Backing Up the Virtual Machine

Server virtualization demands a multilayered approach to storage.

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Robert Carver is manager of IT operations at the Southcentral Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Anchorage, Alaska, that operates 65 programs providing health care services to 50,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people. He runs most of his servers on VMware, with the exception of his Microsoft Exchange and main database server. All the rest run on Dell Inc. PowerEdge 1855 blades with dual-core Intel Xeon CPUs. It stores the data on a 10TB 920c NAS cluster from Network Appliance Inc. and mirrors the data to a NetApp NearStore R200 appliance located across the street from the data center. In addition, the virtual servers store their own files on an iSCSI drive.

"It's not tiered storage, just really redundant," Carver says.

He does a full backup across the street during every downtime window -- about once every two weeks - using BakBone's NetVault software, which then backs up the NearStore data onto tape. Carver also uses NetApp's Open Systems SnapVault (OSSV) to provide up-to-the-minute backups at a file level. He uses PlateSpin Ltd.'s Power P2V migration software to move files from physical to virtual servers. When a virtual or physical server goes down, he then uses NetVault to restore the server from the backup and OSSV to load any additional files from the iSCSI drive. Carver

says backup and restore procedures work equally well for the physical and virtual servers.

"We've had everything from a server erroring out in the middle of a Windows service pack installation to a virtual machine having trouble booting up," says Carver. "But once it was restored, we have never had one come up corrupt."

Server virtualization itself is designed to add redundancy and reliability to enterprise systems. With adequate backup mechanisms in place, it moves one step closer to becoming a fully supported enterprise architecture.

Robb is a Computerworld contributing writer.

Special Report

Storage: New Wrinkles 2006

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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