NetApp SnapCenter Review

Centralized system allows us to manage all systems, agents, and updates remotely

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is for our backup strategy. We run almost all our backups over SnapCenter and we are migrating the rest.

How has it helped my organization?

It saves us a lot of money and manpower. We automate everything in our environment. We can just run some scripts over it and update all agents automatically, and we don't have to take care of each individual client. We can do that from the central SnapCenter station. That's a huge benefit for us.

A simple example of a way it has improved the way our organization functions is that if we have to update or analyze any backup errors, in the past we would have to go directly to the server, log in, and go to the log directory. We had to analyze it directly on the server itself. But now, we have a centralized, single pane of glass and we can use the SnapCenter GUI, which saves also a lot of time for our operating teams.

For the applications team, for the SQL admins, they log in to the GUI more because they can run their SQL restores out of the SnapCenter UI. They have the benefit that they can now restore their resources on their own. In the past, they had to open a ticket and say, "Oh, we have to restore that volume and that LUN," and then the storage and backup team had to restore it and give the information back. Now, the application owner or service owner can do that by himself. So that's a huge benefit for them.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is that it's centralized. In the old SnapManager days, we had software for each server. Now, with a centralized system, we're able to manage all systems remotely, and all agents remotely, and update them remotely. That's a huge benefit for us.

Another good feature is the user permission settings. We have different kinds of groups which can do different kinds of operating tasks in SnapCenter. Previously, that was not even possible.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable. I haven't heard anything from our operating teams that it was not working.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability itself is great, overall. 

One thing I know of which will come out in the next release is a fix for a scalability issue we have right now. We have hundreds of servers and systems and hundreds of customers and they're separated in a multi-tenancy way in NetApp SVM. Right now, the problem is that it always scans all SVMs. If I back up Customer A, it scans all SVMs, or tries to scan all SVMs, if there is a backup relationship on the storage. But it doesn't have the permissions, so we run into timeouts or the backup just takes too long. They're fixing that in the upcoming release, which should come out in the next month or so.

Overall, the scalability is fine. It's working and running well in our environment.

We have a split of SnapCenters for different types of databases. We have a SnapCenter for Exchange, we have a SnapCenter for HANA databases, we have a SnapCenter for SQL databases. The amount of backups taken over a single server is really huge in our environment. We have around 400 or 500 HANA databases, for example. Splitting them up is just a precaution we've done to ensure that it's not running into any scalability issues on the single server. That's why we decided, internally, to split it up. But we haven't seen any real scalability issue or something like that up to now, except the SVM thing.

How are customer service and technical support?

We had some bugs. We always opened cases for them, or I had direct contact with the engineers. They were always fast. It was good working together. They were always interested in what the problem was and how to solve it with us. Our experience was that they're really good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used the SnapManager products before, and Snap Creator. The Snap Creator and SnapManager products were discontinued by NetApp. And they're not centralized, so it's definitely a benefit for us that SnapCenter has a centralized UI and centralized interface and centralized REST API. That's a huge benefit in the end for our administration.

How was the initial setup?

The SnapCenter setup, itself, is not that complex. The SnapCenter setup is very easy. You just have to install it and then it's running. It's intuitive. The first time you see the UI, you need a few minutes to find everything.

However, our environment makes it more complex. We have different kinds of customers with different setups. They have a single domain, they have no domains, or they have trusts with our domains. So it's more our environment which is hard to maintain. 

But SnapCenter's doing a good job there, with the additional support they introduced, and the functionality is working.

Right now our implementation strategy is that we're running only HANA databases and MS SQL databases SnapCenter. We're on the way to migrating our MS SQLs backups at the moment. Afterward, the other databases will follow, like Oracle, Db2, MySQL, etc. So the strategy is clear to set everything to SnapCenter.

The implementation took relatively long because we started with the 1.0 version which wasn't that good at the start. We talked a lot with the engineers to get to 2.0 and 3.0. Since 3.0, it has been really usable for end customers. That was the release where we were really able to use it. We're managing it as a team. At first it was missing support for a team, such as permissions, permission groups, and not just single users. Back then, if I created a backup job, for example, I was the only one who could edit it and see it.

What about the implementation team?

It was just our team and NetApp's.

What was our ROI?

We haven't calculated anything yet, but I can say that the migration from SnapManagers to SnapCenter saves a lot of manpower in our operating team. They save the time to log in to each server, and they save the time of running resources for our application guys because they can do it themselves. It saves a lot of resources on our operating and storage teams.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's free. The license is included with other NetApp products.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We didn't evaluate any other options. Our strategy is a clear NetApp strategy. We have a single-vendor strategy on the storage side. We use only NetApp in our environment. Therefore there was no thought of looking at other applications vendors. When you buy NetApp storage systems, you already have it included in the price. So it wouldn't make any sense to use another backup resource like Veeam, because of the additional license costs.

What other advice do I have?

You should definitely plan some time to understand the concepts behind it. What we've seen is that each backup and user permission has its own defaults. You have to plan some implementation time. You can't simply install it and then it's working. It takes some time to understand how it is working.

But it's definitely a huge improvement because you can easily automate it. If you have a larger environment, as we have, use the REST API. It's a lot faster and a lot better for scaling.

We requested improvements that they have already implemented. For example, there were some GUI improvements, especially for the scalability, where there was no search available. You just had a static list and not a search field to limit the results. And in the last release was the fulfillment of a request where they provide workgroup support, and not just servers in one single domain, because we have multiple domains.

For the day-to-day maintenance, we've automated almost everything in our environment. We use the REST API from SnapCenter. Everything is direct from an external tool we have called UC4. It's rare that we log in to SnapCenter itself and administrate anything there, for our main backup operating team.

We have seven storage and backup administrators and there are nine people using it on the applications team. We want to expand it to our SAP colleagues, and they're 60 people or so, but that's in progress. We also have 300 outsourcing customers and 200 additional customers we run the backups on. We have a total of about 4,000 systems. It's quite a bit to administrate.

Right now, I would rate it as a nine out of ten. If they fix the problem with our SVMs I would give it a ten. Overall, it's good, it's working.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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