NDMP specifies a common architecture for the backup of network file servers and enables the creation of a common agent that a centralized program can use to back up data on file servers running on different platforms. By separating the data path from the control path, NDMP minimizes demands on network resources and enables localized backups and disaster recovery. With NDMP, heterogeneous network file servers can communicate directly to a network-attached tape device for backup or recovery operations. Without NDMP, administrators must remotely mount the network-attached storage (NAS) volumes on their server and back up or restore the files to directly attached tape backup and tape library devices.
NDMP addresses a problem caused by the particular nature of network-attached storage devices. These devices are not connected to networks through a central server, so they must have their own operating systems. Because NAS devices are dedicated file servers, they aren't intended to host applications such as backup software agents and clients. Consequently, administrators have to mount every NAS volume by either the Network File System (NFS) or Common Internet File System (CIFS) from a network server that does host a backup software agent. However, this cumbersome method causes an increase in network traffic and a resulting degradation of performance. NDMP uses a common data format that is written to and read from the drivers for the various devices.
Network Data Management Protocol was originally developed by NetApp Inc., but the list of data backup software and hardware vendors that support the protocol has grown significantly. Currently, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) oversees the development of the protocol.