Tag Archives: backup

Vembu BDR Essentials – affordable backup for SMB customers

It is common that vendors offer their products in special editions for SMB customers. VMware offers VMware vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus, Veeam offers Veeam Backup Essentials, and now Vembu has published Vembu BDR Essentials.

Vembu Technologies/ Vembu BDR Essentials/ Copyright by Vembu Technologies

Backup is important. There is no reason to have no backup. According to an infographic published by Clutch Research at the World Backup Day 2017, 60% of all SMBs that lost all their data will shutdown within 6 months after the data loss. Pretty bad, isn’t it?

When I talk to SMB customers, most of them complain about the costs of backups. You need software, you need the hardware, and depending on the type of used hardware, you need media. And you should have a second copy of your data. In my opinion, tape is dead for SMB customers. HPE for example, offers pretty smart disk-based backup solutions, like the HPE StoreOnce. But hardware is nothing without software. And at this point, Vembu BDR Essentials comes into play.

Affordable backup for SMB customers

Most SMB virtualization deployments consists of two or three hosts, which makes 4 or 6 used CPU sockets. Because of this, Vembu BDR Essentials supportes up to 6 sockets or 50 VMs. But why does Vembu limit the number of sockets and VMs? You might missed the OR. Customers have to choice which limit they want to accept. Customers are limited at the host-level (max 6 sockets), but not limited in the amount of VMs, or they can use more than 6 sockets, but then they are limited to 50 VMs.

Feature Highlights

Vembu BDR Essentials support all important features:

  • Agentless VMBackup to backup VMs
  • Continuous Data Protection with support for RPOs of less than 15 minutes
  • Quick VM Recovery to get failed VMs up and running in minutes
  • Vembu Universal Explorer to restore individual items from Microsoft applications like Exchange, SharePoint, SQL and Active Directory
  • Replication of VMs Vembu OffsiteDR and Vembu CloudDR

Needless to say that Vembu BDR Essentials support VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. If necessary, customer can upgrade to the Standard or Enterprise  edition.

To get more information about the different Vembu BDR parts, take a look at my last Vembu blog post: The one stop solution for backup and DR: Vembu BDR Suite

The pricing

Now the fun part – the pricing. Customers can save up to 50% compared to the Vembzu BDR Suite.

Vembu Technologies/ Vembu BDR Essentials Pricing/ Copyright by Vembu Technologies

The licenses for Vembu BDR Essentials are available in two models:

  • Subscription, and
  • Perpetual

Subscription licenses are available for 1, 2, 3 and 5 years. The perpetual licenses is valid for 10 years from the date of purchase. The subscription licensing has the benefit, that it included 24×7 technical support. If you purchase the perpetual  license, the Annual Maintenance Cost (AMC) for first year is free. From the second year, it is 20% of the license cost, and it is available for 1, 2 or 3 years.

There is no excuse for not having a backup

With Vembu BDR Essentials, there is no more excuse for not having a competitive backup protecting your business! The pricing fits any SMB customer, regardless of their size or business. The rich feature set is competitive to other vendors, and both leading hypervisors are supported.

A pretty nice product. Try it for free! Vembu also offers a free edition that might fit small environments. The free edition let you choose between unlimited VMs, that are covered with limited functionality, or unlimited functionality for up to 3 VMs. Check out this comparison of free, standard and enterprise edition.

The one stop solution for backup and DR: Vembu BDR Suite

I have worked with a lot of backup software products during my career, but for the last years I have primarily worked with MicroFocus Data Protector (former HP OmniBack, HP Data Protector, or HPE Data Protector), and Veeam Backup & Replication. Data Protector was a great solution for traditional server environments, or when UNIX (HP-UX, AIX, Solaris etc.) compatibility was required. Features like Zero Downtime Backups, LAN-free or Direct SAN backups were available for many years. But their code quality has suffered severely in the recent years. The product no longer seemed like a one-stop shop. Some months ago, HPE sold its software division to MicroFocus and started to sell Veeam Backup & Replication through its channel. Some months prior selling the complete software division, HPE acquired Trilead, which is many of us well known because of their VM Explorer. Sad but true: Data Protector is dead to me.

I think I don’t have to say much about Veeam. Veeam is unbeaten when it comes down to virtualized server environments, and they constantly add features and extend their product portfolio. Think about their solutions Office 365, or Veeam Agent for Windows and Linux.

