It’s a multi-hypervisor world – let vProtect be your VM guard

It’s a multi-hypervisor world – let vProtect be your VM guard

Today Citrix has a very good news for XenServer users. New 7.3 version finally introducesa long-awaited Changed Block Tracking (CBT) mechanism. That makes a huge difference as far as backup process is concerned.

Virtualization technology has been used already for many years. Over time, more and more platforms have appeared on the market. VMware and Hyper-V are two most common platforms found in the organizations. However, as companies merge, or simply change their structure, so the technology changes and migration between different types of hypervisors is required.

If you also take shrinking IT budgets into consideration then open virtualization technologies, sometimes free or at least much cheaper appear in the infrastructure.

The perspective of having multiple virtualization platforms, like in every heterogeneous, multi-vendor environment quite often implies that your pains also multiply. A different set of skills, different requirements and different limitations for each platform. Troubleshooting of such infrastructure can be challenging. Well, there is always a backup… Or is it?

Backup solutions also have their capabilities and compatibility with an only limited set of hypervisors (in most cases only for mainstream platforms). If you have a multi-hypervisor environment in your company then it may be difficult to use single backup solution to cover them all.

It’s been a while since Storware released first vProtect. By design, vProtect was meant to solve the problem of having multiple virtualization platforms and connecting them to an existing backup provider in your company.

vProtect supports several virtualization technologies including stand-alone KVM servers, legacy stand-alone Xen, Citrix XenServer, RHV/oVirt, Oracle VM. The cool thing about vProtect is that you can have them all being backed up using single web console, so you can group VMs and schedule backups in the same way across multiple hypervisors without to think about the differences.

So, although the implementation of the process differs across them, the overall process:

  1. create a snapshot of a VM
  2. export it
  3. store in backup provider

looks the same. This is the high-level architecture of the vProtect:

I guess it is quite easy to understand how it works? In many aspects, you may think of it like Veeam but for open hypervisors. Simplicity was one of the key aspects considered during the design.

If you think about it, backup of your infrastructure should not be a complex task. It should be rather like 1, 2, 3:

  1. index your infrastructure (hypervisors and VMs),
  2. create groups and schedules
  3. and finally backup/restore VMs on-demand or automatically.

And all of them can be accomplished using CLI or Web UI (shown below):

One still can say, that having multiple backup platforms to support multiple environments can be covered using some custom scripts or just by replacing whole backup infrastructure. First one is always prone to errors, while the second option usually is not cheap.

And if you think about non-mainstream hypervisors you may easily find out that they are not being widely supported by the enterprise backup solutions. What if you have IBM Spectrum Protect, EMC Networker or NetBackup? Or maybe, you want to store the data in the S3 or OpenStack Swift or just a regular file system? In such scenarios, you may find vProtect a very good option for you.

Each virtualization platform obviously behaves differently. vProtect supports full + incremental backup for Citrix environments. Cool thing is that backups are exported simultaneously from multiple hypervisors at once. Transfers from multiple hypervisors are automatically balanced across them to maximize throughput. On a proper hardware, you may transfer a huge amount of data overnight. A nice addition is a support for quiesced snapshots (if only VM is configured for it) and automatic VM group assignment based on Citrix tags.

Incremental backup (increments are cumulative, so vProtect will have to restore full + 1 increment) for Citrix is restored always to the hypervisor. Just select your target host and storage repository, and after a while, you’ll have a template on Citrix ready to be deployed.

Another example – RHV/oVirt are becoming more and more popular (see fig. 3). According to Garner’s Magic Quadrant (August 2016), Red Hat is now classified as Visionary. And in fact over years Red Hat has made huge improvements in terms of functionalities offered in RHV and it’s free version – oVirt. All in all, RHV/oVirt is a very good alternative to the mainstream platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V. Storware vProtect is able to do full backups of your VMs, mount backups and automatically group VMs based on RHV tags.

Quite similar to RHV is Oracle VM. vProtect offers full backups to the backup provider of choice and also the option to mount them (upcoming release). Although tags are not supported in this case, you still can use auto-assignment based on the VM names (using regular expressions).

Finally – Libvirt based hypervisors, which for vProtect is stand-alone KVM or legacy Xen. If your VMs use QCOW2 or LVM-volume as their virtual disks then vProtect can easily create full backups of them. If you intend to store your backups on a file system, you also can use vProtect for free.

In general backup, providers differ a little bit in terms of supported functionalities. However, from the vProtect perspective, it may seem to look quite transparent to the user.

You may easily notice that at some point changing backup provider in your company may be difficult. vProtect helps you to choose backup provider easily, and if you for any reason want to change it – you can do it with a single setting and all your backups will be stored in a different place. This means actually no vendor locking.

Another situation, actually quite common – enterprise backup providers such as IBM Spectrum Protect, EMC Networker or Veritas NetBackup are already in implemented in your company. And now, as the company transforms, there is a need to backup VMs. You want to reduce costs of your hypervisors, but backup with enterprise backup providers is very challenging if you think about open virtualization platforms. At this point, vProtect installed in the middle solves this problem and your open virtualization platform can be protected with no significant costs of migration.

Sometimes you just need to implement the solution quickly or you don’t need or want to purchase enterprise-grade solutions. You have the option to use S3, Swift or just file system. The last one gives you the ability to start with the lowest cost possible. File system backup provider enables you to store backups on any mountable file system. Particularly you may be interested in using OpenDedup or EMC DD Boost FS plugin, which give you a possibility to deduplicate data on the fly.

Storware vProtect may be a good option for administrators having multiple open virtualization platforms that want to store VM backups in their present backup providers without any significant changes. vProtect can also work easily as a stand-alone solution from 1-2 hypervisors up to environments with hundreds of VMs without spending hours for learning yet another backup software.

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Paweł Mączka Photo

text written by:

Pawel Maczka, CTO at Storware