Best Practices for Robust VMware Data Protection in an Ever Growing Data Environment

This post is co-authored by Peter Marelas. 

…Or why you need software defined, automated data protection.

Everyone has heard the numbers.  There is more and more data and it keeps growing at an ever increasing rate.  According to the latest IDC estimates, the amount of data is expected to grow tenfold by 2025 to 163 zettabytes.  To thrive in today’s economy, organizations must make the most of their data and must also ensure that the data is protected and can be recovered quickly and cost effectively. And, since majority of enterprise workloads run on virtualized environments, with most of those workloads running on VMware, having robust VMware data protection is essential to the success of most organizations.

A number of best practices deployed as part of your data protection strategy can help you achieve this:

  1. Automate protection of virtual workloads

With more data and more VMs being spun up at an ever increasing rate, you cannot rely on manual processes to ensure that all your new applications and VMs are protected.  You do not want busy application owners or vAdmins to have to manually create new protection policies or assign new workloads or VMs to existing policies.  And, you certainly do not want the lag time from the creation of a workload to raising a request with a backup or storage admin to configure backups of the workload.

Modern data protection solutions automate protection processes with support for dynamic mapping of vSphere objects to existing protection policies.  This means that your new VMs, based on criteria you define (such as DS cluster, data center, tags, VMname, etc.), are automatically assigned and protected upon creation with no human intervention necessary.

  1. Self-service data protection

Your application owners and vAdmins are busy making sure that your business and mission critical applications are up and performing as intended.  

They do not want any delays with respect to data protection related tasks (backup policy changes, file and/or VM recoveries, etc.) by going through a backup or infrastructure admin and they certainly do not want to learn or log into another system or UI to do it on their own.  Enabling your application and vAdmins to perform data protection tasks directly from the native vSphere UI they are familiar with can go a long way in making their jobs, with respect to data protection, easier.

Modern data protection solutions provide deep integration with vSpehre to deliver self-service data protection workflows, enabling application owners and vAdmins the freedom to perform the vast majority of data protection related tasks directly from the native and familiar vSphere UI.

  1. Distributing data across Software Defined Data Center nodes

Most data protection solutions handle data deduplication and distribution of data at the edge of the SDDC, after the data has been transferred from the source storage to the target backup storage.  This results in extensive network traffic and bandwidth usage.  It can also lead to the requirement of a separate expensive backup network and inefficient use of storage space.

Modern data protection solutions perform deduplication processing within the SDDC before the data is transferred to backup storage.  This allows the solution to scale-out with the SDDC and ensures data processing requirements do not fall behind as the SDDC scales. In addition, an ideal data protection solution should also utilize horizontally scaled out pools of protection storage, which results in more efficient allocation of software defined storage.  The result is less bandwidth usage and less storage capacity consumed for backing up your data.

  1. Change block tracking restore capabilities

Change block tracking for backups is very common among today’s data protection solutions.  This means that for each subsequent VM backup, the solution only copies data blocks that have changed since the last backup.  This results in faster backups and less bandwidth consumed.

What is not very common, but important is change block tracking restore.  This allows the solution to track the difference between the current version of the VM and the version you are trying to restore.  It then only restores the changed blocks between the two.  The result is much faster VM restores and much less bandwidth consumed for those restores.  A solution that supports change block tracking restore enables new architectures without compromising recovery time objectives. One such architecture is the ability to backup and restore VMs across wide area networks. A modern data protection solution will have support for change block tracking restores.

  1. Performance disaggregated from capacity

There is a trend in data protection solutions towards simplicity in the form of converged appliances that combine data protection software and backup storage, along with all the ancillary compute and networking, in a single converged appliance.  While this trend towards simplicity is admirable, for many data protection solutions, it has come at the expense of capacity and/or performance efficiency.

For many of these simple, converged solutions capacity and processing are linked.  Once you run out of processing power on an appliance – too many VMs to backup, too many backup streams needed to comply with SLAs, etc. – you need another appliance to add more processing even if you did not need the additional storage capacity.  Similarly, if you run out of storage capacity, you need another appliance and end up paying for the additional processing that you did not need. This is a common dilemma of architectures that scale capacity and performance linearly.

A modern data protection solution, whether it is in the traditional HW/SW form factor, SDDC or a converged appliance, disaggregates performance from capacity and allows each to scale independently.  Ideally, the backup processes should be load balanced across your entire SDDC environment and there should be no need to add or pay for additional processing if you need more capacity.

Dell EMC delivers software defined, automated data protection

With Dell EMC Data Protection, you don’t have to compromise on performance, automation, architecture or efficiency for the sake of simplicity.  Our solutions, whether you are deploying our Data Protection software and Data Domain backup storage or our new Integrated Data Protection Appliances, each utilize our software defined data protection architecture to deliver on each of the above best practices.

Dell EMC Data Protection solutions deliver:

  • Automation of VM protection with dynamic mapping to protection policies
  • Leading self-service data protection for VMware environments with our native vSphere integration
  • Minimal bandwidth usage and maximum storage efficiency with our industry leading edge and target deduplication technology that delivers up to 55:1 storage efficiency and up to 98% bandwidth efficiency
  • Change block restore for lighting fast VM recovery
  • Disaggregated performance from capacity with distributed virtual proxies that are automatically provisioned, deployed, and load balanced across the SDDC environment

For more information, visit the Dell EMC VMware Data Protection page.

 Peter is the CTO for the Global Technology Office within the Data Protection Division. He is a thought leader in emerging technologies encompassing Cloud, Security, Data Management, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Peter aligns his activities with Product and Engineering groups to ensure our solutions capture the markets needs into the future. Peter has over 18 years of technology and consulting experience spanning Data Protection, Availability, Disaster Recovery, Security, Storage, IT Management and Enterprise Architecture. Prior to joining EMC in 2011, Peter held a number of senior roles at Telstra Corporation, Symantec, VERITAS and StorageTek.

About the Author: Jason Tolu

Jason Tolu is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Dell EMC and is responsible for VMware Data Protection messaging, marketing and sales enablement. Jason joined EMC in 2015 and moved over to Dell EMC as part of the Dell EMC merger. Prior to EMC, Jason was Senior Product Marketing Manager at Dell concentrating on systems management software, services and appliances. Prior to Dell, Jason worked in product marketing for a number of software start-ups in Silicon Valley and joined Dell through the acquisition of a SaaS systems management provider.