NetApp SnapCenter Review

Centralized GUI allows us to see the state of all backup jobs, but working with roles is not user-friendly


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case is VM backup and our secondary use case is backup from all databases like SQL.

How has it helped my organization?

Before, we had to go to the storage CLI or to the SQL Server to check if backups ran correctly. Now, we have everything in one central management view, we don't have different views. That's the main benefit. I don't think that it really changed our organization. It's more for us, as administrators. We save a lot of time. It takes us about 50% less time for the same checks.

Also, if we have to create a new backup for a new SQL server, for example, the policy is all ready and we can add it there with just a few clicks. Before, it was a lot more difficult.

What is most valuable?

The centralized GUI is the best feature, that there is only one webpage where we can see the states of all the backup jobs. We can see all the tasks that are running and we can quickly see if one fails; if they are running or have any issues. We have all that in one place.

It's integrated with VMware vCenter. You can also see the backups there and you can do a restore completely out of vCenter. You don't need to go to SnapCenter to restore a single VM, for example. You just click on VM and you can restore it completely.

What needs improvement?

We are struggling a bit with the permissions and roles. We are not sure if there is an issue at our end, if we didn't get set things up correctly, as per plan. When you have role-based access, for example, it's a bit of a problem that the person who creates the backup job is the owner of it. We are struggling a bit with this, that everyone has the same view and the same permissions in there.

I don't think it's really an issue with SnapCenter. I think it's more that we aren't using it correctly.

In terms of additional features, if it was possible to create backups on non-NetApp storage, that would be helpful. For example, if you have a standalone host, you cannot back it up with SnapCenter. You have to make sure that everything is on NetApp. It would be nice if you could also back up systems that are not on NetApp storage. For example, if you have a standalone ESX host, and it is running a few VMs, it would be nice if you could back up those VMs, even if those files don't rely on NetApp storage. It would be a nice feature if it was possible to back up those VMs. At the moment, we are using another backup solution, Commvault Simpana, for those situations.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Normally, it's very stable. We don't have a lot of issues with it. We once had a case where everything looked good, all the services were running, but we were not able to access the management console. We still don't know, up to today, why there was this problem. The page was blank. Then, a few days later it just started to work again. That was a bit strange. But usually, it's very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

There are big possibilities to scale it up, of course, with all those roles. The idea behind roles is that you can give control for backing up and restoring to the person who makes the database, to the database owners. They can restore their databases. We don't have to do it ourselves. So it's very scalable.

How is customer service and technical support?

We haven't used tech support for SnapCenter. There is a lot of documentation and best-practices guides on NetApp. We use those, and then, if we have questions, we ask our partner because they already have experience with setups like this, which always makes it a bit quicker. We also have a support contract with them, with a few hours in there. Usually it's quicker for us to ask our partner, rather than call NetApp tech support.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We switched this year to SnapCenter. We got a new all-flash MetroCluster. For that reason, we switched to SnapCenter and we left the technology of SnapManager for Oracle Databases and for the SQL backups, as well as the Virtual Storage Console we used earlier for VMware backups.

Another reason we switched is that before we had three tools. Now, we have all those in one, with the possibility to also back up other types of databases like SAP HANA or MySQL, etc. That was another the main point in choosing SnapCenter.

Finally, I expect NetApp will cancel support for SnapManager in the future and will only go with SnapCenter.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is pretty easy. Also, with the plug-in registration in vCenter, it's very easy. Depending on the database you want to back up, it could be a bit more difficult. For example, we tried to create a backup of SAP HANA systems with SnapCenter, but there was an issue with the single-tenant and multi-tenant installations of SAP HANA. At the moment, it's not possible to back up multi-tenant databases from HANA with SnapCenter. I think that's an issue on the SAP side, because there is no backup solution on the market, with Snapshots, etc., for this scenario.

The time for deployment depends on how many different backup policies you have. If you have a complex situation, it will probably take longer. In our business it's pretty easy. We have just one policy for all the types of databases so we were really quick. It took about two days to get it running and working.

There were two of us involved in our company. One is more for backups and I'm more on the primary storage. It's difficult to draw a border between us, because there are the Snapshots and we have to make sure that they are labeled correctly and that the backup is working correctly. The two of us work to maintain it.

What about the implementation team?

We did not use a third-party, for the most part, but we have a good storage partner, BNC, Switzerland. We had a few questions and they were able to help us out with the SnapMirror labels and the like, which didn't work at the beginning. But I think it's possible to do it on your own.

What was our ROI?

I'm not sure we've seen a direct ROI, but if you spend less time on the tasks of checking backups, that is also a return on investment. Of course, it's also cheaper if you can use the license that is already included, rather than if you have to buy another backup solution. And SnapCenter is fully integrated.

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

The license for SnapCenter was included with the storage array.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We didn't look into other solutions because we have the licenses with NetApp. If you buy the storage cluster, you get a premium-license bundle, so SnapCenter is completely licensed with the storage. With other backup solutions, you have to buy licenses for the data volume or the count of instances. That was another main point. We decided to try it, since it was included, and we were happy with it.

What other advice do I have?

Go for it and have a look at it. You don't really need much time for the implementation, but you have to make sure that you have a bit of know-how on how the Snapshot technology from NetApp works with the SnapMirror labels, etc. That is very important.

At the moment, there are three persons using it in our company: My backup colleague, the database specialist also has access, and I. In a future step, we are planning to move our Exchange backups to SnapCenter. We are using about 60 percent of the functionality, and we are planning to go up to between 80 and 100 percent.

I would rate SnapCenter at a good seven out of ten. As I mentioned, one time it didn't work because the page was blank. That was a bit strange. We don't really know what happened there. And the other issue is the roles; it's not very user-friendly. So we have to check this out in the documentation first. Those are the two main points for why I only give it a seven.

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.
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