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Best options for Hyper-V Live VM Backup

    Question

  • We currently have several Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V Hosts.   Each has from 4-10 VMs on it.   Taking all the VMs down each time we need to do a backup is not really feasible, so we'd like something that will back them up while they are running.

    What are our best options for this?  We currently use a combination of Symantec Netbackup and an open source product called Bacula for our backup needs.  Both of those backup to a tape library.

    I realize we could probably use Netbackup somehow, but if we have to buy a large amount of licensing to do it, then we'd rather do something else.  We are just looking for a good, yet reasonbly economical solution.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:54 PM

Answers

  • There are different ways of looking at backing up virutal machines.

    Mnay folks want to jump straight to some solution that captures the virtual disk as a disk and then can just up and restore the machine straight away.  All be it, these are nice, but also expensive.  I am simply mentioning this becuase just because you are virtual does not mean that you HAVE to do it this way.

    The most basic is to capture a copy of your VHDs.  Windows Server Backup can do this.  And can do this without pausing the VMs - especially if the ICs are installed in the VM, and the application running in the VM is aware of Windows Snapshots.  Here I am talking about VSS snapshots not Hyper-V snapshots.  The end result is that you get a VHD that you can later create a new VM from by simply adding the virtual hardware configuration.  This has some issues with restoring the VM config, so I don't mention that much - focus on the data.

    The next is to use a backup agent that is running in the VM just as you do if the machine is hardware.  It gives you protection and there is a restoration path (you create a new VM and restore in to it).

    The next is to use some backup agent that is Hyper-V aware and run it within the manament OS of the Hyper-V Server.  This is seen as giving the best of both worlds.  You get some point and click interface and can restore the VM to another hypervisor.  Both the data int eh virtual disk is backed up and the configuration of the VM.

    Some folks do it at that SAN level.  With a focus on backing up the LUNs that contain the virutal disks or the data on pass-through disks.  Then at restoration time you restore the data.  In a catastrophic event, you recreate the configuration of the VM and point to the disks.

    Personally, I see no reason to change what you are doing as long as it works for you and you can reliably restore your enterprise.

     


    Brian Ehlert (hopefully you have found this useful) http://ITProctology.blogspot.com
    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:23 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Hi!

    I'm not trying to advertise here, but I seriously recommend Microsoft's Data Protection Manager (DPM 2010).

    http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/data-protection-manager/dpm-2010-overview.aspx

     

    It can backup Hyper-V VM's in a clustered environment using the Hyper-V VSS writer, without turning off or saving states. Yes, there is a licensing model, but why not let a MS product backup MS technology?

    Symantec's products are probably good too, but in my experience there are always glitches when third-parties interpret Microsoft's VSS provider.

     

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 2:06 PM
  • If you backup the VMs using VSS writer you don't need to turn off the VMs. And You don't need to install agents on those VMs either. Agents are for you to make file level backups. If you only need to backup those vhd files, you just need 1 copy of the backup software then backup VMs using VSS writer.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 2:52 PM
  • There are different ways of looking at backing up virutal machines.

    Mnay folks want to jump straight to some solution that captures the virtual disk as a disk and then can just up and restore the machine straight away.  All be it, these are nice, but also expensive.  I am simply mentioning this becuase just because you are virtual does not mean that you HAVE to do it this way.

    The most basic is to capture a copy of your VHDs.  Windows Server Backup can do this.  And can do this without pausing the VMs - especially if the ICs are installed in the VM, and the application running in the VM is aware of Windows Snapshots.  Here I am talking about VSS snapshots not Hyper-V snapshots.  The end result is that you get a VHD that you can later create a new VM from by simply adding the virtual hardware configuration.  This has some issues with restoring the VM config, so I don't mention that much - focus on the data.

    The next is to use a backup agent that is running in the VM just as you do if the machine is hardware.  It gives you protection and there is a restoration path (you create a new VM and restore in to it).

