DR For VMware – Veeam Backup and Recovery


DR for VMware – Veeam Backup and Recovery

In out last two articles we covered the differences in competing DR technologies, snap and replicate and write journaling. We learned about VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM), and how it leverages VMware vSphere Replication. This week we will learn about Veeam Backup and Recovery. At the time of this writing the current version of Veeam Backup and Recovery is version 7, though version 8 is just around the corner. There are two things to note about Veeam:

It is a snap and replicate technology with all its inherent limitations

Veeam has a very mature backup component which sets it apart from other products

Veeam’s mature backup product could make it a very strong contender for companies that are looking for both backup and disaster recovery capabilities. If you’re setting up a new environment and require both backup and DR Veeam is worth a look. I ran a very large Veeam environment for a managed service provider for almost 2 years.

The first thing that some people may like, and some may not is that Veeam is an entirely Windows based solution. Whereas VMware vSphere uses Linux virtual appliances, Veeam has Windows servers that are not integrated into the VMware environment at all. You can run physical machines for your Veeam proxy servers. A proxy server in Veeam’s vocabulary are the systems that preform the backup jobs, there’s also a Veeam master server that works as an orchestrator.

I have mixed feelings about this architecture. On one hand I like that the proxy servers aren’t integrated into vCenter very tightly. If you’ve ever change the time on your vCenter or Single Sign on Server you will find it will break your vSphere replications. You don’t have this linkage problem with Veeam. On the other hand I don’t like the fact that you have to use Windows licenses for all of your Veeam proxy servers. This adds additional cost and management burden to the infrastructure. Each person will have to make a decision about this. It would lower the overall cost of the solution if Veeam was able to use Linux. A note for those with a network background, is that although Veeam calls them proxy servers, they are not real proxies. All of the Veeam servers at each location need to be able to talk to both the ESXi hosts and vCenter. The data cannot flow through the vCenter server, the proxies talk to the vCenter server in order to make connections to the ESXi hosts. This is key when deciding where to place your proxies.

A second factor to consider is that you will need a MS SQL database for Veeam. In my experience the database can get fairly large, so I wouldn’t recommend putting on the same server as the vCenter database. As our Veeam deployment grew, the database required a great deal of maintenance which was something technical support had to assist with. If we didn’t perform this maintenance, the user interface became so slow it was almost unusable. I have been told this is something they are addressing in version 8.

Something that’s different about Veeam is that it doesn’t utilize two master or control servers like SRM, or Zerto which we will cover next week. Since you only have one master server you would want to place that are your DR site. Imagine your production site went down, and the Veeam master wasn’t available to orchestrate failover.

A downfall of the Veeam architecture is how the software utilizes hardware. Veeam’s recommendation is two physical cores per running backup job. This can be adjusted higher, but performance will suffer. In my opinion Veeam is the worst of the three software packages when it comes to resource utilization. In our infrastructure we were using very powerful Dell R710s per Veeam’s recommendation and most of the cores were hardly used. If I were to design a solution today I would make all proxies virtual machines. Using physical servers seemed to be a waste of hardware. I would like to see Veeam improve in this area.

With the above considerations in mind let’s talk about some of the great features in Veeam. First it has an easy to use interface, adding proxies, and creating jobs are very simple. The process is very similar for creating both a recovery and a backup job. I have to give Veeam a lot of credit, their product does a good job in providing an all in one backup and DR solution. You can restore a file very easily from Veeam, which is generally a lack luster feature in most image based backup solutions. Disaster Recovery is important, but most of the time you will be restoring user files. If you work in operations you most likely have a million windows open to do your work, having DR and backup in one pain of glass is a benefit.

Veeam being a snap and replicate technology is good for about a 15 minute RTO / RPO. It also has the same issues with snapshots on the DR side. If you try to maintain too many fall back points, snapshots will become unwieldy. Also if you need to run your VM on the DR side performance will be severely degraded until you consolidate those snapshots. This isn’t a Veeam software issue, it’s just a weakness in the underlying snap and replicate architecture.

Veeam offers a “cloud” edition that allows you to push data into cloud based storage like Amazon S3 or Glacier. This is a god send for companies that have long term retention needs for compliance or litigation reasons. Another wonderful thing about Veeam is that it supports tape out. EMC will say that tape is dead, but I can confidently say they are wrong. If you can’t use the Veeam cloud edition to send your data to a cloud provider, tape if the only other option for long term retention.

Key items for Veeam Backup and Recovery:

Unified DR and Backup – Pro

Veeam is the clear leader when it comes to DR and backup products mixed into one.

Snap and Replicate – Con

At the end of the day snap and replicate technologies are limited.

Scalability – Nutral

Veeam has scaling issues and their database needs to be maintained. I would make sure that you have someone on staff who knows how to do this, or you will develop a good relationship with their tech support.

Support – Pro

Veeam’s support is outstanding! They have local support, based out of Ohio last time I had to engage them.

Proxy Architecture – Con

My single biggest gripe with Veeam is that it requires a good amount of Windows machines to support it. This would turn into a pro if Veeam released a Linux based proxy software.

Tape Out! – Pro

Kudos to Veeam for adding a tape out option. Even though they are a disk to disk solution, Veeam realizes that people will need to tape out for long term archive.



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