Why Vembu?

It is always good to have more than product in the portfolio, just because to give customers the choice between different products. If your only tool is a hammer, everthing looks like a nail. That is why I took a closer look at Vembu. I became aware of Vembu, because they asked to place an ad on vcloudnine. This was a year ago. So it was obvious to take a look at their products. Furthermore, Vembu and its products were mentioned many times in my Twitter timeline. Two good reasons to take a look at them!

Vembu Technologies was founded in 2002, and with 60.000 customers and more than 4000 partners, Vembu is a leading provider with a comprehensive portfolio of software products and cloud services to small and medium businesses. We are not talking about a newcomer!

The Vembu BDR Suite

The Vembu BDR Suite is an one stop solution to all your backup and disaster recovery needs. That is what Vembu says about their own product. The BDR Suite covers

  • Backup and replication of VMs running on VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Backup and bare-metal recovery for physical servers and workstations (Windows Server and Desktop)
  • File and application backups of Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Outlook, and MySQL
  • Creating of backup copies and transfer of them to a DR site

Let’s have a more detailed look at the Vembu BDR Suite. This is a picture of the overall architecture.

Vembu Technologies/ Vembu BDR Suite architecture/ Copyright by Vembu Technologies

VMBackup

VMBackup provides fast, efficient and agentless backup for VMs hosted on VMware ESXi and on Microsoft Hyper-V. It also provides the capability to replicate virtual machines from one ESXi host to another ESXi (VMreplication). You might guess it – This feature is only available for VMware ESXi. In case of Microsoft Hyper-V, you have to use the built-in Hyper-V replication. The failover and failback of replicated VMs is managed by the BDR Backup Server. VMBackup offers instant VM recovery, recovery of single files and folder from image-level backups, and recovery of application items from Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Active Directory. The functionality is similar to what you know from other products, like Veeam Backup & Replication, or MicroFocus Data Protector. VMBackup is licensed per socket, and it is available in a Standard (~ 150 $ per socket) and an Enterprise (~ 250 $ per socket) edition.

ImageBackup

ImageBackup addresses something, that might be extinct for some of us: Physical servers, like physical database or file servers. It can take image backups of Windows servers and workstations. This allows customers to restore the entire server or workstation from scratch to the same, or to new hardware. ImageBackup utilizes the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to create a consistent backup of a physical machine. Customers can restore a backup to the bare-metal, restore single files and folders, as well as application items from Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Active Directory. If necessary, the can be restored to a supported hypervisor. With other words: P2V migration. ImageBackup is licensed per host, or per application server if you wish to take backups of applications like Microsoft Exchange or SQL server. ImageBackup for servers costs ~ 150 $, and it is free for workstations.

NetworkBackup

NetworkBackup addresses the backup of files, folders and application data from Windows, Mac and Linux clients. It is designed to protect business data across file servers, application servers, workstations and other endpoints. It does not take an image backup, but full and incremental backups. The feature set and use case of NetworkBackup is similar to “traditional” backup software like MicroFocus Data Protector or ARCServe. NetworkBackup offers intelligent scheduling policies, bandwidth management and flexible retention polices. Clients are not always onsite, to address this, NetworkBackup can store its data in the Vembu Cloud (Vembu Cloud Services). NetworkBackup is licensed per file server (~ 60 $ per server), application server (~ 150 $), or workstation (free).

OffsiteDR

OffsiteDR creates and transfers backup copies to a DR site. Data is immediately transferred when it arrives at the backup server. The Data is encrypted in-flight using industry-standard AES 256 encryption. WAN optimization is included, which means that data is compressed, encrypted and deduplicated before being replicated to the OffsiteDR server. The recovery of VMs and files can directly be done from the OffsiteDR server. So there is no need to setup a new backup server in case of a disaster recovery. OffsiteDR covers different recovery screnarios, like instantly recover machines directly from the Vembu OffsiteDR server, bare-metal restore using the Vembu Recovery CD, or restore the virtual machine as on a VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V server directly from the Vembu OffsiteDR server. OffsiteDR is an add-on to VMBackup, and it is licensed per CPU socket (~ 90 $).

Universal Explorer

The Universal Explorer is used to restore items from various Microsoft applications, like Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, or Active Directory. An item can be an email, a mailbox, complete databases, user or group objects etc. These items are sourced from image-level backups of physical and virtual machines. You might see some similarities to Veeam Explorer. Both products are comparable.