    The next is to use some backup agent that is Hyper-V aware and run it within the manament OS of the Hyper-V Server.  This is seen as giving the best of both worlds.  You get some point and click interface and can restore the VM to another hypervisor.  Both the data int eh virtual disk is backed up and the configuration of the VM.

    Some folks do it at that SAN level.  With a focus on backing up the LUNs that contain the virutal disks or the data on pass-through disks.  Then at restoration time you restore the data.  In a catastrophic event, you recreate the configuration of the VM and point to the disks.

    Personally, I see no reason to change what you are doing as long as it works for you and you can reliably restore your enterprise.

     


    Brian Ehlert (hopefully you have found this useful) http://ITProctology.blogspot.com
    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 3:23 PM
    Moderator
  • so Brian, would you call DPM 2010 a good solution?   I'm been looking it up and it seems like people say good things about it.

    Lots cheaper than the Symantec Netbackup route, I imagine, too.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 7:44 PM
  • In the arena of products that I consider point and click - it has a number of good features.

    It is not cheap, but then you have to compare it to other products that do the exact same thing - you must stay in the product class.

    Would I buy it just to backup Vms and still use a different product for other things?  absolutely not.  Any backup product has to do everything I want, or nothing.

    There are tons of backup products.  DPM is simply Microsoft's offering.

    Before my current job I insisted on BackupExec.  At the time it did all that I needed and the price was right and DPM did not exist.  I reacall way back when I used some product by Cheyenne Software, but I can't recall what.

    I am not going to endorse any product.  I don't sell product.  There are a number of good products by very reputable and well established companies.  Look a tthe features that you require (not want, not the nice to haves, but the very basic things that you require) and evaluate beginning from that perspective.

    You might find that you need a big complex product, you might find that you don't.  You might find there is no support for your tape backup library - discover that early.  Etc.

     


    Brian Ehlert (hopefully you have found this useful) http://ITProctology.blogspot.com
    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 8:21 PM
    Moderator
  • Hello,

    There are certainly many products which support Hyper-V.  However, in deploying Hyper-V I've been using DPM with the vast majority of the deployments.  This is because of its ease of use, its ability to protect CSV volumes, and the licensing advantages when using the System Center Datacenter Management Suite.  Its critical to remember that you can't just switch to only protecting the VHD files.  You need to also protect the applications within the virtual machines, such as Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory, SQL, etc. 

    This should give you some more infomation as well.

    http://blog.concurrency.com/infrastructure/back-me-up-im-going-in-hyper-v-and-backup/

    Nathan Lasnoski


    http://blog.concurrency.com/author/nlasnoski/
    Thursday, March 31, 2011 3:59 AM
  • We looked at DPM and found it a bit of a pain because of all the dependencies during installation, as well as the rather high price. We also back up around 10 VMs and use backupchain with a scheduled backup task to compress and copy the VMs over the network to another server. The dedupe setting may be useful to save storage space in your situation.

    Previously we used scripts but this was too much work in my opinion plus we had no dedupe. With around 1TB to back up each day, it wasn't really an option without better compression rates

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 7:41 PM
  • I utilize DPM 2010 to backup over 350 Hyper-V VMs. It works well but has some enhancements needed.  We coupled the product with a Data Domain dedupe VTL.  Not a cheap solution, but one thing to remember with DPM is, if you do a disk to disk backup, you will need about 1.5X the amount of space you have in in your VMs.  So if you ave 500GB of VHDs in your VMs, you will need about 750GB additional diskspace available on your DPM server to house these.  This was the main reason for searching out a dedupe backup soution.  DPM has matured, but still has some work to do in minimizing disk space utilized and maximizing speed.  That said, I use it and it has some great features aswell. 

