Sun Storage 7000 Hardware Provider for Microsoft VSS
By pmonday on Mar 10, 2010
The release of 2010.Q1 for Sun Storage 7000 Appliances brings a wide variety of new features to the appliance family, including an increased number of ways appliances are integrated directly into storage ecosystems. In addition to the Sun Storage 7000 Management Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Grid Controller 1.0, Q1 2010 brings integration with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) through the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS Software 1.0.
For those that have a Microsoft Windows operating environment and are not familiar with Microsoft VSS, it is basically a framework that facilitates creating fast and consistent snapshots of volumes through the coordination of the applications doing backup-type operations (readers, also known as a requestor) and the applications that are writing to volumes (writers). In layman's terms, this facility built into the Microsoft Windows Platforms gives the ability for an application like Symantec NetBackup Advanced Client to take a snapshot of a volume that is being actively used by an application like Oracle Database or Microsoft Exchange. The reader notifies the framework that it would like to take a snapshot. The framework notifies applications that they need to coalesce. The applications complete their coalescing and the framework tells the reader to go. When complete, the framework releases the application to continue writing. An abstract illustration of the environment is shown here:
The whole process of coalescing and taking a snapshot of a volume can take only a few seconds (more depending on how complex the coalesce and snapshot operations are).
For efficiency, storage appliances (like Sun Storage 7000 Appliances) create a "Hardware Provider", also known as a "VSS Block Target Provider". The Hardware Provider takes over the snapshot and clone operations based on the GUID of a SCSI LUN (in our case for Release 1.0, this is iSCSI only, Fibre Channel is not supported).
Installation of the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS is through the InstallShield package downloaded from the Oracle Corp. Download Site (this site contains the Sun domain ID if you notice those types of things). The installation process should be straightforward and results in a new folder accessible from the "Start" menu (Start -> All Programs -> Sun Microsystems, Inc. -> Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS). In this folder are two entries: a README.txt (required reading ... seriously) and the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS ConfigUtil. This latter entry (the ConfigUtil) is also placed on the desktop for quick access.
To verify the hardware provider is registered with the Microsoft VSS Framework, find a command prompt and type "vssadmin list providers". As shown in the following screen capture, this results in a printout of registered providers that will include entry for the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS. The Version number you will see in an original installation is 1.0.10.
This means that backup application, such as Symantec NetBackup Advanced Client, can set up policies that leverage the hardware provider for fast snapshots. There is one more setup operation that must be completed before the policy will successfully complete. The Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS uses a combination of "Management Path" and "Data Path" operations to achieve snapshot and clones of iSCSI Volumes.
The "Management Path" credentials to any Sun Storage 7000 Appliances supplying iSCSI LUNs to the Microsoft Windows client must be entered through the "Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS ConfigUtil". From the Microsoft Windows platform that is consuming the iSCSI LUNs and has the Hardware Provider installed, open the ConfigUtil (form the Start Menu or the Desktop). Use the DNS names of Sun Storage 7000 Appliances or IP Addresses (I prefer IP Addresses), enter each Sun Storage 7000 Appliance Management Path along with User ID and Passwords given to you by the storage administrator for each appliance. Tap the shoulder of the Storage Administrator and remind them you could use a non-root User ID as guided by the README.txt in the download. Most access rights can be removed from the User ID though they do need to have a role that facilitates snapshot creation and clone creation for the shares that you access. Use the template in the README.txt for a starting point.
This screen capture shows the entry of credentials:
Once the credentials are entered properly, access from applications is seamless.
Look for specific documentation on using Hardware Providers with the specific applications that you use on the Microsoft Windows platform. Because VSS is a framework, you may have products that utilize the framework that we did not specifically test in our labs. The README.txt in the download contains a list of applications that we have run using the provider.
The Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS Software 1.0 is a Hardware Provider that plugs into the Microsoft VSS Framework on Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008, 64-bit or 32-bit variations. Using the provider, backup applications and other requestors can make snapshots and clones directly on Sun Storage 7000 Appliances for iSCSI LUNs consumed by the Microsoft Windows Client on the system that the Hardware Provider is installed on. The installation of the provider is quick and you should verify that it was registered with the Microsoft VSS Framework. You must then enter User ID and Password information for each target Sun Storage 7000 Appliance. No further intervention with the Microsoft VSS Framework is necessary from that point forward and the primary work you'll do is configure your Backup Applications to make use of the Hardware Provider through Backup Policies.
For additional reading, use the following resources:
- Sun Storage 7000 Appliance 2010.Q1 Release Information, start at the entry Turning the Corner
- The README.txt included in the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS Software 1.0 Download
- The Overview for Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)