Recovery CD

The Vembu Recovery CD can be used to recover physical or virtual maschines. Drivers for the target platform will be injected during the restore. This is pretty handy in case of P2P and V2P migrations.

Licensing & Editions

Vembu offers a subscription and a perpetual license model. The subscription model can be purchased on a monthly or yearly basis, such as 1, 2, 3 or 5 years. It includes 24/ 7 standard technical support, updates and upgrades throughout the licensed period. The perpetual licensing model allows you to purchase and use the Vembu BDR suite by paying a single fee. This includes free maintenance and support for the first year.

Visit the pricing page for more detailed information. A Vembu BDR Suite edition comparison is also available.

Final thoughts

With 60.000 customers and 4000 partners, Vembu is not a newcomer in the backup business. The product portfolio is quite comprehensive. The Vembu BDR Suite offers industry standard features to a very sweet price. I can’t see any feature, that a SMB customer might require, which is not available. In sum, the Vembu BDR suite seems to me to be a very good alternative to the top dogs in the backup business, especially if we are talkin about SMB customers.

Backup from a secondary HPE 3PAR StoreServ array with Veeam Backup & Replication

When taking a backup with Veeam Backup & Replication, a VM snapshot is created to get a consistent state of the VM. The snapshot is taken prior the backup, and it is removed after the successful backup of the VM. The snapshot grows during its lifetime, and you should keep in mind, that you need some free space in the datastore for snapshots. This can be a problem, especially in case of multiple VM backups at a time, and if the VMs share the same datastore.

Benefit of storage snapshots

If your underlying storage supports the creation of storage snapshots, Veeam offers an additional way to create a consistent state of the VMs. In this case, a storage snapshot is taken, which is presented to the backup proxy, and is then used to backup the data. As you can see: No VM snapshot is taken.

Now one more thing: If you have a replication or synchronous mirror between two storage systems, Veeam can do this operation on the secondary array. This is pretty cool, because it takes load from you primary storage!

Backup from a secondary HPE 3PAR StoreServ array

Last week I was able to try something new: Backup from a secondary HPE 3PAR StoreServ array. A customer has two HPE 3PAR StoreServ 8200 in a Peer Persistence setup, a HPE StoreOnce, and a physical Veeam backup server, which also acts as Veeam proxy. Everything is attached to a pretty nice 16 Gb dual Fabric SAN. The customer uses Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 U3a. The data was taken from the secondary 3PAR StoreServ and it was pushed via FC into a Catalyst Store on a StoreOnce. Using the Catalyst API allows my customer to use Synthetic Full backups, because the creation is offloaded to StoreOnce. This setup is dramatically faster and better than the prior solution based on MicroFocus Data Protector. Okay, this last backup solution was designed to another time with other priorities and requirements. it was a perfect fit at the time it was designed.

This blog post from Veeam pointed me to this new feature: Backup from a secondary HPE 3PAR StoreServ array. Until I found this post, it was planned to use “traditional” storage snapshots, taken from the primary 3PAR StoreServ.

With this feature enabled, Veeam takes the snapshot on the 3PAR StoreServ, that is hosting the synchronous mirrored virtual volume. This graphic was created by Veeam and shows the backup workflow.

Veeam/ Backup from secondary array/ Copyright by Veeam

My tests showed, that it’s blazing fast, pretty easy to setup, and it takes unnecessary load from the primary storage.

In essence, there are only three steps to do:

  • add both 3PARs to Veeam
  • add the registry value and restart the Veeam Backup Server Service
  • enable the usage of storage snapshots in the backup job

How to enable this feature?

To enable this feature, you have to add a single registry value on the Veeam backup server, and afterwards restart the Veeam Backup Server service.

  • Location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Veeam\Veeam Backup and Replication\
  • Name: Hp3PARPeerPersistentUseSecondary
  • Type: REG_DWORD (0 False, 1 True)
  • Default value: 0 (disabled)

Thanks to Pierre-Francois from Veeam for sharing his knowledge with the community. Read his blog post Backup from a secondary HPE 3PAR StoreServ array for additional information.

