UPDATED April 30th, 2010 @ 9:14pm ET (linked to WMV demo)
UPDATED Dec 1st @ 10:10am PST (minor updates/corrections – also posted the table in xls format based on demand)
“What is the best way to backup my VMware environment?”
Ah… There are some questions that are easy and short to ask, but are long to answer. This is one of them. But – the proliferation of various tools for VMware-oriented backup (including VMware’s own VMware Data Recovery as well as other 3rd party options) suggests that good vendor answers to that question have a lot of value to customers.
EMC Avamar has long been one of the most popular ways to do backup in the VMware space (with many, many customers of every size including VMware and Cisco themselves – each with thousands of VMs). The reasons for it’s popularity in this context are the following:
- simple backup and simple single-step restore in all cases (not just one or two guest type)
- good application integration
- saves a ton on storage due to data deduplication (commonly 30x-50x)
- dramatically faster backup due to the fact that the dedupe occurs before the data is transfered (aka source-based dedupe – commonly reduces network load by 300x-500x)
- higher server and VDI consolidation ratios in dense VM configurations due to lower LAN use during backup
- great for remote office backup (particularly where the remote office is too small for the smallest Data Domain platform) due to lower WAN use for centralized backup
What people didn’t like about Avamar in earlier versions was that it was focused almost exclusively on the in-guest based source backup model. While there are cases where this is the right way, there are use cases which are well served with VM-image level backup. Frustration with those VM-level proxy based mechanisms historically was that VCB had challenges (proxy scaling, increased backup window due to various data movement steps). All sorts of VM-level variants exist: 1) NFS datastores mounted in other places; 2) Array-integrated snapshots; 3) NDMP backup of NFS datatores; 4) many, many other things. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Don’t get me wrong - customers ideally want BOTH in-guest and VM-level, and selectively use them. In-guest always has the best application-integrated options, broad guest OS file-level recovery and and simple restore/catalog. VM-level is (in theory minus the VCB challenges) the simplest to deploy/manage, at the expense of move “moving pieces” for file-level restore.
The vStorage APIs for Data Protection in vSphere 4 are focused at improving the VM-level proxy-based approaches. Avamar 5.0 is out now, and is very much focused on expanding both in-guest and VM-level scenarioes. There is a TON of vSphere integration.
Key among these:
- Full support for the vStorage APIs for Data Protection (“son of VCB” – but much better than VCB was). This means:
- use of Changed Block Tracking – much better backup performance. How much faster? Think 10x-20x faster!
- direct file-level restore in guests for windows VMs without a guest agent
- vCenter integration. This means:
- Simple views of whether VMs have been backed up or not, and simple ability to remediate.
- Showing HOW a VM was backed up (guest, VM, not at all) and when.
- Automatically adding backup policy to virtual machines as they are added.
Beyond VMware-focused features, there are some other massive ones:
- New desktop/laptop backup functionality – a dramatically lightweight client, with simple end-user initiated restore as an option.
- Much more dense Avamar backup target – Avamar has always been awesome for huge reduction of the amount of backup storage needed (30x-50x less is common). Through a bunch of opimizations, we can get 60% more stuff backed up in the same physical space, for the same dollar cost/watts, etc. The march of progress!
Networker 7.6 has also been released, and also has piles of additional VMware goodness. Very good visualization tools that integrate with vCenter, and a much much simpler script-less proxy-based backup model. It integrates with Avamar, so large enterprises often use Networker for it’s very, very broad application agent and backup device/model support, but leverage Avamar for VMware-centric backup models – but managed from a single console. Note that until Networker 7.6 gets updated (see below) – the new Avamar functions aren’t exposed in the Networker GUI.
For customers using Networker on it’s own without the Avamar integration, Networker 7.6 will also be getting similar vStorage API for Data Protection support (for the faster backup gains when using a proxy approach and the single-step file restore from VM-level backup) – but it’s not in the current release. It is expected in an upcoming near term patch.
If you want to see it in action (remember that this video focuses on what’s new, not the existing stuff), and get the nutshell – watch the below (thank you to Mike Zolla – always awesome in the Avamar product team). Mike – next time crank up to volume a notch or two :-)
Read on for more detail, as well as a general discussion of backup/recovery in the VMware context!