Backup in a Virtual World

Arthur Cole

Now that virtualization is making its way deeper into enterprise infrastructure, the issue of reliability has gathered in importance.

No one expects virtual systems to provide 100 percent reliability, but when they do fail it has become more crucial to get them back online as quickly as possible.

While the question of how best to do that is up for debate, one thing is clear: Virtual backup will likely shift the conversation away from restoring data and files toward re-launching the virtual machines that house them.

Vizioncore is one of a new breed of management and automation developers that is arguing for a radical new approach to backup and recovery in the virtual era. The company is touting an image-based approach to virtual B&R in its new Backup 2.0 system for VMware environments, which it says will break the need to run separate backup jobs for each recovery scenario. By shifting from file recovery to image recovery, organizations will see faster recovery of more disparate types of data and come to depend on fewer physical resources to make it happen.

Traditional automation and management vendors are quickly moving to bring virtual backup capabilities on board, in the hope that a single management stack that governs physical, virtual and even cloud resources will win the day. Symantec, for example, recently unveiled Backup Exec 2010 with a series of new tools such as granular data recovery aimed more at virtual servers themselves than individual files.

3PAR is taking a similar approach with its new InForm plug-ins for VMware vSphere and vCenter platforms. The package provides tools like virtual machine snapshots, online VM recovery and VM-to-storage mapping. The goal is to simplify the recovery process by forging direct links to the virtualization platforms themselves and avoiding the sometimes tricky process of moving VMs to offline storage during recovery.

And even the platform providers themselves are quickly adding to their backup capabilities. VMware recently came out with VMware Data Recovery (VDR), which improves on the old VMware Consolidated Backup by adding true backup capabilities to vCenter, rather than just a window into the VMFS file system for third-party B&R software.

At the moment, few enterprises are running mission-critical applications in virtual environments, so backup is probably not a crucial need. But as I've mentioned in the past, the time to put recovery mechanisms in place is before they are truly needed, not after.

And as the enterprise continues to go virtual, that time is quickly approaching.

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Jan 29, 2010 10:50 AM Gary Anderson Gary Anderson  says:

Availability is a top concern for data center managers, as indicated in a recent Data Center Users Group survey (http://tiny.cc/oldGo). As systems become virtual, it is even more important that the entire infrastructure is secure and available. The ability to move virtual servers can be a great benefit, but if service on the electrical infrastructure requires a physical shutdown, it is extremely important to understand what applications are being hosted in that sector of the data center.  Without this understanding, a simple service action could cause significant disruptions in critical activities.

Jan 29, 2010 10:53 AM Patrick - PHD Virtual Patrick - PHD Virtual  says:

You also might like to take a look at esXpress from PHD Virtual, as a virtual backup/recovery solution which does not have the restrictions VDR does.


VDR is not an ideal choice for an Enterprise solution as:

1.) VDR has no support linked Virtual Center's.

2.) VDR's maximum supported virtual machine backup configuration is 100 virtual machines

3.) It has no support for large data stores. Each VDR appliance only supports 1TB, with a maximum of two stores.

esXpress' is much more scale-able to meet the needs of enterprise consumers.


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