Behind the Scenes Episode 385: Introducing SnapCenter 5.0

Welcome to the Episode 385, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

SnapCenter is NetApp’s flagship application driven backup and restore offering that provides data protection for databases such as SQL, Oracle, SAP and more.

The latest release of SnapCenter also provides better cloud integration, including support for volumes as a service offerings such as Azure NetApp Files.

I’ve also resurrected the YouTube playlist. Now, YouTube has a new podcast feature that uses RSS. Trying it out…

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

The following transcript was generated using Descript’s speech to text service and then further edited. As it is AI generated, YMMV.

Tech ONTAP Podcast Episode 385 – Introducing SnapCenter 5.0

Justin Parisi: This week on the Tech ONTAP Podcast, we talk all about the new SnapCenter release, SnapCenter 5.0.

Podcast intro/outro: [Intro]

Justin Parisi: Hello and welcome to the Tech ONTAP Podcast. My name is Justin Parisi. I’m here in the basement of my house and with me today I have some special guests to talk to us all about SnapCenter. So to do that we have Yuvaraju. So Yuvaraju, what do you do here at NetApp and how do we reach you?

Yuvaraju B: Hey Justin, thanks for having me here.

Yuvaraju, product manager with the data services group focusing on SnapCenter. You can reach me on [email protected] and also on LinkedIn. You can look for Yuvaraju Balaraman.

Justin Parisi: Also with us today, we have Ebin Kadavy. So, Ebin, what do you do here at NetApp and how do we reach you?

Ebin Kadavy: I’m Ebin Kadavy, Product Manager of SnapCenter and BlueXP Backup and Recovery Service. So that’s our SaaS version of our backup solution. You can reach out at [email protected].

Justin Parisi: Alright, and Deb Prakash is here, so Deb, what do you do here at NetApp and how do we reach you?

Deb Prakash: Hey Justin. I’m Dave Prakash, product management lead for application and VM data protection at NetApp, and can be reached at [email protected]. You can easily find me on LinkedIn with Debeesantosh.

Justin Parisi: So we are here to talk about SnapCenter and if you are not familiar with SnapCenter, don’t worry.

We will cover that for you. So Deb, tell me all about SnapCenter.

What is it?

Deb Prakash: Well, it’s a hidden secret of NetApp storage and the differentiator of NetApp storage data management. SnapCenter provides you application and VM consistent data protection on NetApp storage, which differentiates us to achieve RTO and RPO that none of the other vendors can match easily.

So, be it Oracle Database, be it SAP HANA Database, or MS SQL, or VMware Virtual Machines, SnapCenter enables to get you best out of NetApp in terms of backup and recovery. We offer centralized control pane, which allows users to manage their application aware backup, restore, and clone operations all in one pane, whether it is on prem, whether it is hybrid cloud, or whether it is public cloud on ANF or FSx.

Justin Parisi: There’s an application based approach to a lot of this. So tell me about the application aspect of SnapCenter.

Deb Prakash: SnapCenter provides you application data protection for more than 10 databases. We have two kinds of approaches. The first approach is the first class database approach which means Oracle, SQL, SAP HANA, all these databases can be protected using SnapCenter console.

On top of that, we offer you a customized approach to SnapCenter. A CF framework where customers can protect their databases, whether it is DB2, whether it is Sybase, MySQL, Postgres, any kind of databases. We have both the mechanisms with which customers can protect their databases. In terms of VM, we offer VMware virtual machines protection. That means you can protect your VMs and datastores on NetApp storage. .

Justin Parisi: So with the database aspect, I would imagine that this handles the quiescing of databases, making sure they’re not in active flight so that you can take proper snapshots of them. Is that accurate?

Deb Prakash: That’s bang on. SnapCenter orchestrates the quiescing, pausing, thawing of all those activities and ensures that these activities are abstract to the user.

They don’t realize that it’s happening in background through SnapCenter while they continue to work on their databases.

Justin Parisi: And the file system aspect of this, you don’t really need to quiesce anything there. But does it offer cataloging? Can you create a catalog of the file system for high file count environments where it’s tough to find files when you need to?

Yuvaraju B: We support file system backups, but unfortunately we don’t have a cataloging feature. So if you want to index and restore at the file level, which is not supported today.

So when it comes to file system, we support both Windows file system and Linux file system, backup, restore, and so on.

Justin Parisi: Yeah, but right now it’s SAN only, no NAS, right?

Yuvaraju B: For Linux file system, we support NFS and SAN. For Windows, it is SAN.

Justin Parisi: Okay, so SAN only for Windows, NFS and SAN for Linux. Yes. All right. Good.

