Nov 212017

If you’re a long term NetWorker user, you might be forgiven for focusing on just a few specific aspects of documentation whenever there’s a new release of the product. Usually, most people focus on the release notes, and then, branching out from the release notes, key details they think will be useful for their environment – particularly where it relates to significantly altered, or newly updated functions.

But it’s not just NetWorker-the-software that continues to be developed at DellEMC – there’s a continuing focus on enhancing the utility of the documentation as well.bigStock Book in Library

I was reminded of this important fact recently on an internal education session about NetWorker’s support for the Network Data Management Protocol, or NDMP. Chances are if you’ve backed up a NAS with NetWorker, you’ve used NDMP – the other approaches (such as backup via a redirected mount-point) are painful and the sort of thing you only resort to if for some reason you have to backup a Itsy-Bitsy home-NAS that doesn’t support NDMP.

If you’ve not revisited the NDMP documentation for NetWorker for a while, you’re in for a surprise.

In NetWorker 8.2 and earlier, NDMP was covered as a chapter in the main NetWorker administration guide – running from page 531 to 577 in the admin guide I have, or just a little over 45 pages. In NetWorker 9.0, NDMP coverage got broken out into its own document, the NDMP User Guide, running to 338 pages. (And then, additionally, there was a 95 page NAS Snapshot Management guide as well.)

In NetWorker 9.1, the NDMP user guide grew to 372 pages, and the NAS Snapshot Management Guide was 100 pages. A couple of extra pages appeared in the NDMP guide in 9.2, and there was a significant jump, up to 172 pages, in the NAS Snapshot Management Guide.

Now, that’s not just filler content – that’s targeted material, often broken down by array type, to provide you much more comprehensive information about managing your NDMP and NAS snapshot backups. If you’re still doing NDMP backups today the same way you were 5 or more years ago, you may very well be missing out on useful and more modern tips for protecting your large-scale unstructured data sources by not staying up to date on the documentation changes.

While we’re talking about NDMP, I want to mention some numbers I saw being discussed from a real customer environment. On an Isilon cluster, they had a 23TB region with over 200,000,000 files. That is your absolute “worst case scenario” archetypal dense filesystem sitting right there. Doing a single-threaded NetWorker backup in older versions of NetWorker, such a dense filesystem took a few days to complete a backup. However, NetWorker 9.0.1 and OneFS 8.0 introduced a very cool new feature – automatic multi-streaming for up to 32 save-streams from a single saveset definition. (This is effectively an evolution of Parallel Save Streams, or PSS, in NetWorker for traditional filesystems.) By upgrading to a more recent version of NetWorker and making use of multi-streaming on a couple of their Isilon nodes, they were able to bring that full backup down to 17 hours, and since full backups now completed in well under a day, they were also able to get incrementals done in around 2 hours. Think about that: processing 11.7 million files per hour out of an ultra dense filesystem. That really is smoking performance.

Mar 302016

At the start of the week we saw NetWorker 8.2 SP3 released. Now, you might think given NetWorker 9 is out there’s no new features in NetWorker 8.2 SP3, but you’d be wrong.

NetWorker 9 is a jump – it’s a change of processes and it’s a new way of going about configuring your backups. I’m seeing more details every day of people having great experiences with NetWorker 9, but backup is one of those areas where change can often come slowly, so 8.2 still gets a lot of attention. So if you’re the sort of business that needs the features in NetWorker 9 you can dive in, but if you want to hang back for a little while yet, 8.2 will have you covered for a while yet.

nsrwatch in 8.2.3

The all new nsrwatch

OK, I admit I’m a bit of an nsrwatch junkie. Unless I have to setup a Windows NetWorker server I’ll setup NetWorker on Linux every time. (But at heart I’m still a Unix system administrator. It was the Unix integration that drove me to Mac OS X, after all.)

