Ask any system administrator what the top three pain points of his job are and you'll likely see a range of responses. However, there's a single response that always makes it into the top three: Backups. Backups are the bane of any IT professional's existence. The problem is backups are notoriously unreliable. Couple that lack of reliability with poor backup quality, and you've created a service that often disappoints and frustrates even the most optimistic system administrator. Now, add the frustration of virtual machine backup and restore to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Unreliable backups lead SAs to construct their own "renegade" solutions that aren't part of any corporate support strategy; nor are they sanctioned by corporate authority. But this is often the scenario when confronted with the burden of responsibility and the need for service reliability. This list of five backup strategies will help frustrated sys admins take the sting out of virtual machine backup and restore.
1. VMware Consolidated Backup
VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) includes a small set of utilities that allows administrators to backup virtual machines via the command line. Originally, VMware provided VCB utilities and the associated application programming interface (API) so third-party vendors could build snapshot-based backup software. VCB features easy installation and integration with VMware's framework. It is part of the ESX product line. VCB is not included as of VMware 4.1. Going forward, VMware has decided to remove the backup utilities from its product and extend the original API into four separate vStorage APIs. There is no direct analog to VCB under the new system. In other words, to use this, you'll have to purchase a third-party backup suite for your virtual machine backup and restore needs.
2. Veeam Backup and Replication
Veeam's VMware products (free and commercial) are leading-edge and award-winning. (It was a Best of VMworld repeat winner.) Veeam Backup and Replication (VBR) takes full advantage of VMware's new APIs for enterprise scalability, advanced replication, multiple operating system file-level restoration and advanced recovery. VBR is less expensive than comparable enterprise backup, restore and recovery solutions because it requires no additional software, agents or utilities. Veeam's solution also includes such extreme features as guest file system indexing, multiple backup modes, one-click file restore, recovery verification and multiple hypervisors. Yes, you read that correctly, Veeam's newest Backup and Replication product incarnation, version 6, also supports Microsoft's Hyper-V.
3. Symantec NetBackup
One of the major problems facing system administrators is the thinking that virtualized environments are somehow different from their physical counterparts. In some ways, they are different. But, in many ways, they're the same. If you take the attitude that "a server is a server regardless of abstraction or underlying hardware," then you also can hold that all your systems should be treated the same for backup and restore--through traditional agent-based backups. Having a consistent backup environment provides some homogeneity to your heterogeneous environment. Using a single backup solution fulfills this need for consistency. Symantec NetBackup is one such solution. With NetBackup, your virtual systems can leverage standard corporate backup and restore strategies as do your physical systems.
NetBackup offers integrated deduplication, fast file recovery, backup and recovery for major applications, and easy installation. NetBackup supports VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V.
4. IBM Tivoli Storage Manager
And, of course, there's the 800-pound Gorilla of agent-based, enterprise backup and restore solutions: Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM). TSM offers the kind of mission-critical data and application protection from the people who defined the terms mission-critical, enterprise and data: IBM. The largest and most powerful companies in the world use TSM for 100-percent data protection assurance. Some of TSM's notable features are progressive incremental backups, policy-based management, advanced archive management, source and target deduplication, compression for reduced storage, and continuous data protection.
5. Quest vRanger
Quest vRanger is like the "little engine that could" in the heavy-hitting enterprise backup arena. vRanger product offers some very advanced features for its price that rivals its better known alternatives. Its notable features are AES-256 encryption, change block tracking, active block mapping, LAN-free backup and recovery, inline data validation, remote management, dynamic resource management, advanced savepoint management, simultaneous backup and restore, multiple backup modes, object-level recovery for Active Directory, SQL Server and Exchange.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.