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Data Recovery for VMware Volumes

So your soon to be ex-junior administrator, who was watching "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" rather than paying attention to his job, accidentally reformatted an important RAID drive, containing lots of mission-critical data. And guess what -- the backups, which you check about every other year, are corrupt.

No problem, say you -- just send it out to your data recovery vendor. But your heart sinks when you check the disks in that RAID and find that they were VMFS disks; the VMware file system. Your vendor doesn't do recovery of VMFS volumes. You make some calls; no one else seems to, either.

Gulp. You start looking for your visa, hoping it's up to date in case you need to leave the country in a hurry.

Don't worry. Just call Kroll Ontrack, and breathe a sigh of relief as you realize you won't soon have to learn how to speak Portuguese. Kroll is, according to executives, the only company out there that does data recovery of VMware data. Kroll writes internal tools (not for commercial sale -- yet) developed for dealing with the specific issues surrounding virtualization.

Kroll has done data recovery for many years, but only recently saw its requests for retreival of VMware data take off. In fact, business has increased "ten-fold" year over year, according to Jeff Pederson, manager of data operations. A key turning point was the release of ESX Server 3.0, followed by 3.5. As they gained in popularity, says Robert Bloomquist, principal data recovery engineer, so did the need for virtualization-specific data recovery.

Over the last several years, as its tools have improved, Kroll has significantly shortened the time needed to recover data. "In as short as a few hours we can do remote work; more common is a day or two. In extreme cases, it can end up being a week," says Bloomquist. "One good thing about putting money in tools is that the software's much better. We average a couple of days on big jobs."

Pederson says that about data on about 10 percent of the drives Kroll works on can't be recovered. But he and Bloomquist don't blame VMFS for the errors -- it's almost always user error that results in the need for their services, they say.

Kroll does data recovery for other virualization platforms like Microsoft and Xen, but they are more standard operations, since they don't use a proprietary file system. Pederson says that his company would consider making the VMware-specific tools available commercially, if there was a demand for it. "That's something we'd be open to. It would depend on what kind of opportunities there are in the channel for us."

In the meantime, make sure to have proper high-availability and backup procedures in place; although it's good for Kroll, it could be bad for your career prospects. And it wouldn't hurt to buy a Portuguese-English dictionary.

Posted by Keith Ward on 06/13/2008 at 12:48 PM


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