Data Protection for VMware VMs is the new Invisible Problem; “They Reproduce Like Rabbits”

If you do not yet think that virtualization is a real phenomenon, one only needs to attend the VMworld conference that recently took place at The Venetian in Las Vegas, NV. While VMware did not disclose the exact number of people in attendance, it was rumored that over 14,000 users and 2,000 vendors were in attendance. Gauging by the throngs of people flooding the sessions and exhibit floor, those estimates seemed reasonable. Yet what brought many of these attendees to VMworld was not only to learn more about VMware but how to better manage the new environment that virtualization creates.

A recurring theme in terms of what I hear from users is how VMware adds new complexities to their day-to-day management tasks. For instance, even before server virtualization came in vogue, companies were already complaining that their physical servers reproduced like rabbits. Server virtualization just makes server growth that much easier to occur since now companies don’t even need to purchase a new physical machine anymore – it now is little more than a copy-and-paste like exercise to create a new virtual machine (VM) once server virtualization is in place.

Adding to every company’s concerns, server virtualization is still in its infancy. In fact, at this fall’s Infiniband Trade Association (IBTA) Tech Forum that preceded VMworld, Gartner’s John Enck estimated that companies have only virtualized about 7% of their servers. By 2012, he forecasts that the number of servers virtualized in corporate environment will grow to 60% or more.

It is also natural to conclude that the management problems and levels of complexity associated with managing virtual servers are minor right compared to what they will be once server virtualization fully takes hold in corporations. Nowhere does this hold truer than when it comes to protecting VMs on physical machines. Aside from the performance overhead that backups can incur on the physical server when they run, a thornier problem many first face is identifying what VMs exist on a physical server as well as when new VMs are created. Since server administrators are not always the same individuals as the backup administrators, unless companies have some mechanism to track when a new VM is created and schedule it for backup, the distinct possibility exists that it will never be backed up.

Recently at least one data protection product, Asigra Televaulting, has come out with a mechanism to deal with this escalating complexity in data backup. While Asigra Televaulting has always provided companies with the means to do agentless backups of physical machines, to detect and backup multiple VMs on a single physical machine adds a new level of complexity even when an agentless mechanism is utilized.

To discover VMs in this new virtual infrastructure, Asigra Televaulting communicates with VMware’s management server, VirtualCenter, to obtain a list of all VMs on each physical machine. In so doing, it not only can identify what VMs are already on each physical machine, but alert backup administrators when new VMs are created so these VMs too can be added to the backup schedule. Alternatively, administrators can also create a backup schedule that automaticallys adds any new VMs if and when they are created so they are not missed.

Corporate adoption of server virtualization is already a real phenomenon and accelerating with each passing day. However companies need to recognize that as they bring server virtualization in-house they also need to account for how they will identify existing and new VMs as they appear on physical machines and then protect them. The enhanced integration that Asigra Televaulting 8.0 now has with VMware VirtualCenter not only makes the detection of existing and new VMs possible, it helps to remove some of the management complexity that the introduction of virtualization creates.

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