1 2 3 Previous Next 32 Replies Latest reply on Mar 21, 2009 3:29 AM by devzero

    Definitive answer to backing up live VM's

    prisoner881 Enthusiast

       

       

       

       

      This question has been asked before in different forms but I've yet to see a definitive answer to this thorny subject:  is there a free method to backing up live VM's hosted on ESXi that doesn't have a huge downside?  And if there isn't a free option, what's the cheapest commercial option? And what is the best option if price isn't an overriding concern?

       

       

      What we have now is one WIndows 2003 R2 x64 server running VMWare Server 2.0.  This box hosts ten VM's.  We have Seagate Backup Exec 12.5.  We're able to get live backups of running VM's using the VMWare VSS Writer service.  Obviously we have no such option under ESX, yet we'd like to move to ESXi if possible for better performance.

       

       

      According to Seagate's product literature, "the new release of Backup Exec 12.5...will allow users to back up an unlimited number of guest machines within a VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V host environment to disk or tape from a single agent."  There is no mention of ESXi, but I'm assuming the great similarity between ESX and ESXi might mean this is still supported.  Has anyone tried it?  What all is involved?

       

       

      Last, others have suggested that we just continue to back up our guest OS's the same way we did when they were physical boxes.  While this would work it defeats a lot of the convenience of disaster recovery.  Backing up the guest OS means a lot of work to restore (reinstall OS, reinstall apps, restore data, etc.) when we could just restore the entire VM image and get the same -- but faster and easier -- results.  I'd like to avoid the former backup situation in favor of the latter one.

       

       

        • 1. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
          khughes Virtuoso

          Right now there aren't that many utilities to backup VM's on an ESXi host. This is due to the lack of service console which VMware took out for security reasons. Unfortunatly just about all of the vendors that provide backup options used the service console for their backups. All of them are in the process of developing new ways to backup VMs on ESXi, but it will most likely be clsoer to the end of the year, early Q1 of 2009 before we see them out on the market. There is a thread where people have been posting the ways they're getting around it here:

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

          http://communities.vmware.com/message/1063420#1063420

           

           

          ++ I wouldn't count on BackupExec working on ESXi unless it directly says works for ESXi.  Something to ask Symantec for sure.

           

           

           

           

          • Kyle

           

          • 2. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
            RParker Guru

            >According to Seagate's product literature, "the new release of Backup Exec 12.5...will allow users to back up an unlimited number of guest machines within a VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V host > environment to disk or tape from a single agent. That's because they treat them as physical machines, and not VM's.  VCB will work, but it's not part of a 3rd party solution, look at the documentation for setting up VCB, that should work for ESX 3i.

            • 3. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
              prisoner881 Enthusiast

               

              RParker wrote:

              <span class="jive-thread-reply-body-container">&gt;According to Seagate's product literature, "the new release of Backup Exec 12.5...will allow users to back up an unlimited number of guest machines within a VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V host > > environment to disk or tape from a single agent. >  > > >  > > >  > > > That's because they treat them as physical machines, and not VM's.  VCB will work, but it's not part of a 3rd party solution, look at the documentation for setting up VCB, that should work for ESX 3i. > > > >

               

               

               

              I'm not so sure about that.  The documentation on BE 12.5 seems to hint rather strongly that it's backing up VM's, not the guest OS and apps.  It mentions this in the same paragraph it talks about backing up live VM's (under Hyper-V) using VSS.  Admittedly there is no firm evidence either way so only a real test will say.  The Symantec rep was completely clueless when I asked.  She didn't even understand what a VM was.  Pathetic.

               

               

              • 4. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                Dave.Mishchenko Guru
                User Moderators

                With ESX regular you can install a BE agent in the service console and backup VMs via the host (just as you would with Hyper-V).  ESXi lacks the Linux SC that ESX has, thus you can't install agent software on ESXi.  http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vi35_backup_guide.pdf

                • 5. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                  prisoner881 Enthusiast

                   

                  Keeping in mind that I've never used ESX before, is the service console the same thing as SSH access?  There are several (unsupported) guides to adding SSH functionality back to ESXi.  I'm not concerned about support as this is already running on "white box" hardware.

                   

                   

                  I get the dismal feeling, however, that if it were that easy people would be doing this already.

                   

                   

                  • 6. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                    Dave.Mishchenko Guru
                    User Moderators

                    Not really.  With ESX  the service console is a special VM running Linux.   With ESXi they have modified Busybox to be able to access the vmkernel but it has no Linux VM you connect to.   With ESX you SSH to the VM,  with ESXi  you SSH to the dropbear SSH server which has been compiled to run on the vmkernel.  You then use Busybox to run the Linux like commands.

                    • 7. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                      ericsl Hot Shot

                       

                      prisoner881,

                       

                       

                      You should check out Veeam Backup 2.0. It is capable of backing up ESXi machines and even include MS VSS functionality. However, isn't there always one, you can't restore to ESXi, only ESX. But from there you can VMmotion to an ESXi host.

                       

                       

                      For what it's worth.

