCDM) strategy is important to the overall return on investment for any storage solution. Dell EMC PowerFlex data services provide the foundation for the ability to protect the production Microsoft SQL Server workloads while also easily repurposing the database copies.

iCDM allows the DBA and Application owners peace of mind with policy driven protection and ad-hoc copies as needed without needing to involve or wait for the storage admin.

Service plans within Dell EMC AppSync, our Integrated Copy Data Management (iCDM) software, provide a copy management workflow for protecting applications and are able to make copies locally, remotely, or both. In addition, repurposing workflows provide multi-generational copy processes.

Copies on demand

Integrated Copy Data Management enables rich application workflows making a development copy, instantly refreshing it to the latest prod data, pushing the dev copy to QA, pushing the QA copy to a scalability test bed, and rolling the output back into prod.

For analytics processes, production data can be extracted and pushed to all downstream analytics applications on demand. For operations, copies from production can be made when needed to pre-production testing, run simulations or test the latest patches. iCDM operations do not affect other copies or risk their SLAs.

Here you can see a demo showing how it works:

In conclusion, AppSync integration enables PowerFlex users to protect, restore and repurpose their data to satisfy their unique copy requirements for their enterprise applications users.

AppSync and PowerFlex appliances can integrate to create copies of application data. Coupled together, they simplify and automate the process of generating and consuming copies of production data. This ability can significantly improve overall efficiency in enterprise environments.

A guest post by Tomer Nahumi

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