Jun 302014

NetWorker 8.2 entered Directed Availability (DA) status a couple of weeks ago. Between finishing up one job and looking for a new one, I’d been a bit too busy to blog about 8.2 until now, so here goes…

what's new in 8.2

First and foremost, NetWorker 8.2 brings some additional functionality to VBA. VBA was introduced as the new backup process in NetWorker 8.1. Closely integrating Avamar backup technologies, VBA leverages a special, embedded virtual Avamar node to achieve high performance backup and recovery. Not only can policies be defined in NMC for VBA can be assigned by a VMware administrator in the vSphere Web Client,  … so too can image level backup and recovery operations be executed there. Of course, regularly scheduled backups are still controlled by NetWorker.

That was the lay of the land in 8.1 – 8.2 reintroduces some of the much-loved VADP functionality, allowing for a graphical visualisation map of the virtual environment from within NMC.

Continuing that Avamar/VMware integration, NetWorker 8.2 also gets something that Avamar 7 administrators have had for a while – instant-on recoveries when backups are performed to Data Domain. There’s also an emergency restore option to pull a VM back to an ESX host even if vCenter is unavailable, and greater granularity of virtual machine backups – individual VMDK files can be backed up and restored if necessary. For those environments where VMware administrators aren’t meant to be starting backups outside of the policy schedules, there’s also the option now to turn off VBA Adhoc Backups in NMC.

Moving on from VMware, there’s some fantastic snapshot functionality in NetWorker 8.2. This is something I’ve not yet had a chance to play around with, but by all accounts, it’s off to a promising start and will continue to get deeper integration with NetWorker over time. Currently, NetWorker supports integrating with snapshot technologies from Isilon, VNX, VNX2, VNX2e and NetApp, though the level of integration depends on what is available from each array. This new functionality is called NSM for NAS (NetWorker Snapshot Management).

The NSM integration allows NAS hosts to be integrated as clients within NetWorker for policy management, whilst still working from the traditional “black box” scenario of NAS systems not getting custom agents installed. There’s a long list of functionality, including:

  • Snapshot discovery:
    • Finding snapshots taken on the NAS outside of NetWorker’s control (either before integration, or by other processes)
    • Facilitate roll-over and recovery from those snapshots (deleting isn’t available)
    • Available as a scheduled task or via manual execution
  • Snapshot operations:
    • Create snapshots
    • Replication snapshots
    • Move snapshots out to other storage (Boost, tape etc) using NDMP protocols
    • Lifecycle management of snapshots and replicas via retention policies
    • Recover from snapshots

Data Domain Boost integration gets a … well, boost, with support for Data Domain’s secure multi-tenancy. This support scaling for large systems designed for service providers, with up to 512 Boost devices supported per secure storage unit on the Data Domain. While previously there was a requirement for a single Data Domain Boost user account across all Data Domain devices, this now allows for better tightening of access.

One of my gripes with BBB (Block Based Backup) in NetWorker 8.1 has been addressed in 8.2 – if you’re stuck using ADV_FILE devices rather than Data Domain, you can now perform BBB even if the storage node being written to is not Windows. Another time-saving option that was introduced in 8.1, Parallel Save Stream (PSS), has been extended to support Windows systems, and has also been updated to support Synthetic and Virtual Synthetic Fulls. in 8.1 it had only supported Unix/Linux, and only in traditional backup models.

Continuing the trend towards storage nodes being seen as a fluid rather than locked resource mapping, there’s now an autoselect storage node option, which if enabled allows NetWorker to select the storage node itself during backup and recovery operations. If this is enabled, it will override any storage node preferences assigned to individual clients, and NetWorker looks for local storage nodes wherever possible.

There’s a few things that have left NetWorker in 8.2, which are understandable: Support for Windows XP, Windows 2003 and the Change Journal Manager. If you still to protect Windows XP or Windows Server 2003, be sure to keep your installers for 8.1. and lower client software around.

There’s some documentation updates in NetWorker 8.2 as well:

  • Server Disaster Recovery and Availability Best Practices – This describes the disaster recovery process for the NetWorker server, including best practices for ensuring you’re prepared for a disaster recovery situation.
  • Snapshot Management for NAS Devices Integration – This documents the aforementioned NSM for NAS new feature of NetWorker.
  • Upgrading to NetWorker 8.2 from a Previous Release – This covers off in fairly comprehensive detail how you can upgrade your NetWorker environment to 8.2.

In years gone by I’ve found that documentation updates have been a lagging component of NetWorker, but that’s long since disappeared. With each new version of NetWorker now we’re seeing either entirely new documents, or substantially enhanced documentation (or both). This speaks volumes of the commitment EMC has to NetWorker.

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