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Hot Spots: VMware opens door for next-gen backup apps

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Now that you've optimized your physical servers, shouldn't you optimize your VMware backup?


The popularity of server virtualization--and VMware specifically--remains unabated. Not only is the VMware platform transforming data center management through server consolidation and improvements in business continuity, but it's "breaking" a few things along the way, including data protection strategies.

Many of the incumbent data protection solutions for physical environments are being applied to new virtual infrastructures. However, as pervasive as traditional backup/recovery solutions are in the physical world, IT groups contemplating what constitutes a platform shift to VMware may be ready to consider displacing traditional backup solutions in favor of next-generation data protection technologies, i.e., software that employs capacity-reduction techniques, such as deduplication, in the server-side backup process. Having already demonstrated a willingness to leave behind the traditional environment for a virtualized one, could the door be open for next-generation backup?

Platform shift to VMware
One of the many considerations when making a platform switch such as this is business continuity. Many features of VMware make it business resilient, but IT organizations still need to think about recovery of virtual machine instances and VMware ESX Server systems.

It might be helpful to first understand the basic components

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of VMware and what has to be protected. The physical system running ESX Server has a pool of resources--disk, CPU, network interface card and memory--shared by multiple virtual machines, each with its own independent OS and applications. The ESX Server, also known as the service console, and VMware's clustered file system, VMFS, leverage shared storage or internal disk where the virtual machine images are stored in a special format with a .vmdk file extension.

Data protection challenges with VMware
Server virtualization has increased the amount of data normally kept on a server. Virtual machines share physical system resources (to deliver more efficiency). However, those physical resources are finite and backup processes are hogs when it comes to I/O and network resources, potentially affecting operations on other virtual machines sharing the same system resources and impacting the backup window. So backups need to be designed with these implications in mind.

This was first published in September 2007

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