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Achieving Virtual Backup Success without Becoming a Real Backup Expert; Rethinking Backup Strategies for Virtualization Part III

Few IT administrators willingly want to refer to themselves as “backup gurus” under the best of circumstances. But as organizations virtualize their environments, even grizzled veterans who were previously comfortable with their backups are now unsure of the best way to proceed so their backups are completed quickly, easily and within designated backup windows.

In this final blog entry of our 3-part series on re-thinking backup strategies in virtualized environment, we describe a case study of a mid-market data protection solution from Eversync that enables even “grizzled” IT pros to enable backup and recovery success in their emerging or newly virtualized environments without requiring them to become virtual backup experts along the way.

So far in our “Re-thinking Backup Strategies for Virtualization” series, we first discussed why specialized solutions are necessary before turning our attention to the five features to look for in a backup solution for virtualized environments which are:

  1. VMware integration
  2. VMware vSphere integration (VADP)
  3. Application integration
  4. Physical host recovery
  5. Physical and virtual host replication

VMware Integration

In examining how Eversync satisfies these requirements, its level of VMware integration merits highlighting. Eversync has made tremendous strides in the last year to do more thant just superficially support VMware. It now does a deep dive into VMware to first gather the metadata from vSphere necessary to detect virtual machines (VMs) so it can safely back them up and then manage them throughout their lifecycle.

A great example of its vSphere integration is its VM lifecycle tracking feature. This feature tracks a VM as it migrates from one physical host to another. Further, through its integration with VMware, Eversync associates the history of backups for each VM even as it moves from one physical host to another making it easy for an IT administrator to do a recovery regardless of where the VM physically resides.

VMware vSphere integration (VADP)

Eversync also has gone above and beyond to offer native support for the VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP). VADP provides backup providers like Eversync with the interface to safely and efficiently perform snapshots and backups of live VMs without the need to install an agent on the guest OS of each VM. Now using VADP, Eversync eliminates the workloads and the contention that could result when backing up multiple VMs on the same physical machine.

Application Integration

This is not to imply that Eversync has abandoned its use of agents to protect VMs. An integral part of the backup process is to make sure that the data of virtualized applications like Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server running on VMs is easily recoverable.

Eversync initially protects each respective VM’s file system and application data (which may include Exchange and SQL Server) leveraging vSphere’s VADP and Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Server (VSS). Eversync’s agents are then used during restores to recover these applications.

One of the side effects of the ease of creating virtual machines is that a great deal of redundant or duplicate data is created. For instance, each host needs its own copy of the operating system’s files.

To offset this and maximize storage space on its appliance, Eversync employs its patented deduplication technology to ensure that byte sequences containing identical data are only stored once. So if you have fifty VMs all running Windows Server 2008, it would be very inefficient to store fifty copies of the core operating system files. Deduplication ensures that only one copy of these files is stored.

Eversync also uses the snapshots created by VADP in another powerful way: it performs “synthetic” full backups. Synthetic full backups almost totally eliminate the need for administrators to ever have to do a scheduled full backup because it builds a “synthetic” or virtual backup from previously created full and incremental backups. This keeps all of the backup traffic localized to the Eversync appliance and minimizes and/or eliminates the need to ever reread and backup the entire volume again to create a new full backup.

Synthetic backups also mean there is no special data processing to perform a recovery. By having the snapshot already in place Eversync performs any recovery directly from the storage. The result is rapid recovery of files.

Physical Host Recovery

Its integration with the VMware hypervisor also means that the same resource efficiencies that were gained during backup remain in place during a recovery. A prime example is a full physical host recovery with multiple virtual hosts. Eversync will recover the physical host in such a way that the virtual hosts may be recovered in parallel and without the use of host-based agents.

Physical and Virtual Host Replication

A final feature of growing importance is the ability to replicate data locally or offsite so organizations can quickly and easily implement both application and disaster recovery. To facilitate this, the Eversync appliance does more than just backup and recover data;  it also replicates this data so an organization’s data is stored in both primary and secondary sites and is kept in sync.

Whether an organization is just starting down the path to virtualization or already has a significant portion of its environment virtualized, there is a lot to consider from what applications to virtualize to what hardware will host their VMs. However what too often gets overlooked is the type of solution that they should use to backup and recover their virtualized environment as they are unaware that traditional approaches to backup do not integrate well into virtualized environments.

Integration of Physical, Virtual and Application Level Data Protection

To its credit, Eversync recognized the movement toward virtualization was afoot and provides the new generation of data protection solution that organizations need today. It combines support for physical environments with the new levels of integration that organizations demand for their growing virtualized environments.

A key attribute of this solution is its integration of the management of physical, virtual and application resources for data protection. Using separate tools for backup and replication of virtual resources and physical resources means overhead and complexity for the administrators of backup.

Eversync simplifies this process by combining the management of physical, virtual and application resources into a single view.  Users schedule backups and perform restores across physical, virtual and application resources and view them all through a single graphical interface.

Eversync Mgt Interface.JPGSource: Eversync

Eversync provides the right mix of features that organizations need to meet their data protection demands of today, to scale and meet their backup and recovery demands of tomorrow and the freedom to do so without requiring their IT administrators to become “backup gurus” to do so.

Part I
of this series, I discussed the five major ways that server virtualization negatively impacts backup.

In Part II in this series we investigate the major features to look for in backup software for virtualized environments.


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