In today’s information-driven world, we operate at the speed of data. The success of many great businesses is due to how quickly they and their teams can gain insights and use them to make effective business decisions. From healthcare to retail, FinTech to manufacturing, organizations that empower their top talent and key systems with rapid access to data see outsized benefits.  

And yet one invaluable tool in streamlining data access in on-premises environments, the snapshot, is surprisingly underpowered in most cloud architectures. Many cloud snapshot solutions require extra costs and provide lower performance compared to their on-prem equivalents.  

But not with Silk. Silk offers cloud-leading zero-footprint, instantaneous snapshots, accelerating the operations of our cost service to top speed. In this post, we’ll discuss: 

  • What snapshots are and who typically uses them  
  • The business benefits of using snapshots 
  • The differences between snapshot capabilities on-prem and in the cloud 
  • Silk’s advantages and differentiates with some actual customer examples 

What Are Snapshots?

Snapshots are point-in-time replicas – or clones – of a database. Organizations often use snapshots to bring data from production to nonproduction environments. Other common operations that involve snapshots include data protection and backup, as well as supporting data management for development, testing, reporting, and analytics. You can manually take a snapshot, schedule snapshots to run automatically, or trigger snapshots via API calls. Managing and consolidating snapshots is the practice of copy data management.  

A few examples of common snapshot use cases are: 

  • Enabling reporting systems – sometimes by using snapshots by using database mirroring to make the data available on the mirror server.  
  • Providing a historical reference for auditing  
  • Quickly reverting a source database to a specific point in time 
  • Safeguarding against accidental changes or human errors 
  • Helping with application development and release management involving huge data changes or schema modifications 
  • Helping build a test system and quickly run through the testing process 
  • Rapidly recovering data from deletion or logical corruption 
  • Refreshing Dev, Test, or QA environments 
  • Providing top performance for benchmarking applications 
  • And making full copies of transactional data for ETL processing 

You can also leverage snapshots for backup and DR. Any backup platform, like Commvault or Rubrik, can run scripts that leverage the snapshot. You can mount a snapshot on a secondary host and then backup the data to an object store off the secondary host without impacting the prior production host.   

Business Benefits of Snapshots

Using snapshots can benefit your business in many tangible ways. For example, you can accelerate your development teams, allow faster data streaming across your organization, and streamline the live analytics that power your business operations.  

Many Silk customers use snapshots today. They are accelerating their live systems, providing their most important stakeholders the data they need faster, and better serving their clients’ needs. Here are some examples illustrating the power that Silk customers receive when using our snapshots.  

Three Customer Examples of Snapshot Use

Silk Enables Real-Time Pricing Analysis for Retail Client

Our first example is for one of Silk’s retail customers. This customer uses Silk snapshots to power the analytics engine that optimizes the real-time pricing of their ecommerce platform. Snapshots enable instantaneous data access for this analytical operation without impacting their production. This leads to over a petabyte of data access with a physical footprint 46x smaller.  

Silk snapshots are allowing this customer to improve their topline revenue with rapid analysis of ongoing supply and demand.  

Silk Accelerates Access to Patient Data at Sentara Healthcare

Our second customer example is from Sentara. Sentara Healthcare is a leading not-for-profit healthcare organization. Among their other cloud performance needs, Sentara wanted to find a way to reduce the downtime of the SQL reporting engine in their Electronic Health Records (EHR) system that it was experiencing every night as it went through its ETL process. Before Silk, this process took about 7-10 hours on average. And during that time, the database is inaccessible to the providers and patients who need it. Silk made it possible for the Sentara team to take a snapshot of the database every night and mount it to two other SQL Server hosts as the reporting environment went into ETL. This helped the team reduce downtime from 7-10 hours per night to less than 15 minutes, giving end-users nearly 24/7 access to their data! Doctors and patients are literally getting data faster and easier thanks to Sentara’s use of Silk. 

Silk Streamlines Data Management for Financial Analytics Firm

Our third example is from a large financial analytics company.  This company supports leading financial institutions and helps them understand the financial data of their clients. These clients expect data to be as up to date as possible and look for rapid turnaround on new reports. Time literally is money! Before, their engineers couldn’t even consistently take one snapshot a week. Using our snapshots and our APIs, they were able to develop a completely automated environment. Once they started using our technology, they moved from having over a week of data delay to only 4-5 hours, dramatically shrinking the time for their engineers to get new reports to the customers and increasing how current the data was for their clients across the board. This resulted in a huge financial benefit for them and for their clients’ businesses, through the increased data access. And the company achieved this while taking advantage of a data reduction rate as high as 34:1.  

Snapshot Capabilities On-Prem and In the Cloud

Used to taking snapshots on-prem and now looking to do so in the cloud? There are some differences to keep in mind. Namely that instantaneous, zero-footprint snapshots that were common on-prem are not a cloud-native capability. Generally, snapshots on the cloud are full copies that take significant time to deploy and consume costly cloud resources each time they are in use. Most cloud solutions store snapshots in the cooler form of storage and then load them on-demand back into warmer storage. This saves costs for infrequently used snapshots but is costly and slow for high-frequency snapshot usage.  

Users must keep this in mind – especially when making multiple copies of data or for situations that require regular snapshot loading. Without the right tool for the job, developers can end up with a workflow that is much slower and more expensive to complete compared to on-premises. This can become a problem for developers who need the agility that the cloud provides, as well as the speed, power, and functionality of rich data services they utilized on-prem. At the end of the day, the limitations of many cloud snapshot systems mean fewer data users receive the data. And those that do receive it more slowly and less frequently. 

Silk Advantages and Differentiators

However, with Silk you get instantaneous, zero-footprint snapshots that don’t take up additional space until you write to them. To geek out for a second: Silk uses a redirect on write approach where our Silk Data Pods use pointers to seamlessly track the data structure of each snapshot. This removes the need to duplicate data, while only requiring additional space when making edits to a given snapshot. Even then, Silk only writes the most minimal changes to the snapshot. Silk provides full performance on these instantaneous snapshots. And there is no need to load and unload from object storage, so the data is always available. You can use and mount snapshots across zones, regions, and even across cloud providers.  

The data efficiency of Silk snapshots also can provide significant cost savings as there is no full copy to pay for. Silk’s RESTful API supports automation of snapshots. You can use Silk with PowerShell SDK, Ansible Playbooks, and Terraform. Script application-consistent snapshots within seconds for refreshing on production environments and analytics and reporting databases.  

You can check out Silk’s GitHub page for our API documentation, the Terraform and Ansible modules, and our PowerShell SDK.  

Want to See Silk Snapshots In Action?

Watch our short webinar replay for demonstrations of the power of Silk snapshots!

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