System imaging solutions have been around for years, and many of them are very good. But there was always a big problem with system imaging for backup purposes before the virtualization paradigm shift; what if you have to restore to different hardware? The good imaging solutions had answers for this, but I just never felt 100% confident that a boot CD and in-place upgrade procedure were going to work in a real emergency. So VCB has a real advantage going for it, by virtualizing your servers, restorations are no longer an issue, as a VM gets the same virtual hardware no matter what the underlying platform is.
When VCB came out, I was working in an environment with some really old and scary servers. You know the ones, beige with maroon accents, look like the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The previous admin had built some of them with 4 GB system partitions, and some were even set up without RAID. Basically your worst nightmare waiting to happen, but a great way to sell your boss on a virtualization purchase!
Because these servers were so critical to the business, getting VCB up and running was the first priority, VMotion and gang would have to wait. So what a bummer it was to find that VMware had really just released VCB as a couple of command line applications, and expected you to work it out with your own backup vendor as to how to actually use it. Our vendor didn't have VCB integration yet, so I immediately set out to write my own wrapper and scheduler for VCB. A few weeks later VCB Wrangler was born, and it has been running VM backups in that environment for almost a year now.
If you are looking for a free VCB solution that you could even customize yourself, VCB Wrangler could be the perfect thing, but only in certain environments.
Good environments for VCB Wrangler:
- VMs with smallish system partitions (60 GB or less)
- VMs on local SCSI, iSCSI or Fibre Channel SANs
- VMs with large data partitions are using virtual storage adapters (virtual NICS homed in the iSCSI network) or RDM to directly access SAN storage
- Backup software is handling incremental backups of large user data stores
- VMs have really large virtual disks
- VMs are hosted from NFS storage (VCB does not currently support direct-from-SAN backup with NFS)
- You need incremental system imaging
VCB Wrangler utilizes the VMware Consolidated Backup command line application vcbMounter.exe to schedule and manage bare-metal server backups. The VCB API is built into VMware Infrastructure 3, and does not require additional agent installations in the virtual machines. VCB is capable of backing up a VM with any operating system installed, and does not require VMware Tools be installed inside the VM. Using VCB Wrangler to capture complete hard drive images of VMs provides a free system imaging solution for VI3.
+ Easy configuration using an XML file
+ Simple per-VM scheduling from one configuration file
+ Direct from SAN and over the network backup modes supported
+ Runs in scheduled task batch mode or interactive single backup mode from the same VBScript
+ Sends an email with details on each virtual machine backed up
+ Able to use passthrough authentication eliminating the need to store any passwords in files
+ Safely renames existing VCB images during backups and restores them if a backup operation fails, ensuring good images remain on disk
+ Written in VBScript and does not require anything be installed on the VCB proxy server
+ Freely customizable to meet the needs of any environment
If it sounds interesting, check out the VCB Wrangler SourceForge site, http://sourceforge.net/projects/vcb-wrangler/