Home EnterpriseData Protection Dell EMC PowerProtect adds Transparent Snapshots

Dell EMC PowerProtect adds Transparent Snapshots

by Brian Beeler
transparent snapshots architecture

Dell Technologies hosted a digital event today, bringing together experts to discuss protection in the age of ransomware. Of course, the numbers are scary, the reports of ransomware are so common, most of us are numb to it. Ransomware is something that all organizations need to address though. So in addition to fearsome numbers about having to cash out attackers with Bitcoin, Dell discussed a slew of data protection updates. These are highlighted by Dell EMC PowerProtect adding support for Transparent Snapshots.

Dell Technologies hosted a digital event today, bringing together experts to discuss protection in the age of ransomware. Of course, the numbers are scary, the reports of ransomware are so common, most of us are numb to it. Ransomware is something that all organizations need to address though. So in addition to fearsome numbers about having to cash out attackers with Bitcoin, Dell discussed a slew of data protection updates. These are highlighted by Dell EMC PowerProtect adding support for Transparent Snapshots.

Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager adds Transparent Snapshots

Dell previewed Transparent Snapshots at VMworld last year. At the time, Transparent Snapshots were designed to help organizations back up mission-critical VMs without disruption. Because Transparent Snapshots are lighter weight than proxy-based methods, VMs that were difficult to protect before, because of application performance concerns, can now be handled without interruption.

transparent snapshots architecture

While improving protection for critical VMs is great, all VMs (and the underlying infrastructure) can benefit from more optimized data protection schemas. Transparent Snapshots in PowerProtect Data Manager are pretty simple to understand.

PowerProtect Data ManagerPowerProtect Data Manager

Transparent Snapshots are delivered through an ESXi plugin. Yes, this is VMware only now, but in the future, Dell may extend something like this to other hypervisors, they’re quite active in the entire Azure stack (Hyper-V) for instance.

The plugin monitors the VMs under protection and reads the VMDKs to see what data is changing. It then keeps a metadata table of deltas as they occur. When PowerProtect Data Manager issues a request for backup, the plugin delivers a list of only the change data. Power Protect can now just grab the changed blocks and carry on. The plugin then removes the change data table and any temporary blocks.

transparent snapshots benefits

The core point is that this methodology is integrated and efficient. Dell figures there’s less of a latency hit to active applications on the VMs with Transparent Snapshots when compared to traditional image backup. The plugin is also said to have almost no impact on ESXi either, in terms of overhead. The net benefit means up to 5X faster backups and up to 5X reduction in VM latency, according to data Dell has collected.

Transparent Snapshots architectureTransparent Snapshots architecture

There’s also a management benefit. Transparent Snapshots are not really administered after installing the plugin. As VMs are added to the protection plan, PowerProtect Data Manager takes over and Transparent Snapshots just happen. It’s also worth noting that all of the other PowerProtect features like DD Boost, compression, de-duplication, and so on, aren’t impacted by adding Transparent Snapshots.

The net result for customers should be a much more efficient data protection infrastructure. Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager with Transparent Snapshots will be globally available this month at no additional cost to customers with existing maintenance contracts.

As a side note, if this sounds a lot like Veeam’s use of change block tracking (CBT) in VMware, it’s pretty similar in concept. This isn’t a knock on Dell, just a call-out that similar technology has been around. Dell’s cozy relationship with VMware makes this a logical extension though, and PowerProtect users should see new benefits without any additional investment.

**Update 9/17/21**

Dell sent this bit of text to clarify my comment on CBT.

“The traditional VADP method pauses the application.  Using CBT (as all vendors do) decreases the backup time and associated application pause.  Adding external storage integration can further reduce this pause, but adds more cost and complexity, as well as external dependencies.  Our new approach virtually eliminates this application pause, while being a fully vSphere integrated solution. No external dependencies or plug-ins, no added cost, and in fact, a greatly simplified operational and deployment model.”

Tech Preview – Dell EMC Smart Scale

Dell EMC has announced a tech preview for Smart Scale. Smart Scale lets users make a logical grouping in a federated namespace of up to 32 PowerProtect appliances. The goal is to enable customers to manage multiple data protection devices at scale. Because the appliances are nicely grouped together, managing backup infrastructure geats easier as visibility into data becomes more unified and simple to manage.

dell emc smart scaleDell EMC PowerProtect appliances with Smart Scale are in technology preview today and are expected to be generally available in the first half of 2022.

Managed Services for Cyber Recovery Solution

Dell Technologies has also announced a managed services for a cyber security solution. As with most other services, the aim is to help organizations simplify day-to-day operations. In this case, that means Dell experts manage ongoing recovery vault operations and support recovery activities. This includes a wide range of functions including Dell’s cyber recovery consulting, deployment, and support services. These services are available globally today.

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