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What is the application-aware Hyper-V checkpoint process and why is it important?

Expert Brien Posey explains the importance of application-aware checkpoints and how they differ from hypervisor snapshots.

Application-aware checkpoints, which are sometimes referred to as production checkpoints, are a new feature that is coming to the next release of Microsoft's Hyper-V. The Hyper-V checkpoint process essentially yields the same thing as hypervisor snapshots. You can think about them as if they are application-aware snapshots.

The reason why this new feature is so important is that hypervisor snapshots can cause a number of problems if they are used in a production environment. Rolling back a snapshot can have very adverse effects on application servers. This is especially true for multi-tier applications that are spread across multiple servers.

At best, rolling back a snapshot takes the server and any applications running on it to an earlier point in time. More often, however, rolling back a snapshot on an application server can cause data integrity issues because of the mismatches that may occur between the application and such external resources as the Active Directory or database servers. Even if such mismatches do not occur, there can still be data integrity issues because the rollback process may leave the application in an unclean state.

Production checkpoints are designed to eliminate this problem for virtual machines that are running Windows. The basic idea is that the checkpoint process will be handled more like a backup than a simple snapshot. When a Hyper-V checkpoint is created, the hypervisor will still create a differencing disk, just as it does now. The difference, however, will be that the operating system will use Volume Shadow Copy Services to place the application into a clean state prior to creating the checkpoint. This is essentially the same process that occurs when a backup is made of an application server. That way, if a checkpoint is restored, the administrator can be sure that the application was in a consistent state at the time the checkpoint was made.

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