Data Protection Management Challenges in Virtual Environments

As the pioneer of centralized, heterogeneous data protection management, Bocada has long been attuned to the needs of the data protection market. When Bocada was originally founded in 2000, open systems backup applications had minimal reporting functionality, users were forced to read log files to determine if backups were successful, and there was no way to view trends to understand performance issues or better plan for capacity use. Today, backup vendors have minimally addressed these limitations, which is why Bocada continues to lead the market with our Data Protection Service Management solutions to help users reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and achieve operational excellence.

Today, we recognized that the state of data protection management for virtual environments is where open systems was ten years ago. Virtualization backup vendors are focused on addressing the complexities of backing up virtual instances, which requires integration with different hypervisors and virtual management solutions (i.e vCenter or Systems Center), providing de-duplication to reduce capacity use and somehow ensuring that backups won’t kill performance of the host machines. All this combined with how rapidly users are adopting new virtualization technologies puts a strain on those vendors being able to supply in-depth reporting, let alone other DPSM functionality such as capacity and performance analysis.

Bocada commissioned Enterprise Strategy Group to do a research study in order to determine exactly how challenging backing up virtual instances was to end users, and the results were not terribly surprising. Protecting virtual instances has become a top ten challenge to over 85% of the survey respondents, confirming users are challenged by managing both snapshots and backups. 

Implementing Backup and Recovery Processes

Implementing Backup and Recovery Processes - Click to enlarge

Today, the majority of all respondents were using different applications to protect virtual and physical servers; only 38% of respondents used the same application to protect both. And while the majority, 68% would prefer to use one application to protect their entire infrastructure, today’s reality is that they are using different applications, which means different policies, schedules, and different needs in managing each environment. 

As a result, organizations are challenged to effectively manage the protection of their virtual instances. Some of the challenges are similar to those of physical backup, all users need to validate that the backup (or the snap) was actually successful and if a recovery point is valid. In addition, users need to understand where performance bottlenecks may be occurring that could be preventing successful backups, and they need visibility into how much capacity snaps and backups are consuming, as this can result in about one-third of all storage capacity used across the organization.

Important Factors of VM Snapshots

Important Factors of VM Snapshots - Click to enlarge

As organizations continue to increase the ratio of VMs to host machine, these challenges are only going to increase in scale. The survey respondents are intending to have large numbers of virtual instances on each host, 42% intend to have from 11-25 VMs per host, and 23% intend to have over 25 VMs per host in the near future. The sheer number of VMs that need to be backed up will challenge administrators to ensure each VM is recoverable and to ensure that resources are effectively balanced to ensure success and that there is adequate capacity to handle the amount of data being protected.

Virtual Server Protection Challenges

Virtual Server Protection Challenges - Click to enlarge

Most backup experts warn users not to attempt to protect virtual instances as they do physical machines. Many factors come into play in virtual backups, it is not recommend to back-up at the guest OS level due to performance hits, and scheduling is particularly important as backing up multiple VMs on a single host concurrently can also cause significant performance issues. Snapshots are of course not backups, but can be used for secondary backups but it is very important to watch how many snaps are occurring on any one data store as those snaps can consume significant capacity and impact performance as other VMs wait for locked LUNs to become available.

Bocada developed Vision to address the specific needs of data protection management in virtual environments. Vision provides in-depth analysis of the snapshot, replication and backup activity of virtual instances. Unlike other management applications for virtual environments on the market today, Vision is the only solution that puts a lens on the backup activity, providing visibility into data protection results and enables troubleshooting when issues occur. Vision is tightly integrated with vCenter, and therefore provides configuration information on each VM, showing how it is protected and pinpointing the best recovery points for each VM. Vision also provides information on the amount of capacity taken by snapshots on each datastore, and provides capacity reports for each media volume, aiding in capacity planning and potential reclamation. In order to address the key performance issues introduced when backing up VMs, Vision shows the actual performance impact on CPUs and I/O during backup windows. 

To learn more about Bocada Vision, please go to our Vision product page.

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