Regardless of whose numbers or what percentages you believe, it is clear that the adoption rate of server virtualization is accelerating with more organizations virtualizing their production application servers than ever before. But as this occurs, new demands are being placed on data protection solutions to more efficiently and quickly complete VMware virtual machine (VM) backups. To meet this emerging end-user requirement, EMC Avamar 6.0 has enhanced its virtual proxy server pooling capabilities to better automate and simplify the scheduling and management of VM backups.
A number of reports show that the adoption rate of server virtualization in production environments continues to accelerate. One such recent report released by Forrester Research claims that virtualization “really took off” in 2010 with 91% of the 104 survey respondents saying that they now use virtual servers to host production workloads as opposed to only 78% in 2009.
Another interesting nugget of information that came out of this report is the continued trend toward consolidation and simplification as organizations seek to streamline their operations. Among the processes under scrutiny, data protection was specifically cited as one that organizations are seeking to consolidate and simplify.
It is for reasons like these that organizations are looking to put more VMs on a single vSphere host. However the risk they run is that as they backup the VMs on this host, it becomes more difficult to schedule and manage their backups.
VMware vSphere somewhat accounts for this with its vStorage API for Data Protection. This supports the creation of a proxy server on a vSphere host and the use of change block tracking (CBT) to minimize backup’s overhead on VMs.
However a virtual proxy server and CBT still do not completely solve all of the issues associated with VM backup, especially in enterprise environments where hundreds or even thousands of VMs may be present. Administrators still have to manually:
- Map individual VMs to a specific virtual proxy host. This requires administrators to monitor the creation of new VMs and then assign them to specific virtual proxy hosts so they can be backed up.
- Balance VM workloads across virtual proxy hosts. Each virtual proxy host is responsible for overseeing the backup of the VMs assigned to it. However each VM backup can take varying amounts of time to complete and the proxy server cannot initiate a new backup job until the current backup job completes. As such, administrators need to assess what VMs should be assigned to each proxy server and in what order the VM backup jobs need to be done.
- Monitor which virtual proxy servers have spare capacity and which ones are overloaded. The nature of backup jobs changes over time. For instance, backup jobs that once only took a few minutes to complete may now take an hour or more as the amount of data that needs to be backed up grows. This can result in backups extending past their designated backup windows. To avoid this, administrators need to monitor the length of time that VM backup jobs consume and move them to proxy servers that have spare capacity.
The introduction of the virtual server pool feature into Avamar 5.0 eliminated many of these manual components that are still associated with managing VM backups. It enabled the creation of one or more pools of virtual proxy servers to which VMs in the environment have access.
Once the VM (newly created or existing) is assigned to a pool, Avamar uses a round robin mechanism to do backup which address the aforementioned concerns. It:
- Eliminates the need to manually assign VMs to specific virtual proxy servers
- Balances the VM backup workload across the pool of virtual proxy servers
- Provides a means to dynamically add more capacity to the pool with minimal manual intervention
Avamar 6.0 continues to build upon these capabilities by enabling backup administrator to tune the pool by adding or removing virtual proxy servers to better match the VM workload demands.
For example, if backups for a set of virtual machines are routed through a particular proxy pool and these backups are encroaching upon the limits of the backup window, additional proxy resources can be added to the pool. This automatically spreads the backup workload and accelerates the aggregate backup time.
Almost every survey and trend points to an acceleration of the adoption of server virtualization of production applications across enterprise data center. But as this occurs, this does not mean organizations expect their environments to be more complicated and difficult to manage. They want the exact opposite.
Avamar 6.0’s virtual proxy server pool features enable them to achieve that objective from a data protection perspective. By assigning newly created and existing VMs to a pool of virtual proxy servers under Avamar’s management, organizations eliminate the need to manually schedule and manage the backup of these VMs. Instead they create an environment where backup occurs without the need for constant administrative oversight while helping to ensure that the resources used for backup in their environment are optimized utilized.