Connecting Tape Drive to VM

We are testing some new backup software running on a virtual machine. I am hoping that somehow I can still use our SCSI tape drive with this VM.

I understand that I can connect the tape drive to one of the ESX hosts and use it that way, but it is my understanding that the VM must stay on the host where the tape drive is connected, correct? So this won't help me because we need the VM to be able to vMotion without losing its connection.

We already have devices that allow us to connect USB devices and serial port devices to virtual machines over an IP connection. I think what I need is an iSCSI bridge, but I want to be sure I am on the right track and if anyone can recommend any particular brand of hardware.
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Brian BEE Topic Advisor, Independant Technology ProfessionalAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Firstly, tape drives connected to the ESXi Host are NOT Supported by VMware.

Note: As per the vSphere 5.x Release Notes, VMware does not support Tape Drives connected directly to ESXi 5.x

Source

kb.vmware.com/kb/1016407

This does not mean it cannot be done, but there are specific vendor recommendations, on how to get a tape drive to work in a VM.

1. First you must purchase a SCSI HBA, not a RAID card, just a plain simple SCSI HBA, e.g. Adaptec is recommended.

2. This PC Card is then added to the VM, using VM Direct Path I/O

see this example of adding a USB interface to a VM

http://www.vm-help.com/esx40i/VMDirectPath/USB_Setup.php

3. Once you have completed this, it behaves exactly like a physical computer.

You are correct you will not be able to vMotion, the above is the recommended solution by Overland and Symantec, any other method connection causes issues.

If you want to continue using Tape, you can try and attach via iSCSI if supported by your vendors units, and use Microsoft iSCSI initiator in the VM.

Since 2004, we have been working with our clients to drop tape support in favour of disk based backup solutions, and SAN snapshots.
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Brian BEE Topic Advisor, Independant Technology ProfessionalAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the info. As I said directly connecting the tape drive to the ESX box won't help me, we need vMotion. Unfortunately, tape backup is still part of the DR plan until the new plan is approved. The alternative will be running backups on a physical server until we can get the go ahead to stop using backup to tape.

I found a couple of solutions that claim to be what I'm looking for (Paralan, Chelsio), but am looking to hear from people who actually have one of these bridges in operation to hear how they worked out.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
We use Fibre to tape bridges, and iSCSI CDROM bridges to VMs, they all work well, but we do not use tape any more.
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Thomas RushCommented:
Suppose you backup to disk, and then use your backup application to copy the backup job from its initial disk target to tape?   Any modern backup application that supports tape can do this.

Because there may be different optimizations depending on the feature set of your backup application, it would be helpful to know what you're using for your backup app.
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Brian BEE Topic Advisor, Independant Technology ProfessionalAuthor Commented:
@SelfGovern,

That is the thing, we are looking for a new backup solution. Probably going with Veeam. At the moment we are using vRanger on a physcial server to capture the VMs and then backing up the repository to tape with Backup Exec on the same server. This is the only physical server left in our environment and we would just like to get rid of it in our new solution. The tape won't be around forever, but we need to work with it for now.
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Brian BEE Topic Advisor, Independant Technology ProfessionalAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the info. I appreciate the advice, just not quite what I was looking for. I hope this doesn't award me points. That's not the intent.
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