It's long been an article of faith that virtualization is a tremendous boon to backup and recovery operations by virtue of its ability to make duplicates of data and application environments elsewhere on the enterprise network.
But that view, while still valid for the majority of recovery cases out there, is starting to fray at the edges. From having to deal with the sheer complexity of backing up multiple VMs to working out some of the kinks in current virtual backup software, it turns out that the process is not as smooth as once believed.
One of the problems is the amount of scripting required by some backup systems. VMware's Consolidated Backup (VCB) facility, for example, requires a fair number of scripts, particularly if the enterprise does not have a separate backup system already in place. This often leaves enterprises little choice but to leave their virtual systems out of their recovery plans, potentially a major problem as virtual machines move ever closer to critical data and applications.
If you do decide to back up VMs, make sure you do it at the internal file level, like a regular PC, and not at the VM level, according to this report in Green Computing. Most VMs keep their data in a remote storage fabric, so the actual VM has very little of value-some application files and sparse amounts of local data perhaps.
Third parties, of course, are eager to make virtual backup and recovery easier. Idealstor, for one, has just released the iBac Virtual Infrastructure Proxy (iBac VIP) aimed specifically at the ESX server. The system links up with the VCB toolkit to speed up the recovery process, regardless of how many VMs are in need of backup or how many processors are running on the ESX host.
Despite some of the difficulties, virtual backup will become a fact of life for the enterprise in relatively short order. Fortunately, none of the problems encountered so far is insurmountable. And with virtualization playing such a vital role on propelling data communications into the cloud, a strong backup environment will be crucial indeed.