We got that. Got that clear. That’s good. All right. So are you able to orchestrate the disaster recovery aspects of this as well using SnapMirror or SnapMirror Synchronous or SMBC? Does that integrate with any of that?

Yuvaraju B: SnapCenter in the releases like 4.9 and earlier, we did support async SnapMirror as well as SnapVault. The release of SnapCenter 5.0, which just shipped in January, we bring in support for SMBC and SnapMirror Sync. We support both of these. So as most of our listeners are aware, SnapMirror Business Continuity is a continuously available storage solution with application level granularity.

So, if a customer has critical business applications which need RPO-0, RTO-0, SMBC provides this protection. You can not only protect the two sites, but you can also have a third site. A third site which provides backup protection. So, SnapCenter in the 5.0 release, brings in support for application consistent backup clones as well as restore capabilities.

SnapCenter has multiple plugins within it. So, you have a SnapCenter Oracle plugin, a SnapCenter SQL plugin, a SnapCentral VMware plugin. All of these support SMBC. And then we support asymmetric active active for standard configurations, as well as for VMFS datastores. To keep it short, SnapCenter 5.0 brings in support for SMBC. and SnapMirror Sync.

Justin Parisi: Okay, so that segues us into SnapCenter 5.0. But before we do that, I’d like to talk a little bit about how SnapCenter is deployed. Is this a cloud resident product or can you also install it on prem?

Deb Prakash: it’s purely on prem deployable. We used to have a product called SnapCenter Service, which was offered as SaaS, but going forward, we will focus on SnapCenter Installer, which means that whether it is on prem customer or whether it is ANF customer or FSx customers, they can deploy SnapCenter in their VPC, and run it.

Justin Parisi: Okay, they have to install it on prem and then they can run it, or actually they could probably install it in the cloud on a VM as well, right?

Deb Prakash: Yes. It’s going to be the same experience of deployment.

Justin Parisi: Okay, and is there any plan in the future to create an OVA or something they can use to create their own VMs without having to worry about the installation?

Deb Prakash: Now, that’s a great feedback. SnapCenter already supports OVA based deployment for VM based backup. If you are trying to backup a VM or VM datastores, then SnapCenter can be deployed by OVA on a vCenter. However, this capability. is applicable on the Windows VM.

Going forward, we are planning to extend this capability to Linux VM, where SnapCenter can be deployed on a Linux VM itself.

Justin Parisi: Okay, so we do have some limited support for OVA making an appliance out of the SnapCenter application.

Deb Prakash: Today it is for VMware VMs. In future, we will enable database backup through similar approach. We cannot commit that whether it will be OVA based or containerized SnapCenter, but we are working towards a simpler deployment model so that Customers running databases can get similar experience also.

Justin Parisi: I’d like to know how much scale it can handle, how many backups can it take on, how many ONTAP systems, whether they’re CVO or FSxN or ANF or on-Prem. How many of those can they handle in a single instance?

Ebin Kadavy: We have seen customers running SnapCenter in thousands of applications and VMware environments. To specifically mention, We had a U.S. customer who had thousands of databases and ten thousands of VM, and they were able to use SnapCenter to backup those environments. So that actually states that SnapCenter has been working very successfully in larger deployments. Adding to it, we also have a best practices on how to scale based on your environment and how concurrently you can backup your database objects or VMs. So I would request customers or partners to look at the best practices guide to understand how to scale your environment accordingly.

Justin Parisi: So it sounds like it can handle a pretty large environment, so that shouldn’t really be a concern there. We’ve covered the application aspect, we’ve covered the support for different file systems, we’ve covered replication. And now we’ve covered the scale, so let’s talk about the new release.

Let’s talk about SnapCenter 5.0, we hinted at it earlier when we talked about SMBC support and SnapMirror Synchronous. So SnapCenter 5.0 has a lot more in it. What else is in SnapCenter 5.0 that people would really like to hear about?

Ebin Kadavy: SnapCenter 5.0 has been a very big release for us with a lot of interesting capabilities.

And as Yuvaraju mentioned we are today offering transparent data protection in SMBC or SnapMirror Synchronous environment. Apart from that I think these days, we are seeing a lot of ransomware attack stories and more backups and snapshot recovery points being targeted.

WIth the introduction of ONTAP tamper proof snapshots, or SnapLock feature support, customers who use SnapCenter can confidently create policies and lock their snapshots or protect their snapshots from getting deleted or from getting tampered. Third, we always had application consistent protection for databases running on Linux, Windows, and AIX. So with 5.0 release, customers will be able to protect their Linux file system hosted on ONTAP, CVO, that is Cloud Volumes ONTAP, and Amazon FSxN. If you don’t see any of your Linux based applications listed under the top category of databases under the SnapCenter matrix, but you want to still back up those applications via snapshots, then here is your plugin to build your own backup solution. The fourth capability is SnapCenter offers application protection continuity in scenarios like hardware tech refreshes or while performing DR or migrations and it can be used during your consolidation activities. In the past releases, these refreshes or migrations have hampered the backups and restoration of the data. So with 5.0 release, you can confidently perform any of these operations.

