Contributor
Contributor

VCB, standalone ESX Server, and no SAN

I was very excited to see VCB added to our license with the debut of 3.5. I've been trying to figure out how we might integrate it into our environment, and what exactly we need. Unfortunately, most of the documentation on VMware's site seems to be discussing the old version of VCB, which requires VI, SAN support, and a bunch of other goodies we don't have.I can't even find a manual for VCB 3.5 (or whatever version comes with 3.5).

In any case, here's my setup:

Single ESX 3.5 server (or it will be, once I update it today), all local storage on two arrays (one SAS, internal to the server, one external SCSI). The server is an HP Proliant DL380 G5, the array is an HP MSA500 G2. It would be prohibitively expensive to upgrade the array to a SAN at this time. We have about 250 GB worth of vmdks at this time, although I expect that will grow (or possibly shrink, as I clean up some old vmdks)

I have a spare server or two that I can make the backup proxy, so I don't plan on using a VM for that.

We're currently evaluating different backup software and hardware.

Here's my questions:

1. Does VCB 3.5 work without VI?

2. What's the best choice for backup software to work with VCB? I'm thinking Backup Exec or Net Backup (I suspect the latter is going to be too expensive...)

3. Do I need to have large amounts of disk storage on the proxy (I suspect yes)

4. Do Snapshot backups work incrementally, like the snapshots in ESX, or are they monolithic files the size of the vmdks? (obviously the first one would be the size of the vmdk)

5. Can snapshots of Linux (namely CentOS/RHEL) be backed up on a file level, like Windows? Some documentation I saw seemed to say that it could not.

Thanks!

Ken

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9 Replies
Hot Shot
Hot Shot

1. Does VCB 3.5 work without VI?

I am not sure on this one, but I do know that the proxy must be able to access the VMFS file system by the same name as the ESX server does. So, if it is local storage, my guess is that you would need to run the proxy as a VM in order to use consolidated backup, I don't think it will work from an extraneous server. This is the nature of the beast. Maybe they improved upon this in 3.5, but I cannot say for sure.

2. What's the best choice for backup software to work with VCB? I'm thinking Backup Exec or Net Backup (I suspect the latter is going to be too expensive...)

Frankly, you can use whatever you wish. We use ARCServe, and before that I used NovaNet. If you use one of the supported packages, it will come with pre and post scripts, or some other integration. If you use a non-supported program, like NovaNet, you can still make it work, but you have to do your own scripting of pre and post commands. If you backup software doesn't support pre and post commands, then you are up a creek for automatically scheduled backups, unless you scheduled them with ntscheduler or something i guess.

3. Do I need to have large amounts of disk storage on the proxy (I suspect yes)

If you are doing a file level backup of a windows machine, then no. It will simply mount the filesystem to a mount point in a directory, and give you access to those files. If you do a fullvm backup of any OS, then you need to have at least the amount of space required to copy your largest VM structure to the proxy, keeping in mind that if you have a 50GB .vmdk that only uses 25GB, it will only back up "around" 25GB for that file, not the 50, unless it has had a lot of files deleted and the disk has not had the shrink procedure run to zero out the deleted data clusters. If you want to back up multiple full VM's, then you will potentially need a lot of disk space to mount them simultaneously.

4. Do Snapshot backups work incrementally, like the snapshots in ESX, or are they monolithic files the size of the vmdks? (obviously the first one would be the size of the vmdk)

VCB integrates VMWare, so it uses VMWares snapshot functionality. What it does, essentially, is take a snapshot of the vm on the ESX server. This puts all but the delta into read-only mode, and thus it is able to copy and/or mount those read-only files on the proxy. You can even view the snapshot in the snapshot manager. Once the backup is done, the post commands dismounts that read-only copy, and folds the snapshot back.

5. Can snapshots of Linux (namely CentOS/RHEL) be backed up on a file level, like Windows? Some documentation I saw seemed to say that it could not.

No, only Windows can be backed up at a file level. Other OS's can only be backup up using the -fullvm switch, not the -file switch. Remember, you are using a Windows machine to mount thee file systems, so thus mounting a windows file system is simple, but mounting a UNIX system is another animal all together.

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Expert
Expert

I'm pretty sure you can point VCB at at an ESX server itself. Its not a fancy product suite, just a couple command line utilities that you need to integrate into your backup solution or use while doing manual backups or scripts.

Last I heard it required a SAN to be supported but you should be able to connect your direct attached storage to your VCB server in addition to your ESX server and that might be good enough, the LUNs would still be there and the VCB server would have acces.

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VI From Concept to Implementation

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Hot Shot
Hot Shot

Yes, i agree it should be possible to connect directly to an ESX server instead of to the VC with VCB. In fact, I have connected to an ESX server directly using VCB, I just have not tried to back up any VM's on direct attached storage instead of on the SAN. However, the problem here is more in the method of transport/connectivity to that direct attached storage. How is he supposed to get VCB to connect to that direct attached storage from a proxy server? Unless, that is, that proxy exists on a VM. VCB doesn't work over ethernet. It needs to be an iSCSI or Fibre connection, typically, or potentially direct attached storage, although I haven't verified this. It wont just go out over ethernet and attach to an VMFS volume.

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Expert
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Direct attached storage should have an extra connection for a second host for clustering/failover purposes. If the VCB server attaches via SCSI to the second port on the array then it will have LUN visibility just like if it ws an iSCSI or FC LUN.

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Contributor
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is document I'm basing most of my questions on. It refers to moving the images over the LAN, which is pretty much what I need to do. In fact, I've got no other way of doing it; although my array does have a second SCSI port, I don't know that I can map the LUNs to multiple machines (at least, not without their HA kit).

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Leadership
Leadership

You don't need a SAN anymore. You can use VCB via the network: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2008/01/15/new-vcb-features/

Duncan

My virtualisation blog:

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Hot Shot
Hot Shot

OK then, awesome, that takes care of that. The latest version of VCB, as it turns out, DID address connecting by ethernet, not just iSCSI and Fibre. So, that being said, you should have no problems using VCB. My answers to the rest of your questions should still apply.

-D-

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Expert
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If its not prohibitivly expensive to get another array controller or if you have one available, try plugging another PC into the second array controller. Make sure that both of your arrays have a different SCSI ID and you'll see the magic of SCSI chains. Multiple controllers can reside on the same bus and access the same disks. If the file system supports this (VMFS) then you're all good. This is how we used to do MSCS quorum disks before FC.

Unless the application layer specifically checks if the LUN is presented over an FC or iSCSI HBA and excludes a controller HBA it should be fine "Just theory though only try this if you want have to spend $1,500 on an array controller"

Which vSwitch is used for an Ethernet VCB? You might need to take that into consideration.

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Expert
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If you do connect to a LUN and not over ethernet you need to disable windows form automagically writing a signature to your VMFS volume and corrupting it. Youc an get it back but its a pain. Use diskpart. Sorry I don't recall the command and cant look it up just now, but I thought I'd mention it since you haven't throughly read the docs Smiley Wink

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