Data Protector Exchange GRE and IP-less Exchange DAG

When dealing with Microsoft Exchange restore requests, you will come across three different restore situations:

  • a database
  • a single mailbox
  • a single mailbox item (mail, calendar entry etc.)

Restoring a complete database is not a complicated task, but restoring a single mailbox, or a single mailbox item, is. First, you need to restore the mailbox, that includes the desired mailbox, into a recovery database. Then you can restore the mailbox, or the mailbox items, from the recovery database. Some of the tasks can only be done with the Exchange Management Shell.

The HPE Data Protector Granular Recovery Extension (GRE) for Microsoft Exchange helps you to simplify the necessary steps to recover a single mailbox, or mailbox items. But the GRE can only assist you during the restore. It hids the above described tasks behind a nice GUI. The backup of Microsoft Exchange is still something you have to do with HPE Data Protector.

Database Availability Group without an Administrative Access Point

With Exchange 2013 SP1, Microsoft introduced the IP-less Database Availability Group (DAG). This type of DAG does not need a Cluster Name Object (CNO), and therefore has no IP address. With Exchange 2016, the IP-less DAG is the default DAG configuration.

But how to backup a DAG, that has no IP address and no name? It is easier than imagined. You have to create a DNS A-Record that includes all IP addresses of the cluster nodes, resulting in a DNS round-robin A-Record. You also have to install the Data Protector Disk Agent and On-line Extension on all cluster nodes. After that, you simply import the DAG by using the DNS A-Record into Data Protector. Then you can proceed with the creation and configuration of a backup job, that uses the newly imported cluster.

Backup runs fine, but the GRE fails

During the test phase of a new Exchange 2016 cluster, a customer of mine discovered a strange error, when he tried to restore a mailbox, or mailbox item, using the Exchange GRE.

The customer and I double-checked the installation of the GRE on both nodes. Everything was fine. We also found out, that Data Protector was able to list the backup objects. This is a shortened output of the command.

As you can see, dag-backup.domain.tld is the DNS A-Record, that was created to backup the DAG with Data Protector.

Connection between A-Record and DAG name

It took some time to get this sorted, but at the end, a new A-Record was the key. The DAG has a name, e.g. customer-dag1.domain.tld. But there is no matching A-Record, and the DAG has no IP address.

When the GRE searches for available database backups, it stumbles over the mismatch between the DAG name, that is reported by the Exchange organization, and the name of the Data Protector client that was used to backup the databases.

The key to success was to change the DNS A-Record from dag-backup.domain.tld to customer-dag1.domain.tld. Latter is the name of the DAG, that is given during DAG creation. After removing the Data Protector client, the re-import of the DAG with the new A-Record, and a successful backup, the customer was able to restore mailboxes and mailbox items using the GRE for Microsoft Exchange.

This process is not described in detail in the Data Protector documentation. All you find is this foot note in the Data Protector Platform Integration Matrix (page 12, foot note 19):

Microsoft Exchange Server DAG configured without a Cluster Administrator Access Point is supported with Round Robin DNS mapping of DAG name to all the node IPs.

Make sure that the DNS round-robin A-Record matches your DAG name.

HPE Data Protector 9.08 is available

3 days ago, on 13th October 2016, HPE has released patch bundle 9,08 for Data Protector 9. A patch bundle isn’t a directly installable version, instead it’s a bundle of patches and enhancements for a specific version of Data Protector, in this case Data Protector 9.

Beside fixes for discovered problems, a patch bundle includes also enhancements. There are some enhancements in this patch bundle, that have caught my attention particularly.

QCCR2A64053: Support for object copy of file system data to Microsoft Azure. Data Protector now supports the creation of a special backup device, which can be used together with Data Protector object copies, to copy Data Protector file system backups to Azure Backup Vaults. This is an easy way to create copies of important data on Microsoft Azure.

Contemporaneous with the announcement of Data Protector 9.08, I got an e-mail of HPE with the information, that one of my change request has made it into the latest patch bundle:

QCCR2A68100: VMWARE GRE stays in debug mode. I have observed this behaviour in different Data Protector installations: If debugging isn’t explicitly disabled (OB2DBG=0 in the omnirc), the VMware GRE always writes debug logs. Regardless if debugging is enabled or disabled in the GRE configuration.

Because of some security related changes and fixes in Data Protector 9.08, HPE has marked this patch bundle as critical.

