Reliability of USB Passthru Setup in VMWare Server (DELL PowerEdge T320)

Hi,
 
 I have a virtual machine running SBS2011 in VMWare ESXi Host and I run Windows Server Backup in SBS2011.
 In the past, I have backed up to Shared folder on the network ("\\BackupPC\SBSBackupFolder").
 Two issues with this: (1) It is a new complete backup every time. There is no incremental backup  (2) It is taking too long.
 So I like to do two things.
 (1) I like to hook up External USB 3.0 hard drives to VMWare Server to cut down on backup time. Not only I do Windows Server backup, I run other backup jobs. Therefore I need to keep about 2 or 3 Ext. USB HDs attached to the host. Do you see any problems with myidea of attaching multiple ext. USB HDs via USB pass thru (in VM Settings)?
 (2) DELL Poweredge T320 server came with USB 2.0. I like to add USB 3.0 PCI card to save time in multiple backup jobs. Is that a good idea to add USB 3.0 PCI card to this server? Any particular brand that you recommend?

Thanks.
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sgleeAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Lots of issues USB pass through may not support your USB external disks!

Just because your Server host has USB ports and USB pass through does not mean all USB devices are supported and on the USB HCL

I would recommend the use of PCI passthrough and then passthrough the entire USB controller to VM

And then you will get full USB io and not virtual io which is slow and may not be supported or work
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
Adding USB Controller to VM@Andrew,
"I would recommend the use of PCI passthrough and then passthrough the entire USB controller to VM" --> Is this what you are referring to?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No, that's USB Passthrough which is rubbish!

It was only designed to support dongles and hardware keys.

A better solution is to backup across the network, to a network device, e.g. CIFS/Windows Share.

Have a read about how rubbish USB Passthrough is here

HOW TO: Add and Connect a USB Device to a Virtual Machine, hosted on VMware vSphere Hypervisor ESX 4.1 ESXi 4.1, ESXi 5.0

https://www.experts-exchange.com/discussions/209901/VMware-Support-Test-for-USB-Passthrough-issue.html

So in Answer to this

Reliability of USB Passthru Setup in VMWare Server (DELL PowerEdge T320)

POOR.

You could look at USB Anywhere, or Fabultech but to be honest with you for backup use to external hard drives - this is going to be very slow, and hence why you need to research a network solution for backup.
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
Andrew,
 I read an article and thank you.
 Putting that aside, have you experienced something bad personally when you attached ext. USB HDs to the VMWare host directly to do what I intend to do?
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
YES, YES YES and YES, and YES

We don't do it, it does not work, performance is poor, and cowboys do it, it's not supported, your USB external hard disks, may not be detected....

anything else you would like answering ?

ESXi was never designed to have USB external hard disks hanging off it in the Datacentre!

What we do for clients, and advise them to do, is

1. Purchase a VMware VM Backup software product.

12 commercial software backup products for VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) you should be evaluating today

2. If you really do need to backup this way, Network Backup.
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
I hear you.
"A better solution is to backup across the network, to a network device, e.g. CIFS/Windows Share." --> can you name a couple of products that you have used and worked well?
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pgm554Commented:
You will also run into the issue of 4K USB drives not being supported by the windows built in backup.

Here's one more gotchaz,unless you have the paid for Vmware ESX ,you will get lousy throughput with any 3rd party backup.

Anyway you look at it ,it will cost you $$ for a reliable fast backup for VM's.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
Western Digital have many Cloud Devices, which are effectively a hard drive with a NAS attached.

Synology NAS a little more money.

Qnap/Thecus.
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pgm554Commented:
How many VM's do you have on that box anyway?
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
How many VM's do you have on that box anyway? --> 4 VMs. Three of them is not important. But one VM runs SBS2011 and it keeps a big database software that takes a long time to backup evert night. I like to do local Windows server backup because it is the best way to restore when the server crashes. At this point, I can only store Window Server Backup off the shared drive on the network and can't do incremental backup which sucks.
Then I have to run VM backup using NAKIVO and that takes time.
So overall I need to find the solution to do three types of backup daily at night and each takes a long time.
If I can let SBS2011 VM see local USB HDs (USB 3.0 drives thru USB 3.0 PCIe card), then I can run all those backups fast and everyday.
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
@Andrew,
  What do you think about this idea?
  If I add a 4TB HD to existing RAID controller in VMWare host, can I create new datastore for this new 4TB HD and make it appear as like "E" drive as if it locally attached? If I can do that, my Windows server backup as well as other backup programs will see it as local drive.
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pgm554Commented:
Are you using the paid for version of Vmware?
The backup API makes all the difference in the world for quick backups and restores.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You can create a new datastore. and you could create a new virutal disk, and store on this virtual disks.

However, we always like our VM backups stored on storage which is not part of the server the VM is hosted on!

if the server fails, you have no access to the backup or VMs to restore.

He would not be able to use Nakivo, if he was using the ESXi FREE version.
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sgleeAuthor Commented:
"we always like our VM backups stored on storage which is not part of the server the VM is hosted on!" --> I agree.
"He would not be able to use Nakivo, if he was using the ESXi FREE version" --> actually NAKIVO can backup VMs on Free version of ESXi. The only thing is that it can't use CBT function.

I get this message in Nakivo.
"CBT cannot be enabled for the "PC1" VM. VMware CBT cannot be enabled automatically in VMs that run on Free ESXi. Backup will be performed using proprietary change tracking technology."
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
In that case purchase Essentials for $700 and this will enable Change Block Tracking and enable Faster Backups, and then no need for a poor man's solution.

You are not taking advantage of one of the most efficient backup functions, VM backup like you are doing, is dark ages backup, just copying file and folders, and restores will also take longer.

Then spend the money, on a new NAS, you can then install Nakivo on the NAS, and have an all in one Backup Appliance, Backup Software and Backup Store in one place.

from Anton Gostev from Veeam on CBT:

In essence, CBT is all about CTK files, these are the files which contain change tracking information of the corresponding VMDK file.

The concept is pretty simple, and if you are familiar with AD DirSync control, or Exchange ICS (public folders change tracking) – it is essentially the same: global USN (Update Sequence Number) for each object. CTK file describes the state of each block for tracking purposes, and contain USN for each block in the corresponding VMDK. After any block is updated, it is assigned the new global USN (which is previous USN value that was used on previously processed block plus 1). This way, any application can ask VMware API “tell me if this block was changed since THIS moment”, and the API will easily tell that by simply comparing the provided sequence number with the actual USN on each block. If provided USN is smaller than actual for particular block, it means that the block was changed (and needs to be backed up, replicated or otherwise processed). So multiple processes cannot conflict with each other anyhow. Each process just memorizes the USN corresponding to the snapshot that the application created during processing, and next time it will use the memorized USN to query for changed blocks.

There should be one CTK file per VMDK file, and CTK file cannot grow out of proportion with number of blocks in VMDK (as it stores only 1 record per VMDK block). CTK file is also thousands time smaller than actual VMDK, because it stores only a few bytes of information (USN) for each corresponding 256KB VMDK block (I am 90% sure it is 256KB, used to calculate it once using CTK debug/stats data, just don’t remember for sure – unimportant info escapes my head automatically to prevent overload with useless facts ;) . For the same reasons, I/O overhead is barely noticeable with CBT: change few extra bytes to write for each 256000 bytes of data.

The CTK files are permanent, and should not be deleted after backup/replication.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
do you require any additional help to close this question and select a solution ?
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