VMware ESX 3.0.3 Backup Options

So… I’m running ESX 3.0.3, and it’s beautiful. As some background, ESX runs on Red Hat Enterprise. I have some mildexperiance on RHE and also a little on Debian Etch… but by and large I’m a newbie to 'nix.

While VMware runs great, I have yet to find a backup solution that just “makes sense”. You can get Backup Exec, and copy all of your VMDK files (hard drives, basically) onto a backup proxy, then fire them onto the tape, or you can just mount the file systems of the guest machines and do a file level backup.

I want a FullVM (that is, copying the VMDK files) backup solution, that doesn’t involve copying it to the proxy first.

To that goal, I have the following idea:
Export my VMDK files (with a built in command in ESX) directly to a tape drive. To accomplish this goal, I will need the help of people who, frankly, know what they’re talking about -cause I don’t know as much as I should.

I’ve done a few forum searches, and it looks like writing files to a tape drive is as simple as doing a cp or a tar with the dest path pointing to /dev/<tape drive>… what ever <tape drive> actually is -I’ve seen st0 and tap1 and a myriad of other possible device names.

Is it really as simple as this? Where’s the gotcha that is getting ready to slap me in the face (or worse)?

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Well in theory you can write directly to any drive with zeros and ones
and as long as you read it back the same way you’re fine, but most
people understand the purpose of filesystems and count on those being in
the middle. So, if you have root privileges you can output the output
of your tar command (which is getting input from your .vm files)
directly to /dev/tap1 (assuming that’s your tape device) but most of my
own experience would involve writing a tar file (not just tar stream
output) to a filesystem. Which you want to do probably depends mostly
on your ability to create a filesystem on a tape, which is an area I
don’t have any experience with, but which you may have a lot. ‘tar’ is
made to do this kind of thing but most of my experience deals with
disk-based backups where you would use ‘tar’ to create a file which is
then stored on a disk and magically backed up by the tape people when
I’m not looking. This may not, as a result, be any help but maybe it
provides a little bit to consider.

Good luck.

ekisner wrote:
> So… I’m running ESX 3.0.3, and it’s beautiful. As some background,
> ESX runs on Red Hat Enterprise. I have some -mild-experiance on RHE and
> also a little on Debian Etch… but by and large I’m a newbie to 'nix.
>
> While VMware runs great, I have yet to find a backup solution that just
> “makes sense”. You can get Backup Exec, and copy all of your VMDK files
> (hard drives, basically) onto a backup proxy, then fire them onto the
> tape, or you can just mount the file systems of the guest machines and
> do a file level backup.
>
> I want a FullVM (that is, copying the VMDK files) backup solution, that
> doesn’t involve copying it to the proxy first.
>
> To that goal, I have the following idea:
> Export my VMDK files (with a built in command in ESX) directly to a
> tape drive. To accomplish this goal, I will need the help of people
> who, frankly, know what they’re talking about -cause I don’t know as
> much as I should.
>
> I’ve done a few forum searches, and it looks like writing files to a
> tape drive is as simple as doing a cp or a tar with the dest path
> pointing to /dev/<tape drive>… what ever <tape drive> actually is
> -I’ve seen st0 and tap1 and a myriad of other possible device names.
>
> Is it really as simple as this? Where’s the gotcha that is getting
> ready to slap me in the face (or worse)?
>
>
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Hmm… filesystem… you bring up a good point.

Perhaps that is why they copy the files to the proxy before they (backup programs like veritas) write them to the tape -to make it a more civilized process.

Being that tapes are sequential read/write devices, you’d have to hit it all in one pass.

I’m still downloading the opensuse image for my test backup proxy, but I’ve got some new tapes ordered that should be arriving in the next few days… perhaps I’ll experiment with raw IO to/from the device. Should be very interesting.

ekisner wrote:
> So… I’m running ESX 3.0.3, and it’s beautiful. As some background,
> ESX runs on Red Hat Enterprise.

That my friend is not true. ESX does use the last FREE Red Hat consumer
edition as a built in special guest from which you can manage
the ESX operating system behavior, etc.

ESX is the operating system. In fact in ESXi (the free version), the
Red Hat element has been removed and you manipulate the OS via the
VMware client piece… which you can also use of course in the
expensive version.

So… let’s NOT give Red Hat credit where it isn’t due AT ALL.
(and it isn’t due here)

> I have some -mild-experiance on RHE and
> also a little on Debian Etch… but by and large I’m a newbie to 'nix.
>
> While VMware runs great, I have yet to find a backup solution that just
> “makes sense”. You can get Backup Exec, and copy all of your VMDK files
> (hard drives, basically) onto a backup proxy, then fire them onto the
> tape, or you can just mount the file systems of the guest machines and
> do a file level backup.

Virtual machines CAN be treated like real machines (that’s the whole
point). So one solution is to back up your VM’s the same way
you’d backup almost any other machine on the network.

Then, if you want, you can backup the vmx files so you know how
things were laid out VM wise.

>
> I want a FullVM (that is, copying the VMDK files) backup solution, that
> doesn’t involve copying it to the proxy first.
>
> To that goal, I have the following idea:
> Export my VMDK files (with a built in command in ESX) directly to a
> tape drive. To accomplish this goal, I will need the help of people
> who, frankly, know what they’re talking about -cause I don’t know as
> much as I should.

If you must copy vmdk’s, the solution is to create something
that temporarily withholds modifications to the virtual disk. That is,
you’ll basically snapshot the virtual disk and back it up.

>
> I’ve done a few forum searches, and it looks like writing files to a
> tape drive is as simple as doing a cp or a tar with the dest path
> pointing to /dev/<tape drive>… what ever <tape drive> actually is
> -I’ve seen st0 and tap1 and a myriad of other possible device names.
>

Well… I guess you can say it’s this simple. The reason you
might use a “proxy”… or better put, disk-2-disk (D2D) is because
that can be pretty fast… writing to tape can be slow unless you
have some serious money to spend.

So yes… you can simply tar your vmfs areas after snapshotting to tape.

> Is it really as simple as this? Where’s the gotcha that is getting
> ready to slap me in the face (or worse)?
>
>

We simply treat VM’s like regular machines… that’s what we do with
regards to backups.