VMware Intelligent Policies, or VIP, was introduced in NetBackup 7.1. VIP allows a NetBackup Administrator to discover new VMware virtual machines and automatically add them to backups. For more information on VIP, see the Symantec NetBackup for VMware Administrator's Guide or visit the following Symantec blog.
Release 7.6 of Symantec NetBackup for VMware Administrator's Guide has no mention of the acronym VIP and instead refers to it as Virtual Machine Intelligent Policy, although other 7.6 documentation still uses the term VIP.
NetBackup 7.6 added Oracle Intelligent Policy. This feature automatically discovers new Oracle instances and eliminates the need to manually write RMAN scripts, as it generates the scripts dynamically at run-time. For more information on Oracle Intelligent Policy, see the Symantec NetBackup for Oracle Administrator's Guide or visit the following video on Symantec Connect.
Intelligent Policies bring new ways to configure NetBackup policies. They have the potential to make backup administration a little easier, but how intelligent are Intelligent Policies and are they right for your environment?
Whether you want to automatically protect new VMs or not, Virtual Machine Intelligent Policy configured with Resource Limits can have a huge performance impact by load-balancing backups from one or more policies across VMware components with restrictions on how many backups can go active on various resource types. Limiting to no more than 1 or 2 active backups per Datastore can reduce I/O and keep the Datastore from running out of capacity during the backup's snapshot. Limiting the ESX Server to no more than 2-4 active backups can also be helpful when using one of the LAN transports.
Unfortunately, VMware Resource Limits do not work without Intelligent Policy. If VMs are selected manually within a VMware policy, any Resource Limits that are configured are ignored for those backups. According to Symantec, this was done to allow the customer the flexibility to configure Resource Limits, while also being able to selectively ignore them. A check box in the VMware tab called Ignore Resource Limits would have worked better. Even better, put it in Advanced Attributes on the VMware tab and allow Resource Limits to be ignored or even overridden with a different value. With these options, an administrator could ignore Resource Limits on a per policy basis, regardless of client selection method.
Before continuing, it's important to note that Intelligent Policies behave somewhat similar to backup jobs with Allow Multiple Data Streams enabled, in that NetBackup starts a parent backup job for the Intelligent Policy and the parent job then starts the rest of the jobs for the policy and remains active until all jobs it started are complete. For a VMware backup, the parent job is for the server listed on the Clients tab under NetBackup host to perform automatic virtual machine selection and the additional jobs for the actual VMs consist of the Snapshot and Backup jobs. If one or more of the jobs started by the parent fails, the parent will also show a failed status code once it completes.
So, what's wrong with Intelligent Policies?
There are some behaviors related to Intelligent Policy that can be annoying or even unexpected.
Intelligent Policies can be beneficial, especially when used with Resource Limits. Understanding how Intelligent Policies work is the first step towards determining how and where to use them in your environment.
Improvements have been made in Intelligent Policy since first introduced. As Symantec brings this model to more applications, hopefully it will continue to mature.