Boosting Virtual Server Backup Performance

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Virtual servers have made backups much more challenging than they used to be. Enterprise IT Planet tells the story of one company that dramatically improved its virtual machine backup performance after weighing options from VMware, Symantec and CA.

Backups used to be simple. Attach a storage array to a tape drive and away you went. Then the volume of data mushroomed, and things got a little bit more complicated. Now, with so many virtualized systems to deal with, backups can be problematic.

At professional engineering firm Wade Trim, the move to a virtualized environment resulted in severe backup slowdowns. According to Scott Landrum, senior network administrator at the company, the backup window at one of its data centers stretched from 14 hours prior to server virtualization to three full days.

Wade Trim was backing up 14TB of Windows data throughout the enterprise. In addition to the office’s files, the company had to backup lots of large CAD, GIS and image files. Two-thirds of the data sat on 25 Windows servers and an EMC Clariion CX3 SAN at the head office. The company had three trays of CX3 disks served by two SAN switches. At this location, everything was backed up onto a Dell PowerVault TL4000 tape library. As local branches generally had only one or two Windows servers, data was being backed up onto much smaller Dell PowerVault tape libraries.

Things started to go awry in the backup department when the company began to march forward with its server virtualization plans using Microsoft’s Hyper-V, first in its Detroit and Tampa locations. While the traditional gains from virtualization were experienced (better IT efficiency, server consolidation), its backup processes took a severe hit.

The company was running differential and full backups. But after virtualization, the throughput choked down to a fifth of its previous levels. Full backups took days to complete.

“What I needed was the ability to backup virtual hard disks (VHD) faster while still being able to conduct file- and folder-level restores,” Landrum said.

He looked at various solutions, such as VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) and VMware ESX, but these required heavy Linux scripting, additional hardware and the move to a different virtualization platform. The decision was made to stick with Hyper-V, as it was doing a good job on the virtualization side. That left the selection process between two main backup candidates — Symantec Backup Exec and CA ARCserve backup, which was the product already in use at Wade Trim.

To see how the company solved its VM backup problem, read the full article at Enterprise IT Planet.

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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