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Snapshots with ESXi

zequestioner
zequestioner asked
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Is there any way to automate snapshots of a VM or backup the VM files offline? Do i just need the vmdk file or others as well?
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As far as I know there is no way to automatesnapshots with the free version ESXi.  If you have the pay version, you do get some tools in vCenter

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/VMWare/Q_26245860.html

Top Expert 2010
Commented:
Depends on what you're trying to do; keep in mind that snapshots are NOT a b/u solution and can very well get you into trouble. Only use them when doing OS/software updates to VMs, then delete them (commit them) when testing is complete.

For ESXi, b/u capability is limited. The only way to do it is make a copy of the VM(s), but they have to be powered down. You can use either Veeam FastSCP or WinSCP to make your copy(s).
http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esxi-fastscp.html
http://winscp.net/eng/download.php

~coolsport00
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
If you have a paid version of ESXi, you can use any of a number of VM b/u solutions to automate b/u's though.

~coolsport00
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Sorry...to answer the last part of your question....when you copy your VM, you're copying the whole folder. So yes...copy all files. If not, you can create only b/u the VMDK file, create a new VM, then assign that VM to use just the VMDK file. I personally don't want to create a new VM, so I copy all files in the VM's folder/directory.

~coolsport00

Author

Commented:
Thanks for all the info...

So, how bout this.. while not automated, it still may provide faster recovery:

Use the Datastore browser in vSphere to copy down the VM folder which includes all the files. Do I need to power off the vm to get a good copy of it? Will this work? why or why not?
Top Expert 2010
Commented:
Ah yes..the always forgotten 3rd Datastore Browser option. :)

Yes, power down the VMs and you can copy that way.

~coolsport00
You might also want to look into the Double-Take product.  We have started to use it in our environment for creating fully up to date copies of key VMs as a backup solution and as a part of our DR solution. www.doubletake.com.
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
"jyiesla"...nothing works (natively) with ESXi. The *only* solution for FREE ESXi, is a copy method. THere is a scripting way (ghettoVCB), but I never suggest it because it's...well (in my opinion)...too difficult to do something that should be (and used to be before Jun 09) so simple.

~coolsport00
coolsport00... I do not use ESXi so am somewhat ignorant of it's capability, but I believe that Double-Take will work in most virtual and physical environments and is not limited to ESX.

http://www.doubletake.com/Documents/Backup/Backup_Datasheet.pdf
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
It won't work with *free* ESXi....trust me.

~coolsport00

Author

Commented:
Actually, GhettoVCB looks like a great option. does it copy the backup to the local datastore or a remote location? I'm still reading.. so i'm sure i'll get there. I am trying the Option 3 via the datastore browser and this doesn't seem like a viable option as based on the size of the VM (300gb) will take about 5 hours and i cant have the server shut down for that long.

jhyiesla, are you currently using doubletake on ESX? What is the backup window for backing up a single VM? Have you ever had to do a restore job? how did that go? Do you know what the pricing is like for a single host and single VM?
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Let me clarify just a bit on my comments; there are a LOT of VMware VM b/u solutions out there - Veeam, vRanger, DoubleTake, etc. Each person will have his/her own preference. They all (probably) work, for the most part, the same as each other with some obviously vendor-specific differences. The reason why none of them will work with *free* ESXi is because VMware disabled the capability beginning last June. The reason?...obvious...$$$. If you have a purchased version, any one of those solutions will work.

"zequestioner"...please keep in mind that asking multiple questions in a single post is forbidden on EE. If you have a question about ESX (as opposed to ESXi), you will need to open another question. Sorry...that's just EE rules (see here: http://www.experts-exchange.com/help.jsp#hs=23&hi=23). I am more than happy to continue assisting you as I actively monitor questions here in the VMware Zone. :)

Regards,
~coolsport00
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Sorry "zequestioner"...I never did answer your question in your prev post. The answer is, I don't know. I downloaded it, but never have taken the time to test it out fully yet. It's a bit intricate so I've put it off. :)

With the free version of ESXi, unfortunately, your b/u options are VERY limited (and they suck...trust me...I agree!) :)

~coolsport00
We are just starting to use Double-Take in our ESX environment. As the other expert has pointed out your mileage will vary based on size of VM, bandwidth of network, etc.

Our first test was to migrate our SQL server from P to V. We created a brand new SQL server in the virtual world and used DT to move the data.  I had around 500 GB of data that was replicated to our repository over a long weekend.  After that point DT kept the data constantly fresh by doing byte level transfers of changed data for over a week before we disconnected the VMDK file and reconnected it to the new SQL server.  Our total downtime on the SQL server was less than two hours and most of that was due to a conversion script that didn't work totally as it should so we had to manually disconnect and reconnect some databases and an issue with a firewall on the server 2008 R2 that we didn't know was up.  Very pleased with DT.

Now I am DT'ing the entire SQL server and it appears that it will be done within 48 hours of starting.  We will have a constantly up to date set of data and we are also doing real snapshots so that if some file gets corrupted on the SQL server we can go back to a point that is no older than our newest snap.

I did a back up today of a much smaller server...probably int he 10-20 GV range of data and that was done and in an replicating state within an hour or so.

Can't remember for sure what the repository license was...but the agent licenses are the most expensive part and they run about $1000/per agent.  

