Backup Solutions

Solutions for making a backup for Virtual Machines

Get full control over your ESXi Server

As you probably know ESX 3i is the embedded version of ESX, mainly run from usb flash disks build-in servers from HP, Dell, IBM and FSC, but you can also install this on your own servers. I really love this version as it is so easy and simple and adds extra (and less) functionality to ESX. The main thing about 3i is that the Red Hat service console has been removed and replaced by a small busybox linux version. To keep this service console tiny, 3i comes with build-in hardware monitoring, something a normal ESX server does not have (wish it did). When connecting to a 3i server with your VC client you can see fan speeds and temperatures in your system and you can of course put alarms on them, in case something breaks.

By default the 3i server gives us no access to this small service console, but there are some down sides to this, as certain things can only be done from the service console :-( and until VMware builds those missing functionalities into the VC interface you still need to get yourself console access. In the beta versions of 3i there was an option in the advanced settings, but this has been removed in the final releases. VMware has published a knowledge base article that describes how to get console access (this is not officially supported by VMware). See the KB Article. In short you just hit Alt-F1 and then type in ‘unsupported’. The article also explain how to disable this Tech Support Mode, in case you want to.

Getting console access

Of course you do not want to be in the server room all the time and your server might not have some kind of remote access facility, so the first thing you probably want to do is enable SSH access to your server. (Thanks to Lee for this information, and again this is not supported by VMware)

  • edit /etc/inetd.conf (using vi)
  • remove the # (remark) sign in front of the SSH line
  • kill and restart the inetd process (or just reboot your server)
  • So why do you need console access?
    There are multiple reasons why you want to have console access. One of the most common reasons is that you might want to change HBA driver options. To get better performance out of your Qlogic or Emulex HBA most people increase their queue depth (see for instance VMware 100.00 io blog post). To find out what options you can set on your drivers you can use the command vmkload_mod:

  • display your loaded drivers: vmkload_mod --list
  • display parameters for your driver: vmkload_mod -s /mod/your_driver
  • Another reason why you definitely still need console access (unfortunately) is if you want to use thin provisioned virtual disks, a new feature in ESX, but for some reason not exposed in the VC interface yet (i think because it is still experimental supported). Any virtual disks created via the normal interface are pre-allocated disks, so a 100GB virtual disk will use 100GB on your VMFS. With thin provisioned disks the actual virtual disk file will start very small and only grow when you will actually need the disk space. Note: this only works for Virtual Disks on iSCSI and FC SAN, not NFS!

    With the vmkfstools command you can create new virtual disks as ‘thin’ disks. After you created the disks, you can then use the normal VC interface to add that disk to your VM.

    Creating a 100GB thin disk:
    vmkfstools -c 100G -d thin /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/thin_disk.vmdk

    If you already have a pre-allocated disk, you can convert it to a thin disk as well. Well it is not really converting, but creating a new copy as thin disk. After you have done that, you will need to remove the old disk from the VM and add the new converted copy.

    ‘convert’ copy a existing virtual disk to thin format:
    vmkfstools -i /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/large_disk.vmdk -d thin /vmfs/volumes/san_vmfs/my_vm/new_thin_disk.vmdk

    Well I am sure there are more reasons why you still want to ‘play’ on the service console, as I am born with a commodore 64, I always want a command prompt :-)

    Webinars: vizioncore billing and backup

    Vizioncore is organizing some nice webinars, so if you want to know more about billing or doing backups for your virtual machine, you might want to join in :-)

    Upcoming Webinars

    October 18 at 10am  (USA
    CST or 17:00pm Central European Time)

    Monitor, Alert and Bill Back Using esxCharter

    October 18 at 7pm (USA CST or 02:00am Central
    European Time)

    Monitor, Alert and Bill Back Using esxCharter

    October 25 at 10am (USA CST or 17:00pm Central European Time)
    1-2 Punch Backups with esxRanger & VCB

    October 25 at 7pm (USA CST or 02:00am Central
    European Time)

    1-2 Punch Backups with esxRanger Professional & VCB

    vizioncore offers happy meal

    vizioncore, one of the companies that make additional management solutions for VMware virtualization environments released today a bundle of all their three products in one. This happy meal is called esxEssentials. It contains esxRanger (a backup solution), esxCharter (a performance monitor tool) and esxReplicator (replication tool for virtual machines). The package will set you back $899 per cpu and will allow vizioncore to upsell all their products easier to their customers.

    More information about the release you can find on http://www.vizioncore.com

    Vizioncore releases a Free version of esxRanger and esxCharter!!

    Vizioncore just released esxBasics for ESX Server . For people who are not familiar with vizioncore products; esxRanger is a product to make and automate backups of your virtual machines and esxCharter allows you to see graphically the perfomance on your servers and virtual machines.

    According to the press release the free product includes basic versions of both vizioncore’s flagship esxRanger™ and esxCharter™, esxBasics provides a range of dynamic backup and monitoring tools for the ESX Server environment. vizioncore’s esxBasics also enables ESX Server administrators to sample vizioncore’s industry-leading applications for non-mission critical applications. As esxBasics users move toward making virtualization a strategic core platform in their datacenters, upgrading to the standard or professional versions of esxRanger and esxCharter products grant users access to a larger feature set, product updates, and technical support—all without switching from the products they’ve come to rely on.

    esxRanger UI

    Features of vizioncore’s esxBasics include:

  • esxRanger provides full image backup protection (without interfering with ongoing server operations), full restore capabilities and a centralized Windows interface. esxRanger also enables Windows scheduler support in the GUI, allowing users to schedule esxRanger to perform online dynamic backups of guest operating systems on the VMware ESX Server;
  • esxCharter provides real-time ESX Server monitoring, enabling ESX administrators to monitor in real-time how much of the CPU the VM occupies, as well as how much memory is being used on an active, swapped, or shared basis. esxCharter also offers the ‘At-a-Glance’ view, providing a real-time snapshot of the current performance and specifications of the user’s VM Server—including important service console information.
  • Download esxBasics here

    Backup Utility for VMX files

    VMVBU 2.0.1 is a small program designed to backup VMX files and keep them on multiple ESX servers. Handy for Virtual Machine failover in case of a server crash.

    VMVBU website

    esxRanger – Backup Software

    Vizioncore had made a special product to make backups of your Virtual Machines running on your ESX server. It works very simple by just pointing at a VM and clicking on it. The product is called esxRanger. Unfortunatly the software is ESX aware and not Virtual Center aware, so you do need to know very your Virtual Machines are.

    Screenshot of esxRanger

    Vizioncore website

    VMware Backup Considerations with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager

    IBM Redbook technote which describes how to backup and restore a VMware system using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.

    IBM Redbook Technote

    VM Backup Script for VMware ESX Server

    Great backup script for Virtual Machines running on VMware ESX Servers.

    Features:

  • Perl script
  • Hot Backup (without suspend vm guest)
  • Schedule Backup
  • Interactive Backup
  • NFS support
  • SMB support
  • FTP support
  • Virtual Center support
  • Backup vmx + cmos file
  • Create restore interactive command script
  • Support for undoable and raw disk
  • VMBK Website

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