VMware vSphere replication and data protection upgrades in Version 5

Podcast: vSphere replication and data protection upgrades include integration of Storage vMotion with backup functions, vendor-agnostic replication, automated failback and planned-migration.

vSphere replication and data protection capabilities have been significantly upgraded in vSphere 5, which was released in September. Now the VMware virtual machine environment supports a range of new data protection features built on a bigger file system in VMFS and improvements to Storage vMotion.

In this interview, SearchStorage.co.UK Bureau Chief Antony Adshead speaks with Chris Evans, an independent consultant with Langton Blue, about the changes to VMware vSphere 5 that have helped improve its replication and data protection features.

Read the transcript or listen to the podcast on vSphere 5 replication and data protection upgrades.

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vSphere 5 replication and data protection upgrades

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SearchStorage.co.UK: What are the key storage upgrades in vSphere 5 that bear upon its data protection capabilities?

Evans: Let’s start with some of the [storage enhancements] we’ve seen with vSphere 5. There are a couple of things I’d like to talk about first of all, and one of those is the fact that we’ve now moved in VMFS from Version 3 to Version 5. … VMFS is the file format that sits on block storage for vSphere. This has been extended, with a lot higher scalability, up to 64 TB, and has also been extended to have thin provisioning built in to integrate with storage array providers that have thin provisioning technology.

So, as you can imagine, from a data protection perspective, you can now have bigger VMFS file systems [that allow] you to put more of your data together in a consistent format and you can also now thin provision that and take out all the blocks of data you don’t need and have that proper interaction between the software and the array itself.

One other thing I’d like to touch on very quickly is Storage vMotion. A lot of changes have been made to Storage vMotion [that have] been done to integrate that feature with other features, such as VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup) and the backup interfaces and the way snapshots and clones are used so you can replicate something that’s using a snapshot or a clone. So, Storage vMotion has been improved dramatically as well.

Part of the way that’s been achieved is an architectural change, which has introduced something called a “mirror driver” so that when a virtual machine host is being replicated, the updates for that host are replicated to the source and the target disk environments so you get much better performance on replication.

SearchStorage.co.UK: What are the main data protection enhancements in vSphere 5?

Evans: As you’re probably aware, when we say vSphere we don’t necessarily mean purely ESXi. vSphere encompasses a number of products in the family, one of which is Site Recovery Manager, and we’ve seen a lot of enhancements go into that.

Another feature that’s been brought out is called vSphere replication, and this allows host-based replication of individual VMs. It means you don’t have to have replication from an array perspective, although that is supported, but if you haven’t got [storage] vendor-based replication in your environment, this allows you to replicate virtual machines between sites and to do it vendor-agnostically. So, for instance, if you had Vendor X at one site and you’re replicating to a data store at another location provided by Vendor Y, then they don’t have to be compatible. Effectively, it moves the replication up the stack.

Now, as part of that they’ve added a couple of things that are quite useful. One of those is automated failback. So, you can imagine if you’re doing a failover, one of the things you may want to do at some stage is to fail back. You don’t want to be sitting there thinking, “I’ve failed over; how do I fail my environment back when I’ve had a disaster or done a migration?” So, now you can do automated failback to the original site.

Another thing they’ve added in there is the ability to do planned migrations. So, rather than go in and do it on a manual basis, you can plan it ahead and build a workflow and do the migration in a controlled fashion. Obviously, now you can fail that back as well.

So, we’ve seen a lot of enhancements in [Site Recovery Manager] 5 to improve the availability features of the product.

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