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Intersight Cloud Orchestrator (ICO) Series - Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) Volume Snapshot Cascade Capability with Cisco ICO

By posted 04-27-2023 01:14


Target audience: 
Intersight users / IT infrastructure administrators

Value proposition: 
Intersight users are now able to create multiple snapshots based on the same quiescent point whenever demand arises in a self-service manner, without having to ask for assistance from a storage administrator.

In daily operations there are frequent situations where a copy of the current production data is required for other purposes, such as analyzing a copy of the production database or sharing select sales data with various regions or branch offices. Creating snapshots enables administrators to freeze that data at a particular point in time while avoiding putting additional load on the production system. Depending on the use case, one or more snapshots might be needed.

The creation of snapshots requires a certain level of understanding of the underlying storage infrastructure, and storage administrators usually have to create the snapshots using dedicated tools. This implies additional work for storage administrators which limits the ability to quickly initiate snapshots that are requested. Even if storage is managed using an integrated management platform, if the platform does not support snapshotting and a separate tool has to be used, the creation of snapshots can be cumbersome.

This article showcases the ability to create snapshots using Cisco ICO workflows in combination with Hitachi VSP to provide enhanced operational efficiencies within the datacenter.


Snapshot use cases
Normally when analyzing the data stored in a database, a snapshot of the production volume is created to capture a consistent state at a particular time. Primary snapshots created in this way are frequently used for backup purposes, as well as data analysis which uses secondary snapshots taken from the primary snapshot. Additionally, in situations where data is held in a single instance, but distributed to multiple users for analysis (for example, regional analysis of sales data) the creation of multiple secondary snapshots can avoid additional load on the production system. Creating multiple secondary snapshots also ensures that all copies contain data consistent with the given point in time. 

Creating snapshots with Hitachi Thin Image Advanced (HTI)
HTI is a subset of capabilities native to the Hitachi VSP which allows point in time copy creation. The HTI feature supports cascading snapshots, allowing the creation of snapshots for different purposes, as shown in the following figure.


Storage Navigator, which is a native storage management tool on the Hitachi VSP provides a choice of Graphical User Interface (GUI) or Command Line (CLI) functionality to create cascaded snapshots at Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) selected by the storage administrator. Alternatively, tools like Hitachi OpsCenter Protector can be used to automate and schedule snapshot creation.

Figure 2:  Creating a snapshot cascade with Storage Navigator

Data utilization issues with original integration of Cisco Intersight with Hitachi VSP
Cisco ICO with Hitachi VSP supports a task called “Copy Hitachi Volume.” This task enables ICO workflows to utilize the VSP in-system clone capabilities. However, unlike snapshots, clones are created using the production volume as a data source and create a 1:1 exact copy. For this reason, it is not possible to create multiple identical copies of the data at a given point in time when the production data is frequently updated as shown in the following illustration.


Figure 3:  Creating 2 clones using the “Copy Hitachi Volume” task twice


Simplifying snapshot cascades with Cisco ICO 
A new task called “Hitachi Snapshot” has been added to Cisco ICO. This task allows the use of the VSP HTI functionality to create snapshots within Cisco ICO workflows, as well as cascaded snapshots (Snap on Snap). With a few clicks, a workflow (Figure 4) can be created so that a single primary snapshot taken from a production volume, enables multiple (identical) secondary snapshots to be created from this initial snapshot (Figure 5 ) at a specific point in time, allowing identical data distribution among users, which was not possible with full clones.

Figure 4: Multi-task Workflow creating cascading snapshots

Figure 5
:  Snapshot cascade creating multiple consistent snapshots

Using traditional management tools, the capability of generating multiple consistent snapshots for end users can be challenging. The integration of HTI capabilities with Cisco ICO allows the creation of workflows that enable users to initiate snapshot generation on demand with minimal effort and without deep storage knowledge. This reduces the need to involve storage administrators and enables more agile data analysis processes by providing users a self-service option.

Furthermore, workflows can be enhanced using the Cisco ICO loop function. The loop function allows the creation of multiple secondary snapshots with a single workflow. In the example mentioned earlier, this could be used to provide snapshots to multiple teams and enable the analysis of a common set of data by multiple regional teams.

Hitachi and Cisco are continuously collaborating to bring additional storage capabilities into Intersight, see our next announcement for further enhancements!