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Enterprise Databases on Pure Storage: How Actifio Works

Enterprise Databases on Pure Storage: How Actifio Works

Databases are the crown jewels of every enterprise. They need the highest possible performance and availability. Therefore, thousands of enterprises use Pure Storage to run their databases, and many of them use Actifio to backup/recover/clone multi-TB databases on Pure Storage.

Why, you may ask? Actifio delivers low RPO, RTO, and database cloning time in just minutes for a wide variety of databases such as SAP HANA, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Db2, Sybase, etc. Since Actifio software can be provisioned as a VM appliance to protect not only databases but also VMs and physical servers, this ensures that an entire multi-tier application is protected, recovered, or cloned.

Let’s look at how Actifio works with Pure Storage for all the above-mentioned enterprise databases for two use cases:

Use Case 1: Databases Running on Pure FlashArray Primary Storage

Enterprise Databases on Pure Storage: How Actifio Works
  1. Actifio takes a database snapshot by invoking native DB APIs. For example, it uses VSS for SQL server, RMAN for Oracle, SAP SavePoint for SAP, etc.
  2. Actifio then invokes Pure storage snapshot APIs. Actifio updates its catalog so you can recover from this point-in-time. Note that even though this is a storage snapshot, the database is application-consistent because of Actifio’s deep integration with all the databases mentioned above. You can schedule SLAs to take such snapshots once a day, once an hour, or more frequently. You can also specify database log backups in between those snapshots, for example, every 15 minutes.
  3. For recoveries, you specify a point-in-time. Actifio mounts the nearest point-in-time Pure storage array snapshot and then automatically restores the logs to recover the database to an exact point-in-time. You can also provision dozens of clones in just minutes so your Dev, QA, Analytics team members can use these database clones for testing. You can set up role-based access controls so your testers can provision and refresh database clones from any point-in-time within minutes in a self-service manner.

Watch how Sentry Data Systems, with a 130 TB Oracle database running on Pure FlashArray (and a 400 GB per hour change rate), uses Actifio to clone five copies in less than 30 minutes. This includes automatic mounting of Pure storage snapshots and restoring all those massive changes in logs to a specific point-in-time.

Extending Backup, Recovery, Cloning to a Secondary Storage Tier?

You can set up SLAs to replicate the snapshots to any secondary storage, including Pure FlashBlade or cloud object storage such as AWS S3, Azure Blob, Google Nearline/Coldline, or IBM COS.

Of course, you could also replicate to another Pure FlashArray as well (described later in use case 2).

Enterprise Databases on Pure Storage: How Actifio Works

Here is how it works.

  1. REPLICATION: Actifio uses Pure Storage APIs to capture just the changed blocks in between the snapshots, in an incremental forever manner, and store the backups on secondary storage.
    1. This unique incremental forever approach reduces DB IO, storage IO, and network IO by up to 20x, thus decreasing the RPO to the DR site.
    2. Also, notice that this delivers a “ZERO STORAGE” architecture on-premises. Because Actifio is backing up the changed blocks between the Pure FlashArray storage snapshots directly to a cloud object storage, thus reducing your costs significantly. Compare this “ZERO STORAGE” architecture with most legacy vendors which need on-premises storage to store its backups. With Actifio’s architecture, it can be as simple as setting up SLAs to manage snapshots on Pure storage and then efficiently send changed blocks of data to cloud object storage, thus eliminating all backup storage on-premises. But the best part is that you still get rapid recoveries and clones in minutes on-premises as well as in the cloud for DR as explained in the next section.
  2. RECOVERY: Even though the database backups are on secondary storage such as Pure FlashBlade or cloud object storage, Actifio has the unique capability to present a point-in-time backup image as a virtual block device to a VM, physical server, or an on-demand cloud compute instance.

Actifio, with its deep application integration, then brings up the database in just minutes, thus delivering a very low RTO for multi-TB databases. 


You can use Actifio workflow to automate the above instant mount and database recovery process to multiple test machines simultaneously, the result of which is multiple virtual database clones in just minutes. 

Thus, whether you are recovering or cloning the databases from Actifio-managed snapshots in Pure FlashArray primary storage or any secondary storage, you get low RTO, RPO and cloning time. Most importantly, you get this consistent capability for all the enterprise databases mentioned previously.

Note that you can also set up DR plans to include databases, VMs and physical servers to achieve 1-click Disaster Recovery orchestration in VMware, AWS, Azure, GCP, and IBM environments.

Use Case 2: Databases NOT running on Pure FlashArray Primary Storage.

Enterprises might have more than one storage array with some databases on non-Pure storage arrays. Actifio has another very unique capability to deliver low RTO, RPO, and cloning time with native Pure performance by using Pure FlashArray storage as target storage for Actifio to store its backups. 

Enterprise Databases on Pure Storage: How Actifio Works

Here is how it works.

  1. Actifio talks to databases and takes an application-consistent snapshot. Actifio can then perform incremental forever backups, thus delivering a very low RPO. For all databases except for Oracle, Actifio uses its own unique patented change block tracking technology to provide incremental forever backups with database consistency. For Oracle, it leverages RMAN Block Change Tracking (BCT).
  2. Storing Backups in Pure Storage FlashArray: 
    1. Actifio stores the first full backup and all subsequent incremental backups in Pure FlashArray Storage using native Pure FlashArray storage snapshots. Thus each point-in-time Actifio backup effectively becomes a Pure storage snapshot.
    2. At the time of recovery or provisioning database clones, Actifio mounts the point-in-time native Pure storage snapshot and brings the database online, delivering not only low RTO, but also native Pure storage performance with all the benefits of Pure storage deduplication and compression.

Some enterprises have used this approach to migrate away from non-Pure storage arrays to Pure FlashArray storage with a click of a button. Lastly, as shown in the picture above, you can set up SLAs to have additional replication to PureFlashBlade or Cloud Object Storage.


For mission critical enterprise databases, Actifio’s unique integration with Pure Storage FlashArray, FlashBlade, and cloud object storage delivers low RPO, RTO, rapid database cloning, and 1-click DR orchestration. More importantly, it delivers these SLAs consistently across all enterprise databases such as SAP HANA, Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Db2, Sybase, etc.

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