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Virtual Machine Backup – The Choice is Yours

by in Information Management & Governance

Which Hypervisor do you Use? 

Recent surveys have shown that 100% of the Fortune 500 companies are using virtualization. Other surveys estimate up to 94% of all workloads are now running in virtual environments, with one report forecasting that number to reach 100% within 3 years¹. 

The benefits of virtualization are well understood and as a result it would be difficult to find any company, anywhere that is not using virtualization in some way. Although IBM is credited with originating virtualization in the late 60’s and early 70’s, it was VMware, introducing their product in the early 2000’s, that saw the adoption of virtual machines and virtualization really start to take off. 

Of course, after VMware started to become popular it wasn’t long before Microsoft introduced their own product and Hyper-V has steadily risen in popularity, although it is still behind VMware in overall usage. Today, VMware still has the greatest market share, but Hyper-V and others are increasing their footprint steadily. So which hypervisor do you choose, and do you want to deploy more than one hypervisor, depending on the use case? 

In any enterprise environment you most likely want to use a type-1 hypervisor. That is, a hypervisor that does not run inside Windows or any other operating system, and instead is an OS itself and runs on the host machine’s hardware (also known as a bare-metal hypervisor). While the numbers do change, the top 5 type-1 hypervisors are VMware, Hyper-V, Xen/Citrix Xen Server, Red Hat Virtualization (RHV), and KVM. 

These are all well known, well established, and reliable hypervisors. The choice of which to use is not going to be investigated in this article, except for from one aspect. Whatever hypervisor is deployed, and that could include several hypervisors, and whatever functionality is being used with it, one common requirement needs to be planned for, and that is not a function of the hypervisor itself. Regardless of the hypervisor(s) used, it is imperative that there is the ability to backup the Virtual Machines and your data in an efficient, fast, and reliable way. 

Just as each hypervisor has its own set of capabilities and attributes the backup of each hypervisor is likely to vary in functionality. While backup capability is likely not the number one deciding factor on hypervisor choice, it is worth being aware of what capabilities exist to ensure that any use case implementations are catered for should there be the need to perform any restore operations. 

The Micro Focus Data Protector Premium license enables backup protection for VMware and Hyper-V and is well established in its capabilities and functionality for these two most common hypervisors. Implementing any other hypervisor outside of these primary two however will likely present a more limited choice for backup solutions. This is where Micro Focus Data Protector for Cloud Workloads (DP4CW) can offer a very compelling backup capability for nearly any hypervisor deployed. 

Hypervisor Backup with Data Protector for Cloud Workloads 

Data Protector for Cloud Workloads (DP4CW) works with Data Protector to provide the backup capabilities for the newest cloud and virtual machine implementations. As well as supporting a wide range of cloud backup targets it has extensive hypervisor integrations ensuring the hypervisor that best works for your organization can be protected and backed up efficiently and securely. 

General backup and restore capabilities provided by DP4CW across hypervisors include: 

Backup Service Level Agreement 

  • Automatic or policy assignment 
  • Multiple schedules per policy 

Backup 

  • Per schedule or on demand 
  • Multiple backup destinations 

Restore 

  • Restore to hypervisor or to secondary site 
  • Restore individual files or share them over iSCSI 

Mount 

  • Mount and browse VMs 

Hypervisor Choice 

Other capabilities may be more specific, but each hypervisor is supported by a flexible range of functionalities that offer many options for backup and restore. So, what hypervisors are supported? The full list can be found in our online documentation and while not an exhaustive list, some of these hypervisors are: 

  • Red Hat Virtualization 
  • oVirt 
  • KVM 
  • Oracle VM 
  • Citrix XEN 
  • Nutanix AHV 
  • Amazon EC2 

Backup Options 

To ensure backups meet your full data protection needs the actual functionality for each hypervisor should be verified but each hypervisor does have a very capable set of features. Some features are common for all hypervisors, but some are more specific or only available for one or a few hypervisors. With Data Protector for Cloud Workloads common functionality across all hypervisors are: perform a full backup, VM Disk exclusion, Name based VM-to-policy auto assignment, executing ‘Power on VM’ after restore, and File-level restore. 

However, some functionality may be specific to one, or several hypervisors and may include Snapshot management; Changed Block Tracking; LVM thin-pool support; Quiesced Snapshot, and others. Therefore, a careful check of what functionality can be used to protect your virtual machine of choice should be made and it would be a mistake to simply assume all capabilities exist for all hypervisors. 

Tying in some functionality to the wider range of hypervisors beyond VMware and Hyper-V gives a better understanding of some virtual machine protection:  

  • Full and incremental backup protection for KVM, Oracle VM, AWS EC2, Nutanix, and Citrix Hypervisor.  
  • File-level restore with AWS EC2 and Citrix XEN, including mountable backups for KVM, and Oracle VM.  
  • Capabilities include application-consistent snapshots, specific volumes exclusion option, and changed block tracking (CBT). 

 A number of backup strategies can also be employed with the hypervisors giving more choice in how you handle your backups and ensuring you can maximize your deployment for operational and security needs. The examples of available backup strategies for Red Hat Virtualization are shown in this table and demonstrates the level of flexibility for solution implementation.

The main message then, is when deciding on what virtual machine functionality to implement in your environment, assuming that being able to protect and restore the data and VMs if required is important, then backup functionality should also be a consideration.  Performance, automation, location, and security for VM backup operation are just some of the factors that can vary and which may be important to review.  But knowing there are protected options beyond VMware and Hyper-V opens the door for a much more suitable virtual environment for your needs. 

Micro Focus has two data protection offerings to meet all your backup needs: Data Protector Premium supports hybrid and more traditional infrastructure environments and has many built in advanced capabilities. For more modern workloads Data Protector for Cloud Workloads offers extensive backup functionality for Microsoft 365 Online products, as well as extensive hypervisor and container backup, and support for a wide range of cloud storage targets. Data Protector saves IT administrators’ time and ensures business continuity by providing a disaster recovery process that is built for modern enterprise IT environments.  

Want to find out the capabilities for yourself?  Access your free trial of Data Protector for Cloud Workloads 

Learn more about backup and disaster recovery on our site. 

Be sure to connect with Micro Focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog. Comment below. 

The Micro Focus IM&G team 

Know your data | empower your people | drive your future 

Join our community | @microfocusimg | www.microfocus.com   

¹ Cisco says almost all workloads will be cloud based within 3 years 

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Data Protection
Information Governance
Information Management