The next one is tag based auto protection for VMware environment. So we have added support for VMware tags. In a large environment, where customers are using tags to categorize their VM environment. So they can easily use those tags and assign a policy and protect their VMware infrastructure.

Last but not the least, we have added support for virtualized databases. That is Oracle and SQL hosted on Amazon FSxN data stores.

Justin Parisi: So Amazon FSxN data stores using NFS and iSCSI or just NFS?

Ebin Kadavy: Both NFS and iSCSI.

Justin Parisi: Okay. So that’s a new cloud support that’s offered here and you’re also offering support for other clouds as well, right?

Yuvaraju B: So Justin, to answer your question, we can look at what we offer for AWS today.

If our customers have FSx for NetApp ONTAP and they’re using iSCSI there, they can use the same SnapCenter, which they’re using on premises, can be used to backup up applications which are on iSCSI. The second one, we also have VMware cloud. VMware cloud where you have NetApp, FSxN providing NFS data stores to VMware cloud. For that, if a customer has a need to only back up virtual machines and data stores which are on NFS, coming in from NetApp, that can be done using the BlueXP backup and recovery for VMs. And also if there is an application on the vm, the same could be backed up using SnapCenter which works for Amazon FSx. On the AWS side, we have solution which covers the applications as well as for users who are only looking at virtual machine as well as data stores. Similarly, if you look at Azure, we do have a solution today called Cloud Backup for Virtual Machine, which does something very similar, where the Azure VMware solution with Microsoft ANF at the back end, where the NFS data stores are coming in from ANFs, we have a solution which can backup VMs and data stores, and we are working towards SnapCenter equivalent or SnapCenter itself will be able to backup all the databases which are running on both physical and virtualized layouts.

That’s something for the immediate future.

Deb Prakash: Customers who are looking for running their databases on Azure NetApp Files, until now, they did not have a simplified experience and solution to avail database backups and recovery on ANF. With SnapCenter, they can simply deploy it on their Windows VM in their VPC and will be able to protect their databases. The good news is this capability is in public preview and any customer willing to try it out can reach out to us at [email protected], and we will be able to guide them on how to deploy SnapCenter, how to experience the protection of databases on ANF.

Justin Parisi: All right, so it sounds like we support AWS we have some solutions for Azure NetApp files. Do we have anything for other clouds, like Google GCP, or, Alicloud or anything like that?

Deb Prakash: At this point of time, if we look at our presence on ANF, FSx as we’re going and as and when NetApp grows its public cloud services, we will slowly start expanding our footprint in data protection.

Justin Parisi: Okay, so having a smaller focus is going to be to develop the features, making sure we get everything right, and then we can kind of expand out into other areas as well.

Deb Prakash: Yes. our objective is to ensure that NetApp’s first party cloud storage remains lucrative in market. So, with that focus, we are going to expand our capabilities as and when NetApp expands its first party footprint.

Justin Parisi: Okay. So, we’re dealing a lot with databases. We’re dealing a lot with VMware. What about other potential application expansions? Are we exploring other use cases that might fit with SnapCenter? Or are we just trying to keep it in this wheelhouse here?

Deb Prakash: If we look at today’s SnapCenter supports three databases as first class plug in. Apart from Exchange. We support SQL, Oracle, SAP HANA, and other databases as community supported databases.

But SnapCenter is embarking its most exciting journey now. As part of that, we are trying to increase our footprint for first class plugins for all the databases. You will see that investment happening going forward, where we are going to bring in a lot of other community databases as first class plugins.

We are not just going to stop there. We are going to bring in a lot of additional capabilities that are going to be customer delighter in a couple of years. However, at this point of time, our focus remains providing a cohesive story for ONTAP storage so that the goodness of ONTAP is something that is cascading to SnapCenter.

And whenever customers are going to provision that, they are able to protect in the same environment on ONTAP. And at the same time, they are going to get the best out of first party cloud storage from NetApp also.

Justin Parisi: So it sounds like we’re investing a lot into SnapCenter, doing a lot more new stuff with it. So that would tell me that it’s probably here for a while.

