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Nuts and Bolts in NetBackup for VMware: NetBackup 5220 and SLES based backup hosts


  NetBackup for VMware was born on August 2007 to help enterprises protect virtualized workloads. Its granular recovery capability still remains unique in the industry in implementation, performance and efficiency. We saw vStorage integration, universal backup host for Windows VMs and Linux VMs, Automatic protection using VMware Intelligent Policies, Application Granular recovery and so on. What amazes me is how fast NetBackup engineering delivers the next coolest thing just in time for newer business needs.

  Until NetBackup, VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) integration required customers to deploy a Windows based backup host. The business reasoning behind that approach was the following.

  • In the beginning, VMware focused primarily on Windows platform for VADP development
  • Most enterprises were primarily virtualizing Tier 3 Windows based workloads

Fast-forward 5 years; the new wave is in virtualizing business critical workloads. With that came new requirements. Windows based backup host for VADP has a few challenges.

  • If Windows finds a new disk on SAN, it will prompt the administrator whether it should go ahead and initialize the disk for its use. VADP SAN transport presents VMware vSphere datastore LUNs as new devices to the backup host and hence the administrator needs to be careful not to overwrite those LUNs. Of course, we can remediate this by setting the proper SAN policy on Windows.
  • Licensing and maintenance cost may be a challenge. This situation is customer dependent. Most VMware customers have free access to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for VMware. Why would I need to buy and maintain another host/OS to accommodate VADP?

Behold the new capabilities in NetBackup for VMware vSphere!

  • Direct vSphere Backup capability in NetBackup 5220: With appliance software version 2.5, your NetBackup 5220 is a VMware Ready certified backup appliance with full VADP support! No need for any Windows based backup hosts!
  • NetBackup for VMware Backup host on SuSE Linux Enterprise Server: With NetBackup, your SuSE Linux Enterprise Server can be a VMware Backup host with full VADP support. You may be able to make use of your VMware vSphere investment and obtain the operating system and maintenance from VMware for free!   

With these solutions, you bring down the cost of backups while also kissing good-bye to Windows disk initialization nightmares at night.

NetBackup for VMware is the only product in the market that provides all capabilities of VADP (including SAN transport) using a Linux based backup host. Let me explain why.

Once hypervisor level snapshot is taken, the vendors typically do one of the following to provide granular recovery capability.

  • Backup the VMDK first, index the content afterwards by mounting the VMDK using VADP Mount APIs. This is a two phase backup underneath the cover.
  • Some ad-hoc backup vendors mount using VADP Mount API and discover files during the restore time. This is an operationally challenging restore process for enterprises and it affects RTO.

The common element here is VADP Mount APIs. For mount API to work, the backup host needs to be aware of the file system. To protect NTFS (with ACLs and all other file system specific attributes) you need a Windows based backup host. To protect ext3/ext4 etc, you need Linux based backup host. Well you get the idea.

In NetBackup, Symantec V-Ray eliminates this limitation. NetBackup never mounts the VMDKs anywhere. It is reading at the raw disk read performance while enabling granular recovery using a time tested mapping technology known as Veritas Mapping Services (VxMS). That is why NetBackup Appliance and SLES based NetBackup backup host can even support SAN transport in VADP!

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