NetBackup 7.1 Features - VMware Intelligent Policy (VIP)

Insights March 14, 2011

Welcome to NetBackup 7.1! This series of blogs will provide additional information into the features of NetBackup 7.1 starting today with VMware Intelligent Policy (VIP).

Historically backups have been defined and referenced by the hostname of the physical system being protected. This has worked well when the relationship between the physical host and the operating system was a direct, one to one relationship. Backup processing impact was limited to each physical client and the biggest concern was saturating the network with backup traffic. This was easily managed by limiting the number of simultaneous client backups via a simple setting within the NetBackup policy.

Virtual machine technologies have changed this physical hardware dynamic. Dozens of operating systems (virtual machines) can now reside on a single physical (ESX) host connected to a single storage LUN with network access through a single NIC. When using traditional policy configurations, backup processing randomly occurs with no regard to the physical location of each virtual machine. As backups progress, a subset of ESX servers can be heavily impacted with active backups while other ESX systems sit idly waiting for their virtual machines to be protected.

The impact of this is that backups tend to be slower than they need to be and backup processing impact on the ESX servers tends to be random and lopsided. Standard backup policy definitions simply do not translate well into virtual environments.

The NetBackup VMware Intelligent Policy feature is designed to solve this problem and more. With VIP backup processing can be automatically load balanced across the entire virtual machine environment. No ESX server is unfairly taxed with excessive backup processing and backups can be significantly faster. Once configured, this load balancing automatically detects changes in the virtual machine environment and automatically compensates backup processing based on these changes. VIP places virtual machine backups on autopilot.

Beyond load balancing across the ESX servers, VIP offers a number of other benefits:

  • Virtual machine auto discovery - Newly introduced virtual machines can be automatically selected and protected. This includes virtual machines that have been cloned, created from template or have been migrated into the VMware environment.
  • Storage affinity - With the advent of advanced VMware storage technologies such as Storage VMotion, virtual machines can not only be moved across ESX servers but they can also be moved from datastore to datastore. Virtual machine Intelligent Policy can automatically detect this movement and adjust backup processing accordingly.
  • Protecting advanced VMware technologies - VMware has created sophisticated virtual machine technologies such as VMware high availability (HA), cluster pools, resource pools, vApps, distributed resource scheduling (DRS), VMotion and many others. Virtual machine Intelligent Policy can be configured to automatically detect and protect virtual machines based on any combination of these VMware-specific designations.
  • Virtual machine logical definitions - Virtual machines can also be automatically selected for backup by logical definitions including VMware datacenters, folders, resource pools, virtual machine power state and more. Simply associate a virtual machine to one of these attributes and it is automatically backed up. This provides the ability to automatically prioritize virtual machine backups based on a specific or mission critical VMware attribute.
  • Faster backups - By spreading the backup load evenly across the physical VMware environment backup processing can be much faster because more simultaneous backups can be safely applied without unduly impacting any physical component.

These are just a few of the selection methods that can be used to protect virtual machines. Virtual machines can be selected for backup based on over 25 different VMware attributes.

How does it work?  Before the virtual machine backup policy begins, VIP queries the vCenter server and obtains a detailed and current snapshot of the virtual machine environment. Any changes to the environment that may have occurred since the previous backup run are automatically detected. Once collected, VMware Intelligent Policy uses this information to determine which virtual machines will be protected. If a virtual machine has been added, moved or changed in any way, these changes are detected and virtual machine backups are automatically adjusted to take this new information into account. VIP automatically adjusts for any other changes that VMware technologies such as Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS), VMotion, Storage VMotion, etc. have made to every virtual machine.

VIP also throttles and evenly distributes backup jobs across the entire ESX environment. This works for environments with either single or multiple vCenter servers. When each backup job is initiated, VIP automatically limits backups based on six different VMware objects including the vCenter server, ESX server, ESX datastore and VMware cluster.

By defining simple backup instructions, virtual machines are automatically selected and backup processing is evenly distributed across large and complex VMware environments. Backup load on each ESX server is minimized yet overall backup performance is maximized. Fewer backup servers can protect more virtual machines in shorter backup windows.

Hopefully this information on VMware Intelligent Policy has been helpful. Join us tomorrow for a look at another major NetBackup 7.1 Feature – Auto Image Replication.

Dave High
Lead Principal Technical Educa Customer Support & Technology Solutions - CS
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