VM Backup Reference Architecture – Part 2: Beyond VADP

UPDATE:  Some good information in the comments.  I will be posting follow-up updates on both Veeam and Vizioncore solutions either during or after VMworld.

In Part One,  I discussed the features provided in VMware’s VADP (vSphere API for Data Protection).  Most major backup vendors offer support for VADP, and some of them also support CBT, which can provide very significant reductions in both backup windows and disk I/O.

Several backup vendors offer additional capabilities in a virtualized environment but first a quick look at VADP from a different perspective.  Below is a graphic from Vizioncore which describes what they call Backup 2.0:

This graphic illustrates that there are very significant costs and complexities related to traditional agent-based backup.  By leveraging VADP, organizations can capture significant ROIs and efficiencies using image-level backups, source de-duplication, and single step restores.  For the purposes of this article I don’t want to drill to deep here, but you can read more about Backup 2.0 here

BEYOND VADP

Vizioncore (Quest) and Veeam are two backup vendors that offer significant additional benefits in virtual environments.   Rather than retro-fitting a Backup 1.0 solution to work with Backup 2.0, these two vendors have developed Backup 2.0 solutions from the ground up, and are primarily focused on virtualized environments. 

According to IDC, Vizioncore (Quest) is the 3rd largest management software vendor for virtualized environments behind VMware and Microsoft, while according to Gartner, Quest/Vizioncore is one of the top 10 enterprise backup vendors and is the fastest growing among all of them.

Before I continue a quick disclaimer.  I use and have significant experience with Vizioncore’s products.   I have not yet had the opportunity to work with Veeam’s products but from what I understand they also provide very strong solutions which are worthy of consideration.

Replication, Backup and CDP

Both Vizioncore and Veeam will be demonstrating version 5 of their backup and replication products at VMWorld in less than 2 weeks.  In Vizioncore’s vRanger 5.0, the backup and replication products will be integrated and will share a common engine.  This is already the case in Veeam’s Backup and Replication 4.1. 

Integrating replication and backup enables an agentless CDP (Continuous Data Protection) capability which can be much more cost-effective than traditional agent-based CDP solutions.  Veeam supports “Near-CDP” today in their Backup and Replication 4.1 product, while Vizioncore (Quest) is expected to be adding the same in a 5.0 release due early next year.

VSS and Disaster Recovery

Both Veeam and Vizioncore offer their own VSS agents to overcome application consistency issues which I discussed in an earlier post.  They both also offer integration with de-duplication solutions like EMC’s Data Domain or inline compression such as Nimble Storage for effective disaster recovery.

Solutions like Data Domain and Nimble Storage are an excellent way to provide disaster recovery —  your backups are copied to disk in the primary site, and then the de-duped differences are replicated in a WAN-efficient manner to a like device in your DR site.

Direct-To-Target

Many backup solutions will require some form of a proxy server, to handle the “data moving”.  The problem with this is scalability.  A data mover will only be able to move a certain volume of GB/hr before it becomes saturated.  This problem can be solved by adding more hardware, but this will increase your capital and operational costs.

Vizioncore’s vRanger 4.5 uses a Direct-To-Target architecture which solves this problem by eliminating the proxy server.  In this model the image is compressed at the source (ESX host) and then written directly to the backup target.  The backup model here is parallel rather than sequential.  Multiple jobs are running at the same time on the same host, and across multiple hosts.

According to tests observed by Vizioncore, this allows for backups that are 3-4 times faster for LAN backups, and a 1.75 times faster for LAN-free backups.  These results were obtained comparing with two other backup solutions –each of them supporting CBT – in an environment with only 3 ESX hosts.

Direct-to-Target is not supported for ESXi hosts at this time, however this support is planned for vRanger 5.0 early next year.

Active Block Mapping (ABM)

This is a patented technology used in Vizioncore’s vRanger product to reduce the amount of data that needs to be backed up. 

When a file is deleted in the NTFS file system, the entry is removed from the directory table but the actual file remains on the actual disk blocks until those blocks are overwritten.  ABM will query the NTFS file system to determine which blocks are used by active files, allowing it to skip disk blocks that are not actively in use.

Vizioncore has found that the ABM feature has resulted in significant reductions in both backup windows and the size of the backup archives which must be stored.

