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Ding dong, VCB is gone

That’s the happy tune VMware backup pros are likely singing today, after VMware officially sent out a statement to customers announcing that VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) will bite the dust with the next vSphere feature release this year.

In the letter to customers, VMware said its data backup partners will offer integrations with new vStorage APIs for Data Protection to replace VCB with the next vSphere release.

Industry experts say VCB had fallen short of its promise to simplify virtual machine backups in networked storage environments. To wit, according to backup expert W. Curtis Preston in a story we did recently about vSphere and backup:

“At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if 80% of users currently have agents in guests,” said data backup expert W. Curtis Preston. There are two ways to use the current VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) option, which transfers the quiescing of applications and execution of snapshots to a proxy server. One is a virtual mount, which means that the C: drive of a guest machine is transferred to the proxy server and backed up using regular backup software as if it was a local drive on the proxy machine. The other is to send an image of the virtual machine itself to the VCB proxy, where it can be backed up in its entirety.


According to Preston, “at the least it’s a two-stage backup and restore” process to use VMware Consolidated Backup. If a virtual mount is used, the user must have a separate tool. Popular choices include Vizioncore’s vRanger Pro and Veeam Software’s Backup & Replication to back up the guest machine itself. If an image-level backup is used, the full Virtual machine disk format (VMDK) file is copied to the proxy machine and then backed up. Should users need to restore a single file or object from an image level backup, the full virtual machine must often be restored. Even incremental backups often copy the entire VMDK file over to the proxy server, Preston said.

The new APIs will allow data backup software tools to query virtual machines directly.

Meanwhile, there’s palpable joy in at least some parts of the IT blogosphere about this announcement. “Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy, this is the best day since I know what VCB is! Finally, it’s being retired!” exulted Joep Piscaer, a product manager for a Dutch VMware partner.

Another blogger wondered aloud if VMware Data Recovery (vDR), VMware’s own backup tool launched with vSphere 4, will take over for VCB, but I would be surprised if that happened. DataRecovery is based on the same vStorage APIs VMware is making available to partners, but VMware has said DataRecovery will be limited to disk-based backups of virtual machine images only, and will support up to 100 virtual machines or 2 TB of storage. So for the low end of the market, probably, but most users will still be working with third-party tools.

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