Deb Prakash: It’s not probably. It is going to be there. I do acknowledge that last few years, we invested a lot in the features around security, stability, and performance, which was not visible for SnapCenter, and there was a perception that maybe we are not doing enough for SnapCenter. But if we look at SnapCenter 5.0, this is a turnaround point for SnapCenter because we are not only bringing the best features in SnapCenter to get the best out of ONTAP, we are also making a strategic shift so that SnapCenter can be used to accelerate all the goodness on NetApp’s first party cloud storage. As part of that, if we look at SnapCenter 5.0 payload, SnapLocking of the application consistent snapshot, providing integrated capabilities with SMBC, TechRefresh, then you have Linux file systems, tag based VM protection. It’s a significant investment that has happened to SnapCenter 5.0, and going forward, that investment is going to continue.

So from here on, you will see that SnapCenter is going to be much more bigger, bolder, and much more powerful in NetApp’s data protection contribution.

Justin Parisi: So what release cadence can we expect? Is it yearly? Is it every six months? Is it quarterly? How are you going to handle the new updates?

Deb Prakash: Today, SnapCenter has two major releases per year and two minor releases in between. However, going forward, we have an active plan to ensure that SnapCenter is having an increased cadence so that these features can be delivered to customers much faster.

We are no longer planning a six month cadence. We are going to shorten that and that is actively a work in progress. So you can expect much shorter time where customers are going to get the values and much faster. Instead of a big bang major release for SnapCenter, it will be much lighter, but much faster release for SnapCenter which will, cater to both on prem as well as first party cloud storage.

Justin Parisi: And the upgrade process, is that fairly non disruptive or completely non disruptive?

Deb Prakash: Completely non disruptive.

They just have to download the new version of SnapCenter and run the installer. If they’re on the previous version, they’re just simply going to be upgraded. If they’re in a much older version, then because of certain support criteria, they might have to come to a newer version where there will be a hop based approach, and then they can come to the latest version.

But that is in a very limited scenario. Unless the customer is on a very old legacy version they’re using, they’re not going to encounter this issue.

Justin Parisi: And if I’m a customer or a partner and I want to submit feedback for new features or bugs that I found, how would I go about that for SnapCenter?

Deb Prakash: Yeah. The first approach is Send us a mail.

There are three alternatives. First one is [email protected]. That’s our DL to reach out for any kind of feedback, assistance or any information that you are looking for. If you find any bug, then you can certainly take the support route. You can file a support ticket so that NetApp’s established and proven support mechanism comes into your help to ensure that you get resolution much faster.

And third one is NetApp Community Site. You can post it there. You can get much faster access to a wide array of experts who can share that if they have seen any similar issues where they can help.

Justin Parisi: Okay, so we have an email DL for your feedback for the product, support route for bugs, and then of course the community pages to try to get help from your colleagues or even NetApp employees that tend to look at the community forums and try to help out there.

Deb Prakash: Absolutely. Multiple layers of extended support are there.

Yuvaraju B: They can also file FPVR for any new request requirement. That’s a process which is already established in NetApp.

Justin Parisi: Yeah that would have to happen through your account team though, right? Customers can’t just file FPVRs ’cause that would be a nightmare for you guys.

All right, cool. So if I wanted to find more information about SnapCenter where would I go to do that?

Yuvaraju B: Yes, we have a lot of demos being uploaded in our YouTube, in our NetApp corporate YouTube channel, so, where you can see a playlist for SnapCenter. We have around close to 50 demos.

And apart from that, you can also look for NetApp Docs. We have a separate part for SnapCenter where we cover a lot of deployments, different versions, installation, upgrade, And things are covered. Adding to that, we have best practices document for different plugins like Oracle, SQL, Exchange, a couple of these environments we have covered best practices from the SnapCenter.

I would also recommend if you have access to Lab on Demand, we have SnapCenter 5.0 available there, so you can try out SnapCenter 5.0 before you deploy in your own environment.

Ebin Kadavy: I would suggest that reaching out to [email protected], so it will reach out to all of the PM team. So we all get access to the requests that are coming in through this channel. So please use that to reach out to us. We will definitely respond back to each of your queries.

Justin Parisi: Okay. Yeah, that’s better anyway, because if somebody’s on vacation or out of the office for some reason, then you don’t miss the email. Excellent. Well, Ebin, Yuvaraju, Deb, thanks again for joining us today and talking to us all about SnapCenter 5.0.

All right. That music tells me it’s time to go. If you’d like to get in touch with us, send us an email to [email protected] or send us a tweet at NetApp. As always, if you’d like to subscribe, find us on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or via

If you liked the show today, leave us a review. On behalf of the entire Tech ONTAP podcast team, I’d like to thank the Snap Center team for joining us today. As always, thanks for listening.

Podcast intro/outro: [Outro]

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