I have seen DT demonstrated in several demos and we finally bit the bullet and tried it and so far are incredibly pleased.

I did a test server of just a few GB to start and then restored it to a new VM and that all went smoothly and fairly quickly and when I spun up the new VM, everything seemed to work OK.
coolsport00, I don't doubt you in your knowledge of ESXi nor that it's a "poor" cousin to ESX.  However, my question to you is have you ever tried to used Double Take with ESXi to know that it doesn't work?  Double Take agent lives on the Windows OS.  It works with virtual and physical machines so I don't think that it would make a difference whether it was ESX or ESXi or Virtual PC or physical hardware that the Windows OS was running on.

And if that's true and if the asker can afford the license cost for the agent, then in my limited, but real experience with Double Take, I think that it's worth looking into.
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Jhyiesla....it's NOT a reflection of DT....or any VM b/u for that matter, but a reflection of ESXi. ESXi puts a 'lock' on VM files while powered on such that any b/u solution won't work. And, as an FYI & IMO, if the poster is able to get a 'purchased' version of ESXi, I think Veeam Backup & Replication is the best :) Have you looked into any other solution besides DT? For someone who doesn't doubt my knowledge, it sure sounds like you are....

It's not that ESXi is a 'poor' cousin to ESX either...it's just that several things are stripped from it -> service console being the main thing. You can review differences here:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1015000. What that essentially does (stipping things out) is make it a more secure hypervisor. The less servics/processes running means less opportunity to exploit. And, you better get familiar with ESXi and what it lacks, because in the future, that is what VMware is going with.

Also, keep in mind this question is not about ESX solutions. Any further reference to that will need to be placed in another post, as to keep with the integrity of EE (see my EE link above).

~coolsport00
Not doubting your expertise with ESXi, but from my perspective since DT works at the Windows level and not the VM level was just questioning whether your advice for this particular product was from first hand knowledge or an assumption on how DT works.

We had looked at Veeam as a possible solution, but given what we wanted to do with our environment felt that DT was a better choice and so far we have been extremely happy with it.

I also realize that this question isn't about ESX and I'm not trying to make it that, but felt that if DT is a valid solution for the asker that the discussion is pertinent.
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
If DT works at the Windows level on the VM, then it's like any other traditional b/u solution (Veritas, Acronis, Commvault, Avamar) and would work. If you're referring to DT working at the Windows level of where DT is installed, then it's like any other VM b/u solution and won't work. I'm not familiar with DT as I've not used it before. BUT...if it is a solution that can be used to back up specific VM files (and not the data within the VM) like Veeam and vRanger can, it won't work with ESXi. I will contact DT sales/support to verify.

I understand that you're not making it out about ESX, but posting a comment about such after I posted that asking multiple questions in a post is forbidden/frowned upon by EE....shouldn't have been made. Don't take that the wrong way...I want to assist EE posters as well...I didn't make the rules, I just follow them.

~coolsport00
DT does work at the Windows level... there is an agent that installs on the Windows OS.  It then communicates with the DT repository server and in effect does a "backup" of the whole Windows environment or what ever piece of that you wish to back up. Once that is done it maintains the backup copy in a warm state my constantly doing byte level replications of any changes that happen.  So if the VM fails for some reason, you can use the recovery console to create a new VM that is an exact copy of the failed VM. It's also possible to take snapshots... real snaps... to save specific points in time.

I have also contacted my guy to get some kind of ruling on whether it works with ESXi. Not sure that it's any better solution than the others you mention, but we are very pleased with it.
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
OK...so it's a 'traditional' backup method...probably with some slightly different functionality that is vendor-specific. It doesn't back up the VM FILES (VMDKs, VMX, etc.). That is what the poster is inquiring about. Please do share what your sales/support guys say. I'm awaiting contact as well...

~c
Top Expert 2010
Commented:
Just got verification...doesn't work. Again...let me reiterate...the actual VM files (files within the VM directory) are locked such that no VM b/u solution will work with the *free* version of ESXi. DT does have a guest OS-based solution, and does do block-level replication, but when you lift up the hood so to speak, it's still just like a traditional b/u solution. They do have VM file b/u capability, like Veeam/vRanger, for ESX and *paid* version of ESXi.

~coolsport00
Agree.  Talked to my guy and just protecting the WIndows OS with DT backup does work just fine.  The issue comes into play when attempting to restore data to a new VM.  ESX supports that fully.  ESXi does not... without some addons.  Works better in ESXi 4.  So yes, backup is possible, probably not be any better than other solutions you have offered. And to get full functionality of DT, as you say, you'd have to have the pay version with some minimum level of version or full ESX.

Author

Commented:
Ok, sorry it took so long. I finally got a backup of the vm via the datastore copy method. I have copied this vm to a different datastore, but it does not show up in the left tree view as a 'powered off' VM. How do I mount the newly copied VM? Note, i have the entire VM folder with all VM files that were in the datastore in it, so basically a full backup of the VM's folder in the data store.
Top Expert 2010
Commented:
Zquestioner...fyi...asking multiple questions in a single post is not allowed on EE. I will answer your quest, but please remember for future. To re-add your vm to inventory, simply browse to the vm folder on the datastore while logged in with the client, right-click on .vmx file & add to inventory.

~coolsport00

Author

Commented:
Thanks everyone!