                       

                       

                       

                      Eric

                       

                       

                      • 8. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                        prisoner881 Enthusiast

                         

                         

                         

                         

                        Dave.Mishchenko wrote:

                        Not really.  With ESX  the service console is a special VM running Linux.   With ESXi they have modified Busybox to be able to access the vmkernel but it has no Linux VM you connect to.   With ESX you SSH to the VM,  with ESXi  you SSH to the dropbear SSH server which has been compiled to run on the vmkernel.  You then use Busybox to run the Linux like commands.

                         

                         

                        And I suppose there's no way to add this special VM back in, even in an otherwise-unsupported manner?  Again, I'm not really concerned about supported vs. non-supported as the hardware isn't on the HCL.

                        • 9. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                          prisoner881 Enthusiast

                           

                           

                           

                          ericsl wrote:

                          prisoner881,

                           

                          You should check out Veeam Backup 2.0. It is capable of backing up ESXi machines and even include MS VSS functionality. However, isn't there always one, you can't restore to ESXi, only ESX. But from there you can VMmotion to an ESXi host.

                           

                           

                           

                          For what it's worth.

                           

                           

                           

                           

                          Eric

                           

                           

                          I've been to the website for this product and, as would be expected, the product looks good.  No pricing, of course.  What does this normally run?  I've also look at vRanger, but again there's no pricing to be found anywhere.

                           

                           

                          Like a fancy restaurant, if the prices aren't on the website, it usually means it's pretty darn expensive.

                           

                           

                           

                           

                           

                           

                           

                           

                          • 10. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                            prisoner881 Enthusiast

                            I've also read of people enabling SSH on ESXi, then using scp (there's references to a Perl script of some sort sometimes) to copy the VM files to another box.  This would actually be ideal for me.  The idea is we've got two almost identical servers, one production, one backup, both with direct-attached storage.  The production box should do a disk-to-disk copy of the VM's to the backup box via Gigabit Ethernet every night - preferably without taking them down.  The backup box will then back those up to tape, and tapes taken offsite regularly.

                             

                             

                             

                             

                             

                             

                             

                            If I could figure this out it would give us very good disaster recovery.  If the production box dies, we fire up the backup box and go with last night's D2D backups.  If there's a fire or other disaster in the server room, we get new hardware, restore from tape, and we're good to go.  Not as good as VMotion or HA, but then again it's fee.

                            • 11. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                              s1xth Expert
                              VMware Employees

                               

                              Just to throw my two cents in, I have been using Acronis to image all of my VM's, since its technically a physical machine you can restore that image to another phyical machine if you want too, or to another VM via Converter (free) or with Acronis which can also convert to ESX. (although i have had better luck with converter doing this method).

                               

                               

                              Although I am also still waiting for a true D2D backup from an ESXi to another ESXi server, or some sort of replication program for us free users.  

                               

                               

                              • 12. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                                Guy Mortlock Novice

                                 

                                And to add my two cents worth, I have also been looking for a simple, cheap (not necessarily free) backup solution for ESXi that doesn't involve using the unsupported features of ESXi.

                                 

                                 

                                I think that the answer will involve VIMA (which has only been released in the last couple of days) but I don't have the Linux skills to convert the scripts etc that have been posted in this newsgroup that rely on using the unsupported features of ESXi to run under the supported method of using VIMA.   

                                 

                                 

                                The following is a quote from the VIMA community

                                 

                                 

                                "the VMware Infrastructure Management Assistant (VIMA), a virtual machine that allows developers and administrators to run agents and scripts to manage ESX and ESXi systems (version 3.5 and later). VIMA can be used to perform many of the tasks commonly performed in the ESX service console."

                                 

                                 

                                Guy

                                 

                                 

                                • 13. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                                  ericsl Hot Shot

                                   

                                  For a production environment I would seriously consider dropping the few dollars for VI3. Then you can easily replicate the native machines to another ESX server. Veeams Backup does it with incremental forever technology so the backups are very small. Plus you can start a machine in the backup ESX server instantly, plus you can extract individual files, etc... There's too many minus' with ESXi for a production environment....

                                   

                                   

                                  Eric

                                   

                                   

                                  • 14. Re: Definitive answer to backing up live VM's
                                    prisoner881 Enthusiast

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                    ericsl wrote:

                                    For a production environment I would seriously consider dropping the few dollars for VI3. Then you can easily replicate the native machines to another ESX server. Veeams Backup does it with incremental forever technology so the backups are very small. Plus you can start a machine in the backup ESX server instantly, plus you can extract individual files, etc... There's too many minus' with ESXi for a production environment....

                                     

                                    Eric

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                    VI3 is hardly a "few dollars."  We've estimated that in order to get two physical boxes (both on the HCL), a SAN, and all the licenses needed for replication and failover between the two (VMotion, etc.) would run us north of $40K.  For a company of 35 users this is hardly practical...which is why we're running VMWare Server 2.0 now and only investigating ESXi.

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                    VMWare positions both VMWare Server and ESXi as "entry level" virtualization for small businesses.  This is exactly what we are.  Small businesses do not spend $40K on IT server licenses annually, but we still need robust backup solutions.  What's ironic is my backup options are both numerous and functional on VMWare Server 2.0, but very limited on ESXi -- the product VMWare is positioning as the "gateway" to full ESX. It's not looking like much of a gateway to me right now.

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                     

                                     

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