Since VMware came on to the IT scene and ushered in the virtualization wave sweeping the IT industry, there have been always been discussions around how to best backup the larger and larger numbers of virtualized systems. Do you just put a regular backup “Agent” in each Guest virtual machine and back it up like a physical system? Do you use some scripting method to shut down your virtual machines before backup with an Agent on the ESX host? How about a hardware snapshot solution? What about VMware’s own backup technology, VMware Consolidated Backup? What about deduplication for VMware data?
It has now become clear that most of these questions now have a single answer. VMware vStorage API for Data Protection or “VADP”. Having been in the backup industry for over 15 years, I can say safely that there has been very few and far between instances in backup where a technology delivers “all the right stuff” of better performance, lower CPU utilization, lower storage costs, and is easier to implement and use. However, the folks at VMware have accomplished just that. The vStorage API’s for Data Protection is a foundation provided by VMware for 3rd party backup vendors such as Symantec to use to incorporate into their backup applications to protect VMware virtual machine data. It is not a backup application by itself, but a set of software libraries that we (the backup vendors) build into our product.
Why is VADP the answer to so many of the questions I mentioned above in this post? In short, it simply works! It is fast, efficient, and very easy to setup.
There is nothing extra for a customer to install or configure. No VCB “framework” or “VCB Proxy Server” or temporary storage to configure or install. Just simply install the backup software that has the vStorage API for Data Protection integration support.
If you are using VMware’s older VCB technology, you should see an immediate 7-10 X improvement in your backup performance over a modern SAN (4-8GB). The best news is that you do not have to be on vSphere 4.0 to take advantage of this capability. It is fully backward compatible to ESX 3.5 Update 2. The story only gets better from there if you are a vSphere 4.0 environment. vSphere 4.0 introduces a new feature on top of the VADP. Change Block Tracking. No longer are backups of virtual machines relegated to just “Full” backups. Now high-speed block-level Incremental and Differential backups are possible as well.
VMware laid the foundation with vStorage API’s for Data Protection, now it is up to the backup vendors to build on top of it. At Symantec, we think we have done a pretty good job at that. With the release of Backup Exec 2010 and NetBackup 7, Symantec has built additional features on top of the VADP and was one of the first vendors to meet VMware’s thorough “VMware Ready for Data Protection” certification requirements. Backup Exec 2010 adds a number of enhancements to protect your virtual machines and reduce your overall storage costs, including data deduplication and single-pass backup with granular recovery of virtualized applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL, and Active Directory.
Action Item: Whatever backup software you use today for physical or virtual system backup, make sure it is fully using vStorage API’s for Data Protection-certified methods for both backup AND recovery of your VMware 3.5 and 4.0 environment. If it is not, push your backup vendor to use the VADP and become certified. Look for backup solutions that do not require a “rip and replace” or require a separate backup product just to protect your virtual machines. Look for a backup application that you trust do handle both physical and virtual machines from a single console. Look for a backup product that is going to help your investment in virtualization really pay off by reducing your backup and storage costs through deduplication and single-pass backups of your virtualized machines and applications. If your backup vendor is unable to help you with these questions, take around for vendors who will.
Footnotes: Symantec Backup Exec