There’s a lot of good new features in NetWorker 8.2 SP3 but I have to admit given my CLI-junkie status, I just love the update to nsrwatch. For me this handy little utility has saved me thousands or more times from having to launch a full GUI, and if you’ve ever seen how many windows I end up having active on my screens at the same time you’ll understand why that’s a good thing.

The good old nsrwatch utility now gives you a lot more control over what you see on-screen. You can resize panels or even turn them off and setup an environment variable to make that your default view. You can switch between different views – e.g., all devices (seen above), mounted devices and active devices:

Mounted Devices

nsrwatch showing mounted devices only

nsrwatch showing active devices

nsrwatch showing active devices

You also get control options directly embedded into nsrwatch now:

nsrwatch with control options

nsrwatch with control options

All up, a great set of changes. I was lucky enough to try out some of the options while they were under development, so I’ve been looking forward to talking about it for some time now!

That’s not the only features in NetWorker 8.2 SP3 though – but it did really appeal to my I’ve-been-using-NetWorker-for-20-years inner-geek – so it’s time to move on to the rest of the enhancements!

Server Capability

There’s big changes under the hood in SP3 – the media catalogue has been migrated to SQLite to take advantage of the huge performance increases this gave in NetWorker 9 – and it’ll make the migration path to NetWorker 9 a little more streamlined as well. This may sound like a minor change, but the switch to SQLite is really important; the old format media database was great and stable, but it had limits on the amount of concurrent operations you could do. SQLite is great and stable and a lot more capable of supporting a number of concurrent operations.

The server daemons have had some tweaks as well – a bunch of issues that could lead to a server hang situation have been quashed, and the number of DNS reverse lookups performed has been pared down. The DNS caches used in a bunch of NetWorker daemons are now populated from nsrd to improve lookup performance as well. Also if you’ve got a lot of storage nodes in your environment, there are options to do a staggered start of the storage node manager daemons to improve startup performance.

Data Domain

8.2 SP3 includes support for DDOS 5.7 with an update of Data Domain libraries to 3.1. This will align it to some new options coming out soon, not to mention the Data Domain High Availability option introduced in the last month for the DD9500. (One of the other things it’ll align to I can blog about in a few days, hopefully.)

There’s performance enhancements for Clone Controlled Replication (CCR) as well, allowing for boosts (no pun intended) in the performance of cloning operations between two Data Domain systems under NetWorker control.

SP3 also introduces support for Distributed Segment Processing and all other Boost goodness into the Mac OS X client. That means if you’ve got some Mac clients within your NetWorker environment they’ll now get all of the Boost advantages you see everywhere else.

Updated Support

There’s a whole bunch of platforms and options that have had support added in this release. Check out the new VBA appliances if you’re backing VMware, too – you’ll definitely want to take advantage of updates there. But it’s not just VMware backups. This version of NetWorker also adds support for:

  • LTO7 tape drives
  • Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan
  • Snapshot Management for NetApp SnapVault and SnapMirror ‘C-mode’ operations – creation, replication, restore and rollover
  • Hitachi NAS token based backups
  • Isilon Fast Incremental – Making backup of really large filesystems a whole lot easier
  • SQL Server AlwaysOn availability groups in a Failover Cluster (great way of offloading backups in SQL Enterprise Server environments)
  • MySQL 5.7.9/MySQL Enterprise Backup 4

In Summary

You won’t see the same sorts of massive features lists in a service pack release as you do in a full new release, but that being said 8.2 SP3 packs some wallop for your environment if you’re still in the 8.2 tree – or using an earlier version still. In addition to all the standard fixes that go into any service pack, rolled up from previous service packs and cumulative releases, 8.2 SP3 has been fine tuned for performance and scaleability and will ensure those customers not yet ready to upgrade to NetWorker 9 have an excellent platform to settle onto.

You can find the 8.2 SP3 binaries in the downloads section of the NetWorker product support page, and you can access the release notes directly from this link.

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