Download Data Protector patch bundle 9.08:

Data Protector 9.08 for Windows

Data Protector 9.08 for HP-UX/IA

Data Protector 9.08 for Linux/64

Data Protector: Copy sessions to encrypted devices fail after update to 9.07

Recently, a customer has informed me, that copy sessions to encrypted devices failed, after he has made an update to Data Protector 9.07. The copy sessions failed with this error:

The customer uses tape encryption. The destination for the backups is a HPE StoreOnce, and a post-backup copy creates a copy of the data on tape. Backup to disk was running fine, but the copy to tape failed immediately.

The customer has opened a ticket at the HPE support and got instantly a hotfix to resolve this issue. HPE has documented this error in QCCR2A69192. If you run into the same issue, please request hotfix QCCR2A69802. This hotfix consolidates QCCR2A69192 and QCCR2A69318 (The BMA ends abnormally during backup/copy to tape).

Thanks to Stefan for the hint!

End of support for HPE Data Protector 7.0x & 8.0x

Today I got an email from HPE, which has informed me of the imminent end of support for HPE Data Protector 7.0x 8.0x. As of June 30, 2016, HPE will offer no new updates or patches for Data Protector 7.0x and 8.0x. This means that

  • Telephone and email support
  • new security updates, and
  • new product updates

will be phased out. The self-help support will be continued until June 30, 2018. Self-help includes access to the knowledge base, current patches and access to known problems.

Data Protector 8.1x will be under support until June 30, 2017. The self-help support for Data Protector 8.1x will be continued until June 30, 2019.

Please note, that you need new license keys if you want to update Data Protector 7.0x or 8.0x to Data Protector 9. To gain new license keys, you need an active support contract. If you have valid Data Protector 8.1 license keys, you don’t need new license keys.

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you need further information.

HPE Data Protector 9.05: SAN backups failing back to NBDSSL

 

Last year in December, I updated the first customer from HPE Data Protector 9.04 to 9.05. Immediately after the first tests I noticed, that backups were made using the NBDSSL transport. I expected that the SAN transport would be used, because the prerequisites were met and it has worked until the update. I opened a case at the HPE support und I was advised to install the hotfix QCIM2A65619. With this hotfix, several files were replaced:

x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\DpSessionLogger.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\ViAPI.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\vCloudAPI.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\DPComServer.exe
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\vepalib_vmware.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\vepa_util.exe
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\vepa_bar.exe
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\vepalib_vcd.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\DPHostingEnvironmentComponent.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\CDpDataMoverComponent.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\vepalib_hyperv.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\bin\components\DpBackendService.dll
x8664\A.09.00\VEPA\DP_HOME_DIR\lib\vddk

The hotfix solved the issue. And to be honest: I didn’t care why it has worked after applying the hotfix. I had the same issue at multiple customers and applying the hotfix solved the issue in each case.

Today, I was reading through the HPE Data Protector 9.06 Integration Guide and the HPE Data Protector 9.0x Virtualization Support Matrix and I stumbled over this table:

Data Protector versionsVMware VDDK componentSupported backup / mount proxy operating systems
9.00, 9.01VDDK 5.5.0Windows Server 2003 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2012 (x64)
RHEL 5.9 (x64)
RHEL 6.2, 6.3 (x64)
SLES 10.4 (x64)
SLES 11 (x64)
9.02, 9.03VDDK 5.5.3Windows Server 2003 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2012 (x64)
RHEL 5.9 (x64)
RHEL 6.2, 6.3, 6.4 (x64)
SLES 10.4 (x64)
SLES 11 (x64)
9.04VDDK 6.0Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2 (x64)
RHEL 6.6, 7.0 (x64)
SLES 11, 12 (x64)
9.05VDDK 6.0 U1Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2 (x64)
RHEL 6.6, 7.0 (x64)
SLES 11, 12 (x64)
9.06VDDK 6.0 U2Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64)
Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2 (x64)
RHEL 6.6, 7.0 (x64)
SLES 11, 12 (x64)

There was a footnote for VDDK 6.0 U1.

The VM backups does not use SAN transport mode on vSphere 5.1, 5.5 (and its updates) environment and falls back to NBDSSL/NBD. This is because of VDDK 6.0 U1 issue. For more information, see VMware Knowledge Base.

