The biggest challenge to backing up Virtual Machines (VMs) today is getting both image level backups of the VMs for bare metal Disaster Recovery (DR) purposes and file level backups for the more common day to day recovery scenarios. The traditional client/server backup method of installing agents on every VM and/or ESX host and pulling backups across the network is no longer sufficient. It is the slowest, highest impact, and most expensive method of creating and maintaining backups. There are many different approaches to overcoming these backup challenges today. For example, some organizations use a proxy server (such as VCB) to mount each image to a server and backup from there, but regardless of the method, most solutions still take the approach of two separate backup types: one specific to file level recovery & one specific to image level recovery.
Some have elected to pick and choose which method to use on a server by server basis resulting in a management nightmare, while others simply write off the image level backups as a future “nice to have” and continue to only do file level backups. All the while, each is waiting for the magic bullet of VM backup solutions that will do each of the following:
- Backup the VMs at an image level, using storage level snapshots, while allowing file level recovery from those image backups
- Perform VM backups instantly and not impact the performance of the VM, the ESX host where the VM resides, or the networks to which it is attached
- Use the least amount of space possible, taking advantage of block level deduplication and thin provisioning, allowing more online backup versions to exist
- Perform both the backup and recovery process in a quick, simple and easy to manage fashion
The wait is over! Netapp has met this challenge head on with yet another innovative software solution: Virtual Storage Console (VSC). Happily, VSC is actually much more than just an integrated backup solution between VMware and Netapp. It’s also a vCenter plug-in that allows you to manage several different aspects of Netapp storage directly from the VMware administrative interface: one being VM backup and recovery. VSC also gives you visibility into the Netapp storage information, provides health and capacity information, allows for storage provisioning and VM cloning, and offloads some of the storage related tasks typically performed by the ESX host for faster storage related operations.
Here we are focusing on VSC’s VM backup/recovery capabilities. After installing VSC 2.0 on the vCenter server, you will see an additional Netapp tab when you login to the vSphere client with a sub-component labeled Data Protection. The Data Protection tab is like any other backup software where you setup your backup and retention policies, schedule your backups, and perform your restores. You can choose to backup your environment at a datastore and/or VM level. No matter which backup level you choose, the Netapp volumes involved are snapshot to the Netapp storage. Netapp communicates with vCenter to manage quiescing the VMs and application/OS consistency. All this takes seconds and no additional space on the storage system until changes start occurring which are 4k block level changes deduped for maximum storage efficiency. You can include/exclude datastores, VMs, or independent disks; perform pre/post scripts; trigger SnapMirror updates to another Netapp for DR purposes; allow time based or number of copy retentions; and customize alerts/notifications.
Most importantly, you now have the option to restore the entire datastore, one or more VMs, or individual files within those VMs. Netapp accomplishes the file level restore capability by FlexCloning the volume in the background (an instant operation that requires no additional space), mounting one or more of the drives from that VM to either the same or a different VM. You can then utilize Windows explorer to drag & drop the recovered data from the mounted drives to wherever you’d like. You can also assign permissions to whomever you’d want to be able to perform these recoveries and to/from which VMs.
The solution is here! Netapp’s process meets all of the challenge criteria above and once and for all makes VM backup/recovery a stress free operation. For more information or a demonstration, contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager.
Note: VSC 2.0 requires the following VMware versions vCenter Server 3.5, 4.0 or 4.1 & ESX / ESXi 3.4, 4.0 or 4.1. Netapp requires ONTAP 7.3 or later or 8.0 7-mode or later. It supports all protocols (FC, iSCSI, NFS on all Netapp hardware models (FAS/V-Series/N-Series). The Data Protection component of VSC 2.0 also requires a SnapMgr for VI (SMVI) license and the single file recovery capability requires a FlexClone license.