Bare Metal Hot Backups of Virtual MachinesBy Drew Robb
September 26, 2006
Server virtualization is cropping up virtually everywhere these days.
Once limited to mainframes and large UNIX boxes, the technology is now moving into 2-way and 4-way Linux and Windows servers. According to IDC, more than three-quarters of companies with five hundred or more employees use virtual servers, and 45 percent of all new servers purchased this year will be virtualized.
Accordingly, Vizioncore Inc. of Buffalo Grove, IL, is intent on carving out a niche in the virtual machine (VM) marketplace. Its esxRanger Professional 2.0 provides image-level and file-level recovery for VMware Infrastructure 3. A differential backup engine identifies and stores only the sections of the VM that have changed from the preceding full backup. Smaller differential files can therefore travel over LANs and WANs faster to remote locations and require less storage space.
As a result, administrators can perform backups more frequently. This also facilitates the sending of backups to offsite locations to support disaster recovery.
"VMware provides mobility of applications by offering them in a virtual machine," says Azeem Mohamed, senior director of marketing and products at Vizioncore. "The power of an image backup and differential backups is to provide a full image or file level restore when an outage occurs from factors such as corruption, deletion or extraneous events."
esxRanger Professional offers configuration and virtual hardware as part of this image backup, thus making restores simple and automated with a GUI control. It integrates with VMware components such as VirtualCenter and VMotion. VirtualCenter rapidly provisions virtual machines and monitor performance of those VMs as well as physical servers. It intelligently optimizes resources, ensures high availability to all applications and adds virtualization-based distributed services such as VMware VMotion.
The technology behind VMotion leverages the virtualization of servers, storage and networking to move an entire running virtual machine instantaneously from one server to another. The state of a VM is encapsulated by a set of files stored on shared storage.
"esxRanger Professional is VMotion-aware to follow the image from host to host as the administrator moves the virtual machines for better performance," says Mohamed.
The restores process is performed within the esxRanger interface. The administrator has the ability to select the full image or a differential backup image for restoration of a full virtual machine. Alternatively, it is also possible to select a file from either the full image or differential backup file. In this case, the GUI launches an Explorer-like view to select the file for restore purposes.
Mohamed makes the point that this enables administrators to perform backups more frequently.
"A differential backup engine identifies and stores only the sections of the virtual machine that have changed from the preceding full backup," he says. "Smaller differential files can travel over LANs and WANs faster to remote locations and require less storage space."
esxRanger Professional comes at a price of $499 per physical (socket) CPU. As a result, it is within most budget capabilities. But who exactly is buying Vizioncore and what is it that drives the decision making process? The primary customers, of course, are VMware ESX Server owners. In addition, those companies that are moving or have already moved to VMware Infrastructure 3 are among the early adopters.
"These customers know that traditional agent-based backup solutions that are ported from physical server environments do not cover all of the needs of virtual environments," says Mohamed. "They have quickly adopted esxRanger Professional for their VMware ESX Server backup needs, particularly for its full image and file-level restores that can be sent over the LAN or WAN. "
Engineers at Vizioncore are already working on the latest improvements to the system. esxRanger Professional is being further upgraded to incorporate integration with VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). Mohamed states that his companys upcoming version of the product will also enhance VCBs capabilities. VCB is a platform that enables backups to be performed on a proxy server that essentially offloads the backup process from the host to this proxy.
As esxRanger Professional performs hot backups without any agent technology, this means that no overhead will be imposed during a backup when leveraging VCB in the next release.
"VCB will snapshot the VM and offer it on the proxy server to be backed up by backup software," he says. "Vizioncore will release the next version of esxRanger Professional in November with the functionality to enable the launching and leveraging of the VCB proxy server process."