Protecting Virtual Environments
This document discusses how best to take advantage of Retrospect’s strengths for the key business need: protecting vital data assets across heterogeneous environments including virtual machines.
Virtualized Windows Machines
Retrospect now offers the VMware Host Server Add-on, an agent-less solution for easier and significantly faster protection of data on VMware Windows virtual machines with NTFS or FAT/FAT32 file systems. After a one-time login to your ESX or Virtual Center servers using Retrospect., you can select which virtual machines to add as backup sources for immediate or automated backups. To enable backup of the selected virtual machines’ volumes in a consistent state, the Retrospect add-on works with VMware to gain access to the VMware host storage. This does not require any Retrospect client/agent on the virtual machines or shutting down the virtual machines. The add-on works with the following VMware platform products:
ESX/ESXi versions: 4.1 and 5.0
vCenter Server versions: 5.0
VMware Tools must be installed and up-to-date on each guest OS to be protected by Retrospect.
Virtualized Linux Machines
For guest OS not supported by the Retrospect 8 VMware Host Server Add-on, such as Linux, the Retrospect Client software can be installed on such virtual machines just like physical servers and client machines. See the list of platforms supported by Retrospect Client at http://retrospect.com/support/downloads.
If you have VMware platform products older than 4.1, please refer to Supporting Other VM Configurations at the end of this document.
Maximizing VM Backup Performance
Virtualized Windows Machines
During backup of a virtual machine, Retrospect with the VMware Host Server Add-On running on a Windows computer is reading the virtual machines’ volumes file by file from VMware host storage through Windows and VMware. Therefore, the Windows computer running Retrospect should have fast access to the VMware infrastructure storage hosting the virtual machine volumes being backed up. Even when the virtual machine being backed up isn’t busy, the underlying VMware host storage may be busy for other virtual machines or other factors. Scheduling backups to avoid such times provides the best virtual machine backup performance.
Virtualized Linux Machines
The Retrospect Client software running on a virtual machine sends each needed file on the virtual machine’s volumes to the Retrospect server. For the best backup performance, schedule backups at times when the virtual machine’s load on computation, storage and network I/O is lower.
VMs as Part of Heterogeneous Environments
As important as virtualization is, it is part of the bigger computing eco-system businesses need to protect, including notebooks, client desktops and physical servers. Backup data from various sources are centrally managed by Retrospect, regardless of where the data came from. This architecture enables virtual machine backup to leverage all the file-level protection capabilities like physical machine backup does. The next few sub sections discuss what Retrospect features provide key benefits in such heterogeneous environments:
Reducing Network Load and Storage Costs
File-Level Deduplication: Cross-platform documents such as Acrobat and Microsoft Office files are most often spread across and accessed from multiple OS platforms. In addition, many application and system files are the same across multiple physical and virtual machines. By using the same backup set for backing up physical and virtual machines, Retrospect automatically and very efficiently provides file-level deduplication across them, saving time, network bandwidth and storage. In addition, file-level deduplication avoids having to checksum each used block, therefore requires much lower processing resources.
Selectors: Multiple virtual machines are often cloned from a base image or template. Retrospect’s powerful selector feature lets you precisely control what files to protect and what not to, based on various criteria, including name, date, type, or size. Retrospect includes a number of built-in selectors, and you can also create custom selectors. For example, you can create a selector that will choose to backup all Microsoft Office documents modified after March 1, 2010. This further reduces resources consumed by the deduplication process.
Grooming: To support storage space management and meet data retention policy, Retrospect can optionally delete the oldest backups when the backup drive becomes full or on schedule you specified. The default policy is to keep at least the last seven backups as well as one backup for each week in the last month, and then one backup for each month prior. Or you can simply specify how many backups to keep.
Leveraging Existing Infrastructure and Investments
Broad Device Support: Virtual and physical machines can be backed up directly to Tape, Hard Disk, NAS, RDX and Cloud. This also simplifies backup set rotation for redundancy goals.
Centralized Management: Virtual machine support is seamlessly integrated into Retrospect. Your busy IT staff doesn’t need to learn or juggle another tool just for virtual machine protection.
Adapting Priorities to Resources
Proactive Backup: Businesses often have to ensure virtual, physical servers and notebooks get backed up. Proactive backup is ideal for the task, particularly in environments with notebooks that appear irregularly on the network. Whenever Retrospect detects a notebook, Proactive Backup dynamically adjust backup priorities based on which of the available virtual and physical backup sources is least recently backed up. For more details, see Windows User's Guide.
Data Migration and Replication
File-Level Restore: Data files can be backed up from a physical or virtual machine, and restored/synchronized to a different machine or network volume. This can be used to efficiently migrate or replicate data, leveraging Retrospect’s capabilities to only transfer files meeting certain criteria (specified using selectors) if the destination doesn’t already have those files or newer version of those files.
VMware’s virtual machine template in conjunction with Retrospect can greatly simplify disaster recovery. VM template enables you to efficiently create virtual machines and enforce consistent guest configurations. Through Retrospect’s selectors and cross-machine file-level deduplication discussed earlier in this document, unique files among multiple virtual machine are efficiently backed up. When it comes time for disaster recovery, you can recreate the virtual machine from a VMware template, and then install the Retrospect Client software for restoring files specific to the original virtual machine. For more information about VMware virtual machine template, see this VMware document.
Supporting Other VM Configurations
For customers using VMware ESX/ESXi versions 3 through 4.1, Retrospect continues to support VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). It allows Retrospect running on a VCB proxy server to provide both file- and image-level backups and duplicates of a virtual machine (VM) without requiring the VM to be suspended or shut down. For more information, please see Protecting virtual machines with VMware Consolidated Backup.
If you would like more information on our Retrospect VMware Host Server Add-On, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Update: March 19, 2013