Ups… that’s my issue! The footnote inclued a link to VMware KB2135621 (Virtual Disk Development Kit 6.0 U1 Backup and Restore commands fail using SAN transport mode on ESXi 5.5.x hosts on both Windows and Linux proxies). Described symptoms:

  • Virtual Disk Development Kit 6.0 Update 1 backup and restore commands fail using SAN transport mode on ESXi 5.5.x hosts.
  • This issue occurs on both Windows and Linux proxies.

Yep, that’s my issue. The customers that were observing this issue were running vSphere 5.5, not 6.0. With this knowledge, I checked the version of the vixDiskLib.dll on one of the patched Data Protector hosts. And there it was:

vixDiskLib

The vixDiskLib.dll had the build version 6.0.0 build-2498720, which is the build version of the Virtual Disk Development Kit 6.0. So it seems, that the Data Protector hotfix QCIM2A65619 makes a downgrade of the VDDK that is used by Data Protector.

KB2135621 describes, that this issue is resolved in in VMware vCenter Server 6.0 Update 2. This also implies, that this is fixed for VDDK 6.0 U2 and therefore Data Protector 9.06.

I’m sorry Data Protector. It was not your fault!

HPE Data Protector VE Integration/ VMware best practice

The Virtual Environment Integration (VE Integration) provides protection of VMs in virtual server environments. It is used o integrate HPE Data Protector with various virtualization environments, currently VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. For Citrix XenServer is a script solution available. I will focus on VMware vSphere.

What is possible?

I took this table from the “HPE Data Protector 9.00 Integration Guide for Virtualization”.

FeatureVE Integration
Online backup
Crash-consistent backup
Application-consistent backup
Granularityvmdk, vmx
Full/ Incremental/ Differential✓/ ✓/ ✓
Support for changed block tracking (CBT)
Where does the Data Protector component need to be installed?backup host
Extra licenses needed1x On-Line Extension per ESXi host

As you can see, Data Protector offers all you need to create a crash-consistent backup of your VMs. HPE Data Protector relies on the VMware vSphere Storage APIs – Data Protection (formerly known as VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection or VADP). Data Protector has to use the same API as Veeam, CommVault Simpana or any other product that can be used to backup VMs in a VMware vSphere environment. Therefore, most software products offer the same features.

How does it work?

HPE Data Protector uses the vStorage Image backup method to create a crash-consistent backup of your VMs. With this method, a backup host is used to create a backup of VMs hosted on a single or multiple ESXi hosts. The backup host can be a dedicated physical host, a virtual machine, or the Cell Manager (CM) itself (physical or virtual). All you need to make sure is, that the Data Protector Virtual Environment Integration component (VEAgent) is installed. During a vStorage Image backup, the VEAgent

  1. establishes a connection between the backup host and the ESXi or vCenter server (depending if it’s a standalone host or a vCenter environment)
  2. locks the VM, so that it can’t be migrated off the host by VMware vMotion
  3. requests a snapshot of the VM
  4. reads the VM data across LAN or SAN
  5. initializes the Media Agent (MA) and controls the transfer of the data to to backup device

After finishing the backup of the VM, the snapshot is released and the VM is unlocked. I took this picture from the “HPE Data Protector 9.00 Integration Guide for Virtualization” to illustrate the data flow and what components interact with each other.

hpe_dp_vepa

If Data Protector requests the creation of a snapshot, the snapshot is always named “_DP_VEPA_SNAP_”. I often use this simple PowerCLI one-liner to search orphaned VEAgent snapshots:

To be honest: Orphaned snapshots only occur if a VEAgent backup failes before Data Protector can delete the snapshot. So an orphaned snapshot indicates some kind of failure during the backup. The number of snapshots that remain in the snapshot chain after a backup depends on three factors:

  • Wheather CBT is used or not
  • Selected snapshot handling mode
  • Backup type specified

The snapshot, that remain in a snapshot chain play a great role for incremental and differential VM backups. Data Protector can detect changes on

  • file level, or at
  • block level

Without CBT, Data Protector uses snapshots to identify changes on file level. With CBT, Data Protector identifies changes on block level. With CBT, the number of snapshots remaining after a backup is always 0. Without CBT, Data Protector keeps up to 2 snapshots (mixed snapshot handling). You must not delete these snapshots. Otherwise a full backup of a VM is necessary to create a new, valid backup chain.

