Automate for Efficiency

Reduce IT operational costs with Veeam Backup & Replication 4.

Numerous research reports show that human-related management and administrative costs represent more than half of a typical IT budget. So any technology that can automate repetitive tasks -- and therefore reduce human labor -- has the potential to provide a big return on investment. Veeam Backup & Replication 4 automates repetitive tasks and simplifies system backup and replication processes, providing Veeam users with an opportunity to reduce human-related IT labor costs.

Veeam Backup & Replication 4 does three things:

  • Simplifies backup and replication processes by providing an easy-to-use, graphical- and character-driven management interface.
  • Automates backup and replication processes through the use of a familiar Web interface and simple wizards.
  • Enables status and performance reports to be easily created and viewed.

By using Veeam Backup & Replication 4 to perform these activities, IT managers and administrators can free up time to conduct other, more complex and higher-value IT management tasks. Enterprises benefit from Veeam's backup and replication environment because this software enables organizations to get more work out of their IT managers and administrators, forestalling the need to hire additional managers as server capacity increases. Enterprises also benefit because Veeam automated backup and replication task management reduces human errors. Finally -- and this is key to managing risk and meeting compliance requirements -- enterprises can use this software to serve as a basis for enterprise disaster recovery and business resiliency.

Market Background
As background information, virtual servers are logical servers that reside in resource pools. These servers can be provisioned -- built-up with system images -- and configured to run a variety of applications and databases. Making use of virtual servers enables enterprises to increase the utilization rates of their existing servers by finding unused computing resources and pooling them so that other users and applications can exploit these resources. Virtual servers can also simplify management, as multiple servers consolidated onto fewer servers are easier to manage. And virtual servers simplify quality assurance and testing because applications and databases can be tested in virtual partitions on the same physical servers upon which they'll be deployed -- all without affecting production systems. Accordingly, enterprises no longer need to set up separate, non-production test server environments in order to up-rev or deploy new software products.

Despite its many benefits, however, virtualization presents some management challenges for IT administrators and managers. First, it's hard to determine where applications and databases are running within a distributed, virtualized environment. And second, without knowing exactly where applications and databases are running, it's difficult to orchestrate backup and replication operations. Veeam Backup & Replication 4 works closely with the x86 virtualization market leader -- VMware Inc. -- to tackle these problems by locating virtual machines (VMs) and backing up and replicating activities that are being run on those machines.

A Closer Look
Veeam Backup & Replication 4 is a standalone product designed to automatically manage virtual server backup and replication and to perform recovery activities. From the Veeam Backup & Replication 4 start-up screen, users can:

  • Easily add VMware ESX virtual servers or Linux servers to the list of servers that are being tracked.
  • Automatically create backup jobs by manually launching jobs or by using simple-to-use, wizard-based scripts to perform repetitive jobs.
  • Run jobs.
  • Perform recovery activities using several different recovery methods.

It should be noted that enterprises usually operate in more than one virtualized server environment. To manage multiple servers, Veeam offers its own Enterprise Manager, a master management environment that can monitor and control multiple instances of Veeam Backup & Replication 4 across multiple distributed physical and virtual servers.

What's most impressive about Veeam Backup & Replication 4 is how simple it is to use. Adding additional servers to the backup process takes place by clicking on the "Add Server" icon. The backup process can be launched by clicking on the "Backup" button. And restores can be accomplished just as easily.

Automating backup and replication processes is also extremely easy. Veeam Backup & Replication 4 uses a wizard approach and Web interface to enable managers and administrators to easily build processes. And for those who want to see what the process commands actually look like, Veeam Backup & Replication 4 displays command-line information.

The Veeam product installs quickly and launches faster than VMware's ESX backup, making it more efficient while reducing the processing load on the server environment. It can also be used to effectively manage server space.

Finally, Veeam Backup & Replication 4 can produce reports from the data it gathers, such as success and failure rate dates, number of retries, overall virtual server performance and so forth. These reports can be used to further improve backup and replication performance, as well as to determine the health of a given server.

Why Is Veeam Different?
There are several backup-software packages that work with the VMware vSphere virtualization environment to automate backup processes. VMware offers its own backup software, and backup products are also available from PHD Virtual Technologies, Vizioncore Inc. and several other software suppliers. Veeam's offering differs from these environments in breadth, depth and speed.

A closer look at Veeam Backup & Replication shows that it:

  • Uses a feature known as "change-block tracking" to rapidly back up virtual servers. With it, vSphere tracks changes and builds tables containing those changes. Veeam Backup & Replication 4 checks those tables and grabs -- or backs up -- only those changes, rather than going through a time-consuming scan using an agent on a given server to record entire data sets. By performing backups in this manner, Veeam Backup & Replication 4 significantly outperforms its competitors in backup speed. An in-depth discussion of change-block tracking can be found on Veeam's Web site. Something to note: VMware doesn't enable this process by default. Instead it's a default option when a new Veeam Backup & Replication 4 job is being configured. The software:
  • Replicates in near-real-time, providing almost continuous data protection. This is an important business resiliency feature. Additionally, replication processes can be scheduled.
  • Offers backup and replication functions in the same package for a single price. Some competitors offer this functionality separately.
  • Is closely integrated with VMware's vSphere ESX(i) 4 and the company's server-virtualization APIs, including vStorage for data protection and the Virtual Disk Development Kit. This tight integration creates a seamless interaction between VMware management environments and the Veeam Backup & Replication 4 environment. Further, because the product uses these APIs -- as opposed to the open-snapshot approach used by its competitors -- it can more easily accommodate live migration (moving apps to another server or virtual server) and data-recovery activities.
  • Provides the ability to failover to both current and earlier points in time in case of software corruption. (Other vendors don't offer this kind of functionality for replicas.)
  • Provides "Hot VM Copy" facilities that enable the copying of full VM images. Using Hot VM Copy, Veeam Backup & Replication 4 enables hot mirroring of production environments, making testing, data center migration, removal of storage -- such as flash drives -- or ad hoc programming activities easier to conduct.
  • Provides "Safe Snapshot Removal," a technique that prevents production applications from timing out during helper snapshot commit on pre-ESX 3.5 Update 2 hosts. This makes Veeam Backup & Replication 4 particularly suitable for performing hot backups and replications of large VMs with high disk I/O loads. This is particularly useful for customers locked on previous ESX host versions or custom ESX builds.
  • Optionally disables built-in de-duplication to enable better integration with storage devices.

Pricing
A trial version of this software can be found here. Pricing is $599 per physical CPU socket (not core) on each ESX host. The number of VMs backed up doesn't matter as long as the hosts they're running on are licensed. For instance, a 2x Quad Core ESX server would require two licenses at $599 each.

About the Author

Joe Clabby is president of Yarmouth, Maine-based Clabby Analytics.

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