Archive for June, 2010

SQL Database Protection Using EMC RecoverPoint and EMC Replication Manager

June 25, 2010

A few times this week, questions have come up around the use of RecoverPoint for protecting SQL databases or really any databases.  The main questions are, “What all do I need?” and “How what exactly does the process look like?”

RecoverPoint is a cutting edge technology that enables you to provide continuous data protection (CDP) to your applications.  This is done though a process of journaling every write that is made.  The benefit of this is that you can then dial back to just about anypoint in time (given enough journal disk space) in the recent history of the data.  Another way to think of this would be “unlimited snapshots” or the personal favorite of account executives, “it’s Tivo for the datacenter!”.  Consider a situation where you have replicated arrays, Production and DR.  Data replication is being controlled by RecoverPoint and you have enough journal space to cover 2 days worth of changes to the data.  A SQL database is one of the application protected by RecoverPoint.  Lets say you have database corruption at 1pm but don’t realize it until 2pm.  Without RecoverPoint you’d be up the creek because now both of your replicated arrays have identical corrupted data and you’d have to go back to the last good backup to recover.  With RecoverPoint you could dial back to 12:59pm and recover from right before the corruption……..or could you?

The real answer is the resounding “it depends” BS we all hear so often.  In this case “it depends” on……well…….luck.  If you’re lucky, and there is a high chance you will be, you could simply roll back and recover from 12:59pm and keep your job.  The problem with RecoverPoint in a SQL environment is that it provides a crash consistent point from which to recover from.  If you’re not familiar with the term crash consistent, simply think of it as a dirty shut down of the SQL server.  There is a chance that there could be problems with recovering from one of these crash consistent points. So what do we do to get around this?  This is where EMC Replication Manager (RM) provides value.

Among other things, RM will allow you to take application consistent snapshots or in the case of RecoverPoint, to make application consistent bookmarks within RecoverPoint. Application consistency is achieved using Microsoft VSS within the SQL server.  These bookmarks need to be scheduled, say every 30 minutes or every hour or couple of hours.  So you may be thinking, hey that’s great, but what’s the point of spending all that money on RecoverPoint to have unlimited snaps if I’m now restricted to every 30 minutes or every hour?  Good question and this goes back to the “luck” I mentioned earlier.  There is a very good chance that you WILL be able to recover from one of the crash consistent points in time but no real guarantee.  If we’re talking about a tier 1 application, “maybe” and “I think so” are not the answers you want to be giving your boss when he asks “can we recover our SQL database”?.  Replication Manager generated, application consistent bookmarks give you a safety net and a guaranteed recovery point buy quiessing the database with VSS.

So, the process to recover from our previous example of the 1pm data corruption and assuming we were doing RM bookmarks ever 30 minutes, would look something like:

  • Attempt to recover from the last know good point in time, 12:59pm lets say.
  • If the recovery is good – Weeeeeee!  Now go back to playing Frogger at your desk.
  • If the recovery is bad either try another point in time or go back to 12:30pm when the last application consistent copy was made. Then go back to Frogger!

Another interesting thing to note:

As you would expect Replication Manager cost money.  I know, hard to believe EMC would actually charge you for something, but it is what it is.  What I didn’t realize until lately is that there are tools/utilities that are part of RecoverPoint product, including sqlsnap and sqlrestore, that will  provide application consistent SQL replicas but implementation is via user developed scripts.  So if you’re somewhat script savy and don’t mind managing things this way, there’s a FREE way out for you.

EMC Celerra CIFS Share Management – Two Ways To Skin A Cat

June 18, 2010

First off, the “Skin a cat” thing is just a figure of speech so if you’re a cat lover don’t report me to PETA.  I would never do something like that…….well…….unless the damn thing bit me or really pissed me off, then all bets are off!  Actually I’m sure this will make good FUD for the competitors.  Now on top of all the EMC stories we hear like, “EMC kills puppies and kicks old ladies down the stairs” they can add “they skin cats too!”.  Barbarians!

Anyway on to the EMC stuff.  This week I’ve had to do a few demo’s showing some basic functionalities of the Celerra platform.  The one thing most people do with a NAS solution is to manager their Windows CIFS shares.  So to demonstrate how easy this process is I created a short Youtube video which illustrates how do this both using Celerra Manager and Windows MMC.  Check it out below.

The Citrix Receiver – Nice App!

June 6, 2010

Ok, ok, so I said I’d try to lay off the iPad posts but…….I lied…..kind of.  The Citrix Receiver is lightweight app that allows you to connect to your Citrix environment from virtually ANY device.  In my case, you guessed it, the iPad.  So all you Citrix haters and Apple haters (yeah I used to be one of these) you may want to switch back to watching re-runs of Sponge Bob now.  For the rest of you, read on.

Recently I’ve ranted and raved about the WYSE Pocket Cloud over a few previous posts so I’ll be comparing the Citrix Receiver to that.  As a whole I’d have to say the Citrix Receiver is just as good.  A few things it does better and a few things could be improved.  Just like WYSE the Citrix Receiver is another app that allows you to connect into your environment, whether it be virtualized apps (XenApp) or an entire desktop (XenDesktop).  Honestly it was the XenApp functionality that I liked the best due to the way it allowed you to utilize Microsoft Office apps like Word and PowerPoint on the iPad but more about that in a minute.  So let me walk you through my experience with the Receiver app up to this point.

To get the app is simple, hit the Apple AppStore and download it for free.  Citrix did some really good marketing here.  When you open the app for the first time there is a free Citrix session you can connect to that gives you a good demo of the product.  When you login to the session you’ll be able to play around with apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even see some more graphics intensive apps like AutoDesk with 3D renderings.  All these apps are published from XenApp.  Now getting PowerPoint presentations to present well on iPad is a bit of a challenge but when I fired up PowerPoint 2010 on Citrix and ran through the promotional Citrix preso it was damn impressive including slide builds and transitions.  The same went for Word and Excel.  For the 1st few weeks this was all I really had to play around with as far as the Citrix iPad app went so I really wasn’t too compelled to blog about it.  Then at the end of last month I was up at a regional IT conference where the guys from Citrix had a demo environment setup with all the bells and whistles.  I talked to one of the technical guys I know and he set me up with access so we could access their booth from our booth.

In this environment I not only had access to a XenApp environment with published apps and desktops but a full XenDesktop environment running Windows 7 virtual desktops.  XenDesktop worked like a champ.  Pretty much all the functionality I could get out of VMware View on WYSE Pocket Cloud and very good performance.  My only minor complaint was the lack of a touch screen simulated mouse like on the WYSE software.  Some smaller items were a little difficult to click but other than that not a big deal.

There is no question that Virtual Desktops are going to be more and more prevalent in the immediate future.  Being able to work from anywhere and from any device is a great byproduct of this type of technology.  Citrix has done a great job of making this a reality and making it work very well.  So whether you have a Citrix environment now or are thinking about going down that path, check out the power of the Citrix Receiver and how it can benefit you and your organization.