Every backup software provider emphasizes support for virtual machine (VM) backup so it is no surprise that enhanced support for VMware backup and recovery is a major focus in today’s Symantec NetBackup 7.1 release. But as anyone acquainted with VM backup knows, the differences between just “supporting” VM backup and supporting it well can be substantial. It is in this area Symantec NetBackup 7.1 differentiates itself from competitors with its new Virtual Machine Intelligent Policy technology that optimizes and load balances VM backup jobs across multiple hosts.
Symantec NetBackup 7.1 includes a number of new features that are bound to appeal to NetBackup users who use it in different capacities. For instance, NetBackup 7.1:
- Adds a new MySQL agent
- Expands its platform support to include Red Hat and SUSE Linux operating systems that are put on a virtual host
- Introduces new reports into its OpsCenter Analytics
But the real thrust of the NetBackup 7.1 release is its enhanced support for VM backup and one of Symantec’s first orders of business was to build upon its existing integration with VMware vCenter. NetBackup has for some time had the ability to auto-discover new and existing VMs by communicating with the VMware vCenter server and identify which servers were not being protected by NetBackup.
In NetBackup 7.1 Symantec takes the next logical step by enabling administrators to take action on this information with its new Virtual Machine Intelligent Policy feature. Using this feature allows administrators to set policies such that as new VMs come online, NetBackup 7.1 automatically detects and captures up to 25 different attributes for each particular VM backup job to include its display name, its host’s name and the name of its data store.
It is what NetBackup 7.1 does with this information that sets it apart from the pack as it uses the information contained in these attributes in the scheduling of these backup jobs for the VMs on each physical host so that they are optimized and load balanced across the different hosts.
One of the risks of automatically scheduling backup jobs as new VMs come online is that load balancing is not a given. If the backup software’s scheduler does not take into account what other backup jobs are already running on specific vSphere host, continuing to schedule backup jobs on a particular host may cause contention for the physical resources on that host and slow its VM backup jobs.
Aggravating the situation, other hosts that could be running backup jobs unnecessarily sit idle as the backup software waits on backup jobs to complete on the busy vSphere host.
It is this new awareness of what backup jobs are executing on specific hosts that NetBackup 7.1 offers.
NetBackup 7.1 uses the information from the 25 VM attributes that it initially gathers and couples that with additional information that it collects in real time from VMware vCenter to accomplish the following objectives:
- Document what VM backup jobs are running on each host
- Account for the movement of VMs from one host to another as a result of vMotion activities
- Communicate with vCenter to analyze what resources are available on each host to schedule backup jobs on individual VMs
- Monitor vCenter to either increase or throttle back the number of backup jobs running on a particular host
The use of the word “support” can mean many things to many people. But when it comes to backup software providing support for VM backup, users are coming to expect that it will deliver more than just a rudimentary awareness of what VMs reside on what hosts and whether or not they are being protect.
Instead there is a growing expectation that the backup software will automate the management of the backup jobs on these VMs.To do so requires that backup software possess new levels of awareness, intelligence and sophistication that take into account the dynamics of virtualized environments. It is these rather significant steps forward in detection, management, automation and optimization that Symantec NetBackup 7.1 accomplishes with its new Virtual Machine Intelligent Policy feature.
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