Even if CBT is enabled, Data Protector requests the creation of a snapshot to get a consistent state of the VM. Because of this, a VM backup requires sufficient free disk space on the datastore where the VMDKs of the VM reside. The longer a backup takes, and the more changes are made, the bigger the snapshot gets. Here comes the free space required option into play. You can specify the amount of free disk space, that must be available at the start of the backup, e.g. 10% or 20%. The required free space is calculated based on the size of VMDKs of a VM just before the snapshot is created. Data Protector checks all datastores where the virtual machine disks reside. If a VM has a 100 GB VMDK and you set the free space required option to 10%, at least 10 GB free disk space is required in each datastore, where the VM has VMDKs located. The check is per VM!

By default, VMs are backed up in parallel. This greatly improves the overall backup performance. But in rare cases it can lead to problems. You can disable parallel backups by adding

to the omnirc on the VEAgent backup host.

By default, a maximum of 10 concurrent threads are executed when backing up VMs using the VEAgent integration. This os good for the backup performance, but it also places load on the infrastructure. You can change this by adding the OB2_VEAGENT_VCENTER_CONNECTION_LIMIT variable to the omnirc on the VEAgent backup host.

I had several cases where VEAgent backups failed because the VEAgent (vepa_bar.exe) or the Backup Media Agent (bma.exe) failed with a memory dump during the backup, or during the initial environment discovery. In all cases, the VEAgent, the MA and the CM were located on a single physical host. This is highly not recommended according to the Data Protector Support. A possible solution is to deploy a Windows Server VM and push the VEAgent onto it. You can use this VM as VEAgent backup host, and the physical host acts only as MA and CM.

With the OB2_VEAGENT_BACKUP_DISK_BUFFER_SIZE option, you can modify the buffer size used during the backup. The SAN and the HotAdd transport mode support disk buffer sizes from 1 MB to 256 MB. By default, they use 8 MB disk buffers. The NBD and NBDSSL transport are always using 1 MB. Using bigger disk buffer sizes can improve the backup performance, but it also increases the memory consumption.

On Windows VMs it is possible to use Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to quiesce the states of the applications running within a virtual machine before a snapshot is created. A ZIP archive is created that contains all the BCD and writer manifests. Please note that quiescence can slow down the performance of a backup sessions considerably.

TL;DR

During my last projects, I collected a number of common or best practices. I provide this “AS IS” with no warranties! Thanks to the HPE Data Protector support team for helping me during several support cases. Special thanks to Dimitar, Jose, Zhulien and Stephen!

Use multiple, smaller jobs instead of a few, bigger jobs

You should use jobs with a maximum of 30 VMs. Try to keep the size of a backup equal, but don’t add more than 30 VMs into a single job. If a job fails, you have to restart the job for 30 VMs, not for 200 or more VMs. With more jobs, you can execute jobs in parallel.

Use different hosts as Cell Manager, Media Agent and VEAgent

You shouldn’t combine CM, MA and VEAgent on a single physical or virtual server. Try to separate at least the VEAgent backup host. You can use a VM for this.

If you had to pack all services on a single server, reduce the load

Use OB2_VEAGENT_THREADED_BACKUP, or OB2_VEAGENT_VCENTER_CONNECTION_LIMIT, and/ or reduce the number of running MAs.

Always try to utilize CBT

Whenever possible, use CBT instead of single or mixed snapshot handling.

Use SAN Transport

Whenever possible, use SAN transport. If you can utilize SAN transport, try to use a virtual VEAgent backup host. In this case Data Protector will use HotAdd transport mode.

In case of StoreOnce: Single Object per Store Media

If you use a StoreOnce appliance (or a StoreOnce Software store), make sure that you have enabled “Single Object per Store Media”. I wrote a blog post about it: HPE Data Protector & StoreOnce Catalyst: Single Object per Store Media

Data Protector: Exchange backup failes because of database lock

Today I had a customer call, where a Exchange 2010 backup repeatedly failed. HPE Data Protector was unable to create a differential or incremental backup. For each database, the following error was logged:

Interestingly, there was no other backup session running. But the night before, the backup jobs failed because of a network failure.

The solution is easy. This error is caused by a wrong information in the Data Protector database. To remove this, open an administrative CMD on the Data Protector Cell Manager and run this omnidbutil command:

This command  will free up the locked resources in the Data Protector database.Then, run the job again.