Can You Back Up Virtualized Systems Safely?

by Richard Adhikari

Virtualizing a system is much easier than backing it up and restoring it.

Companies rushing to virtualize their environments to cut costs will find that backup and restore could be a problem due to its extensive use of scripting.

Most businesses use VMware products, as the company is the market leader, and its VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) centralized backup facility requires users to write a lot of scripts. That makes it difficult to use, according to some experts.

"There are lots of different ways to back things up, and VMware basically leaves it up to the users," Robert Bloomquist, senior engineer for virtual recovery at Kroll Ontrack Data Recovery, which specializes in restoring lost data, told InternetNews.com.

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VMware said that extensive scripting is only necessary if enterprises using VCB don't already have a backup solution in place, as VCB was designed to work with existing backup systems, but at least one vendor of a backup solution for VMware's products disagrees.

"It's difficult to just use the VCB framework because you have to write a lot of scripts and requires a lot of maintenance, and you have to spend a lot of time on that," Ellen Rome, vice president of sales and marketing at backup, archiving and disaster solutions vendor STORserver told InternetNews.com. "That just adds another level of management to the process."

Many companies leave out some of their virtualized systems in their disaster recovery plans because there are no tools to manage them, according to surveys by Symantec.

Lena Joshi, a senior product marketing manager at VMware, told InternetNews.com that VCB was designed so that its partners could provide solutions based on the technology and that it works with existing backup systems.

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"Philosophically, it's all about our ecosystem," she said. VMware is known for its strong ties with third-party vendors, although Microsoft's acceleration of its push into the virtualization field is threatening that ecosystem. "VCB is a framework that provides access more than anything else."

Joshi said VCB was designed to work with customers' existing backup products, giving them direct access to data in virtual machines in shared storage networks. "You'll have to write scripts if you don't already have a backup solution," she said.

However, it may not be as easy to use VCB with existing backup solutions as Joshi claims.

"VCB is really just a framework, it's not something that's easy to use and implement," STORserver's Rome said. "You have to do the integration to make it work with a lot of the popular backup solutions out there."

Tools from traditional legacy backup systems vendors such as CA, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and BMC, which have extended their applications to the virtual environment, will not provide an adequate solution, according to George Pradel, director of strategic alliances at Vizioncore, which provides backup and recovery products for the VMware environment.

"The procedures in traditional legacy applications have not been modified for the extra capabilities you have in the virtual environment," Pradel said. "You need a different approach."

That need for a different approach has been apparent for some time, and analysts say new tools have to go hand in hand with enterprises re-thinking their data backup and recovery infrastructure to take virtualization into account.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com

This article was originally published on Tuesday Jan 20th 2009
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