In my previous blog post, I wrote a short introduction to the problematics of multitenant backup and restore.


Now it's time to get more technical. This is a step-by-step guide of obtaining and deploying the free version of VMcom Backup Appliance.


Obviously you could just follow the Admin guide or watch this 3 minute video of the entire process. I am, however, going to mention some technical trivia, which go beyond the scope of an ordinary guide.


Step 1: Download the free version

The first step is very simple. Obtain a free version of the application by filling the form at VMcom's download page. Immediately after submitting the form, a download link appears. The application is distributed in an Open Virtualization Appliance (OVA) format and has a size of cca 2 GB. Click the download link to store the OVA file to your computer.


Step 2: Deployment options

Next, you have to decide whether to deploy the application into your existing cluster or onto a standalone ESXi host. The first option is usually recommended for smaller environments (1 cluster for both management VMs and workload VMs).


For larger vSphere deployments, it might be a good idea to keep the backup solution completely separated. In that case, you might even dedicate a standalone physical host with ESXi free and plenty of disk space for your backups. This option is fully supported by VMcom.


Hardware recommendations for VMcom Backup host

VMcom Backup Appliance is not very picky about hardware. Any server capable of running ESXi will do.


However, if you plan to utilize local disks for storing backups, it is  recommended to equip the server with at least one SSD disk (or a couple of SSDs in RAID1) in order to boost deduplication performance. As for the capacity disks, all common options like RAID 5, 6 and 10 are supported.


Step 3: Deploy the appliance

Use your vSphere client or web client to complete this step. Select the Deploy OVF template from the File... menu (C# client) or Actions menu (web client) and follow the process. During this time, you will be asked to enter appliance's network and timezone settings. Make a note of the IP address, you are going to need it later.


Step 4: Adjust virtual hardware

After the deployment process has completed, edit the newly created VM's settings. Depending on your storage capacity demand, you might need to increase the virtual memory. Start with 1 GB RAM per 1 TB of storage space as a rule of thumb.


When using local disks for storing backups, create corresponding datastores in vSphere and provision the VMcom Backup Appliance VM with virtual disks on these datastores. Both thin- and thick- provisioning options are supported. Typically, you would create one small SSD backed virtual disk per each large HDD backed virtual disk. Small disks will serve as deduplication cache, large ones for storing backups.


When finished, power-on the VM.


About deduplication

VMcom utilizes global ZFS based deduplication mechanism with sha256 hashing and fletcher4 checksums. Block length can be set dynamically and defaults to 1 MB. Deduplication cache disks can be added and removed dynamically as well, so you may safely elect to add them later.


Both deduplication and compression features are optional and can be turned on or off dynamically.


Step 5: Adjust networking

If you've deployed the appliance using a vCenter Server and do not require more than one network interfaces, you may skip to Step 6.


When deploying to a standalone host, timezone and network settings entered in Step 3 are ignored and manual intervention is required. This is common for all virtual appliances that rely on virtual OVF environment to perform initial setup, as vCenter Server is required for the OVF environment to work.


Detailed explanation of this process is covered in the Admin guide.


Step 6: First login

Congratulations! You can now login to the appliance using your web browser. Just navigate to https://<appliance_ip_or_hostname> and approve the default SSL certificate and EULA.


Default username is admin with password pleasechangeme and as it suggests, your first homework is to change it to something a bit safer.


In the following post, we'll create our first backup together!