Instant/Flash Restore

Both Vizioncore and Veeam will be introducing an instant restore functionality in each of their upcoming 5.0 products.  The idea here is that the VM can be run directly from the backup respository, while a storage vMotion attempts to move the VMDK’s to production-class storage in the background. 

Needless to say, this is potentially game changing.  The idea of an instant restore for most servers was a fantasy until recently.  This can significantly reduce risk (and lost revenue) by nearly eliminating RTO latency following a server being impaired and requiring a restore.

Conclusion

VADP offers many benefits including CBT that many backup vendors can take advantage of.  However there are technologies that go beyond VADP that can provide significant value to the enterprise from backup vendors like Vizioncore and Veeam which include:

  • Near-CDP (Veeam 4.x, vRanger 5.0)
  • Enhanced VSS and DR integration (Veeam, vRanger)
  • Direct-To-Target (vRanger 4.5)
  • Active Block Mapping (vRanger 4.5)
  • Instant Restores (Veeam 5.0, vRanger 5.0)
  • Object-Level Restore for Exchange (vRanger 4.5)

3 Responses to VM Backup Reference Architecture – Part 2: Beyond VADP

  1. Anvi says:

    Good article! But I am going to have to correct pretty much every bullet in your summary (got hands-on experience with deploying both solutions).

    * Near-CDP (Veeam 4.x, vRanger 5.0)
    Vizioncore does have near-CDP in vReplicator 3, the only issue is it does not support ESXi 🙁 but for “full” ESX, it is fine.

    * Enhanced VSS and DR integration (Veeam, vRanger)
    You cannot really compare these directly, as Veeam has much more advanced VSS support (implements VSS-aware restores per Microsoft guideliness). Vizioncore VSS merely adds log truncation on top of what VMware VSS does http://vcommunity.vizioncore.com/dataprotection/vrangerpro/f/60/p/1075/2938.aspx#2938

    Also, Veeam VSS is 100% automated. Vizioncore VSS is a pain to maintain (manual deployment required for each, you need to deal with scripting, and apply on-going updates to scripts if you add/remove VM disks (check out the deployment guide). Basically, this makes it pretty much unusable in environments with more than few dozens VMs.

    * Direct-To-Target (vRanger 4.5)
    Veeam has this backup mode since 1.0, and actually pioneered this approach. Last radio-button on processing mode selection step (read the description under it, says it all).

    * Active Block Mapping (vRanger 4.5)
    This one is correct. This is patent-pending for Vizioncore. Veeam can never have this.

    * Instant Restores (Veeam 5.0, vRanger 5.0)
    Now this is a tricky one, and opposite situation from the previous bullet. Veeam announced this technology as patent-pending half a year ago, so Vizioncore is kind of late here. It looks like Vizioncore is intended to copy this feature out of desperation, but of course this will be subject to injunction once Veeam gets the patent. So this is something Vizioncore customers have to keep in mind considering long-term investment. See here for more info:
    http://virtualization.info/en/news/2010/08/vizioncore-to-offer-vm-backups-instantaneous-boot.html

    * Object-Level Restore for Exchange (vRanger 4.5)
    Veeam 5.0 has universal object level restores (any application, not just Exchange).
    http://www.veeam.com/blog/veeam-backup-replication-v5-preview-surebackup-u-air-and-instant-vm-recovery.html

    • Kevin says:

      Anvi — thanks for the great feedback!

      I have to say that this post evolved a bit from what I inteded to write. I wanted to focus on “beyond VADP” technologies and I felt that I had to include Veeam in that discussion even though I had no real experience with their solution. Having said that, I will be speaking with the Veeam folks soon and will do a follow-up post either during or after VMWorld.

      As for near CDP, yes vReplicator does in effect provide this. In fact we used it to migrate almost 200 servers to a new datacenter last year. It’s just that the replication and backup products won’t be integrated (for Vizioncore) until 5.0.

      I was not aware of the VSS differences and this is great feedback! And yes, technically ESX Ranger back in the day was Direct-to-Target. We used the VCB proxy with 3.x and then switched back to direct with 4.x so 4.x was my reference point, but technically you are correct! 🙂

      The Instant restores capability will definately be something to watch to see if patent issues arise.

      I will be posting updates for both vendors either during or after VMworld and will consider these points. Thanks!

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