Are Your Back Up Tools Built for Your Virtualised Environment?

Wednesday 28th March 2012

Virtualising your servers to reduce cost is the first step of virtualisation. Next, you need to ensure the VMs are protected and your disaster recovery strategies are intact. However, without a solution specifically built to leverage this disruptive technology, IT is forced to use backup tools built for the physical world.As you continue your journey into the world of virtualisation, new challenges around running your virtual setup may soon become apparent. Virtualising your servers to reduce cost is the first step. However what comes next?Server virtualisation has been a compelling event for organisations of all sizes to rethink their data protection and disaster recovery (DR) strategies. Many companies have realised that having a server backup and disaster recovery plan built specifically for virtual environments is essential. Making existing processes or technologies for the physical world fit the virtual world, often results in organisations not being able to take full advantage and utilise the benefits of a virtual environment.

Deliver a Different Approach

Advances in technology, break through the barriers of traditional backup and recovery processes and enable your infrastructure to deliver the higher heights of virtualisation. Make the vision become a reality with a backup and replication processes that deliver instant restore of an entire machine in a matter of minutes; recovers individual objects from any virtualised application and automatically provides trusted verification of every backup.

Mazda Zoom-Zooms With Virtual Machine Backups in Half the Time

The Business Challenge

The IT team for Mazda North American Operations oversees the main data center at the company's headquarters and nine small data centers across North America. The team supports internal business functions and employees, as well as 20,000 users at Mazda dealerships. Tasked by the CIO to improve efficiency and reduce costs within the IT infrastructure, the IT team adopted a "virtualise first" strategy. "Our goal is to virtualise all tier one applications to simplify disaster recovery and reduce storage costs," said Kai Sookwongse, Department Manager, Enterprise Infrastructure Services for Mazda North American Operations.

About 80 percent of the infrastructure was virtualised by early 2011, which included 34 VMware ESX hosts running on Dell servers and hundreds of virtual machines (VMs). When conventional agent-based backups of the VMs proved to be long and laborious, the team searched for a virtualisation-specific solution. "Conventional backups put a load on the server, which taxed I/O throughout," said Barry Blakeley, Infrastructure Architect for Mazda North American Operations. "You don't see those problems in a physical environment, but lots of VMs on a single host with limited bandwidth results in excessive backup windows."

The team identified several backup solutions and focused on the following criteria during the testing process: backup speed; database consistency during backups; multiple restore capabilities; point-in-time recovery; replication to complement the company's co-location strategy for disaster recovery; data de-duplication to reduce backup storage requirements; and the ability to target any storage device. The Veeam Solution The IT team chose Veeam Backup and Replication. "It was an easy choice because Veeam provides far more capabilities than the other solutions," Barry said. "First of all, it's really fast. Before Veeam, a full backup of the SAP database used by our accounting team took 16 hours to complete. It only took eight hours with Veeam. That kind of speed also enables fast incremental backups of that database twice a day, with no impact on users." Database-consistent backups are also very important to Mazda's IT team. Veeam Backup and Replication leverages Microsoft Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) functionality to ensure consistent backups of the applications within Mazda's VMs. "Veeam is the only solution to support VSS correctly because it uses its own VSS driver," Barry said. "This provides database-consistent backups, not just crash-consistent backups."

Veeam Backup and Replication also enables multiple restore scenarios from a single backup, which is key for the IT team. "We need the ability to restore at the VMDK, file and VM levels," Barry explained. "And on top of that, we need to be able to do point-in-time recovery of full systems across multiple volumes." Replication is key for Mazda's IT team as well. "Veeam provides two-in-one backup and replication, which is a huge plus," Kai said. "The ability to replicate data to a co-location site for DR is in our future. Perhaps we'll do this with Mazda Canada, making it cost-efficient for both companies."

Another way the IT team addresses the company's cost-savings initiative is by taking advantage of Veeam's data de-duplication functionality. "We're seeing great compression numbers—sometimes up to 100 percent, which results in sizeable savings in storage costs each year," Kai added. "We're also glad that Veeam gives us flexibility with storage hardware. We consistently evaluate the best products for our IT environment and business model, and since Veeam can target any storage device, we'll have flexible storage options in the future." "That flexibility counts for a lot," Barry added. "Plus, we don't want to use the storage vendor's snapshot technology. We just want to do straight VDMKs because that's best to support out biggest databases. It's pretty simple: we want storage from our storage vendors and software from our backup vendor."

The Results

Decreases backup window by 50 percent Before the IT team at Mazda North American Operations deployed Veeam Backup and Replication, a full backup of an SAP database took 16 hours to complete. With Veeam, a one-time full backup took eight hours. Now the team relies on incremental backups of that database, which are fast and don't impact users. Ensures database-consistent backups When compared to other virtualisation-specific backup products, Veeam Backup and Replication provides the most complete implementation of VSS support, ensuring database-consistent backups, not just crash-consistent backups. Veeam enables multiple restore scenarios as well. That means the IT team can restore at multiple levels and restore points from a single image-level backup.

Mazda's IT team is always looking for ways to reduce IT infrastructure costs. For example, Veeam's data de-duplication functionality saves the company a significant amount in backup storage costs each year. Since Veeam Backup and Replication is storage-agnostic, team members can change storage devices if they find more cost-effective hardware. Another way the IT team will save money is through Veeam's replication capability because Mazda North American Operations is planning a co-location strategy for disaster recovery and business continuity.

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