Quest vRanger: VMware vSphere 5 Integration

There’s no doubt about it: vSphere 5 is a game-changer. With the improvements made to vSphere 5, VMware has made it easier to virtualize more of your production environment. Yet increasing virtualization places greater demands and challenges on data protection processes, including your ability to efficiently and economically protect a rapidly growing amount of virtual machine data, and your ability to quickly restore critical business services after catastrophic failures such as losing a LUN where multiple virtual machines reside or losing a virtual machine that won’t boot successfully after a change was made.

Quest vRanger is built and optimized to provide a highly efficient, straightforward, and cost-effective data protection experience for vSphere 5 environments. It features extensive support and seamless integration with vSphere for rapid recovery of critical data. In this blog, we’ll explore how vRanger delivers the seamless integration experience customers want and need.

VMware Ready

vRanger is VMware Ready™ certified for vSphere 5, which means it has undergone and passed rigorous testing by VMware to ensure compatibility and support for vSphere 5. This significant investment is crucial to enable vRanger to provide a continuous, standardized data protection process as you upgrade to vSphere 5, and continue to virtualize more of your production environment.

VMware VMFS and VMDK Files

The VMware Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) is a high performance, scalable clustered file system that leverages shared storage so that multiple vSphere hosts can concurrently read and write to the same storage. VMFS establishes the foundation for VMware’s virtual environment, and VMFS-5 includes upgrades designed to significantly increase scalability.

vRanger follows best practices by supporting VMFS-5, meaning you can continue to protect your virtual environment when upgrading to vSphere 5. vRanger also includes its own scalable and high performance engine with a resource manager that allows you to define the maximum number of tasks allowed to run concurrently on a vRanger server, off a LUN, on a host, or off a repository. This flexibility allows you to dial vRanger’s performance up or down in accordance with available resources and bandwidth to optimize job results.

VMware virtual machine disk files, formatted in the virtual machine disk (VMDK) format, describe the entire virtual machine environment and are stored on VMFS volumes. VMDK files are the most critical component protected by vRanger through backup and replication. Backing up VMDK files with vRanger enables you to locate and restore individual files contained within the virtual machine or the entire virtual machine itself at high speed and with very little effort.

VMware APIs

vRanger exploits a full range of VMware APIs to provide seamless integration with vSphere 5, enabling it to deliver highly optimized, efficient, and effective data protection services for virtual environments.

One of the most important integration points for vRanger is the VMware vSphere Storage APIs – Data Protection (VADP). vRanger integrates with VADP-5, as well as back-level VADP, ensuring uninterrupted data protection services as you upgrade to vSphere 5.

VADP is a collection of APIs that enable vRanger to manage and manipulate VMDK files without agents, including:

  • Gaining block-level access to VMDK files from virtual machines running supported Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems
  • Gaining access to internal host data paths
  • Performing full, incremental, or differential backups
  • Using Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) for virtual machines running supported Microsoft Windows operating systems to ensure data consistency
  • Leveraging Change Block Tracking (CBT) which presents only the blocks that have changed since the last backup to vRanger, to help reduce backup storage requirements

In addition to CBT, vRanger provides a patented Active Block Mapping (ABM) technology, which together with CBT, can reduce the backup footprint by up to 33% without extending job windows or adding resource overhead to the production environment. ABM enables vRanger to skip zeroed and deleted blocks, so protected data includes only changed blocks with active data. When enabled, ABM applies to all backup jobs, while CBT applies to incremental and differential backups.

vRanger also provides enterprise-class data deduplication through NetVault SmartDisk – vRanger Edition (NVSD – vRanger Edition), an optional, software-based deduplication engine. After applying CBT and ABM, protected virtual machine data can be streamed to the NVSD – vRanger Edition repository for deduplication. This implementation completely offloads the resource-intensive deduplication process from both your production host and vRanger environments.

vRanger also utilizes available VMware web services to be able to query the vSphere server and individual hosts. This makes it simple to select which virtual machines to protect in each job, including the ability to select groups of virtual machines associated with all vCenter objects or with specific datacenters, clusters, hosts, resource pools, or your own custom groups.

VMware Data Transport Modes

This extensive integration with vSphere 5 not only means that vRanger delivers a simple, intuitive, and highly effective data protection experience, it also means that vRanger can utilize the full range of VMware transport modes available.

VMware transport modes include two advanced modes, SAN and Hot Add transports, and LAN transport. vRanger provides added insurance by allowing you to configure backups that utilize primary and secondary transport modes. In the event the primary transport fails, vRanger can fail over to the secondary transport ensuring jobs will complete. The primary transport modes will be one of the advanced transport modes, when they’re available, and the secondary transport mode will be LAN. If neither of the advanced transports are available, LAN will be the only transport mode.

SAN Transport

The SAN transport mode involves vRanger gathering information about the VMFS LUNs to read directly from the fibre SAN or iSCSI LUN where the virtual disk files are stored. SAN transport only works when vRanger is installed on a physical machine and has access to fibre channel or iSCSI SAN storing the virtual disks being protected. In this case, backup data is transferred over the production network.

Hot Add Transport

The Hot Add transport mode involves an SCSI Hot Add on the host where vRanger is running. vRanger must be installed in a virtual machine to leverage Hot Add transport. In addition, Hot Add only works for backing up virtual machines with SCSI disks, and not IDE disks. Hot Add works with storage area networks (SAN) or local storage (provided requisite Hot Add conditions are met), without using the LAN.

LAN Transport

The LAN transport mode involves vRanger backing up virtual machines via the host over the network using a network block device (NBD) driver. LAN transport is necessary when vRanger cannot directly access the virtual machine disks. This transport method adds backup and restore traffic to the LAN, but does work with any storage device including local or NAS.

Robust Support for vSphere 5

As you can see, vRanger provides robust, best-in-class support and integration for vSphere 5. This lays the foundation for a highly effective and efficient data protection process for your virtualized environment. In a follow-up blog, we’ll explore vRanger architecture options for backing up vSphere 5 environments.