    For smaller environments or lower budgets, I have used a scripted Host Level backup as well that utilizes the Hyper-V VSS writer.  You can then take the mounted or copied snapshots and back them up with your existing backup solution. Here is the link.  http://virtuallyaware.wordpress.com/2008/04/25/interim-backup-solution-for-hyper-v/

    and some article I wrote on the subject.

    http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/tip/Using-Windows-Server-Backup-for-Hyper-V-workloads

    http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/tip/Using-Diskshadow-for-backing-up-Hyper-V-workloads

    http://searchdatabackup.techtarget.com/tip/Top-tips-for-troubleshooting-Hyper-V-backups

    Good luck in your search.

    Rob McShinsky (http://www.VirtuallyAware.com)


    http://www.VirtuallyAware.com

    Friday, April 01, 2011 1:51 AM
  • The DPM price is based on a host basis and if you're using SCVMM you already own it.  I'd definately take a look again.  We use it at many different clients and have found that it almost always saves money.  Note that it will only backup the changes, so it does de-dupe.

    Nathan Lasnoski


    http://blog.concurrency.com/author/nlasnoski/
    Friday, April 01, 2011 4:01 PM
  • A little different than de-dupe.  Backup to disk keeps a full copy, plus changes for each VM, so you are not dragging the whole VM size over every night after the initial which is good, but from my experience on a 2 week daily and 4 month monthly retention, it takes about 1.5 times the size of each VM.  10TB would equal roughly 15TB in necessary disk storage on the DPM server storage.

    Bit level dedupe, like the Data Domain VTL I use, compares all the bits that come in for every VM and only stores unique bits across all VMs.  For an average 10TB backup I only store about 2TB of unique bits. 

    A little more info from Microsoft on this.

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff399599.aspx

    DPM 2010 Storage Calculators

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=c136c66c-bd4a-4fb1-8088-f610cd02dc51&displaylang=en

    Rob McShinsky (http://www.VirtuallyAware.com)


    http://www.VirtuallyAware.com
    Friday, April 01, 2011 4:13 PM
  • Following up on this, I would continue to state that DPM would be an excellent backup solution for you.  If you are not using a failover cluster, you could choose to configure Windows Server Backup to take live backups of the VMs, sending them to a UNC path.

    Please let us know if you have remaining questions.

    Nathan Lasnoski


    http://blog.concurrency.com/author/nlasnoski/
    Wednesday, April 06, 2011 5:33 AM
  • Hi Brian,

    I am researching how best to backup Hyper-V VMs and found this and a few other threads very helpful.  However what is an "IC" ["especially if the ICs are installed in the VM"]

    What is the best (cheapest) way to get VSS writer?  Also what is "SCVMM"?

    Thanks.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011 4:33 AM
  • Hi Brian,

    I am researching how best to backup Hyper-V VMs and found this and a few other threads very helpful.  However what is an "IC" ["especially if the ICs are installed in the VM"]

    What is the best (cheapest) way to get VSS writer?  Also what is "SCVMM"?

    Thanks.


    Hi!

    I'm not Brian, but here are some clarifications:

    IC = Integration Components, another word for Integration Services. This is the bundle of VMBus drivers to enable synthetic networking, heartbeat and other virtualised hardware provisioned by the hypervisor.

     

    SCVMM = System Center Virtual Machine Manager , is a product from Microsoft for centralized management of one or more hypervisors, either stand-alone or in a cluster.

    Official site, found here: http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/en/us/virtual-machine-manager.aspx

     

    You don't purchase a VSS writer, when you enable the Hyper-V role (and in some cases together with the Windows Server Backup feature) your server will have a software based Hyper-V VSS writer to help backing up virtual machines while running. This and other software based VSS writers are native to Windows Server.

    If you purchase a storage device, some vendors supply with their own hardware based VSS writers.

     

     




    Saturday, July 16, 2011 9:16 AM
  • Hi,

    a free open source VSS based backup solution for Hyper-V has been released: hypervbackup.codeplex.com

    It's very easy to use and supports CSV storage too. 

    Alessandro Pilotti

    MVP ASP.Net / IIS


    Friday, March 09, 2012 10:40 AM