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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, VMWare - A little advice please? in Technical; I've recently consolidated some servers running on very old workstation hardware onto a new desktop PC now running as a ...
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    VMWare - A little advice please?

    I've recently consolidated some servers running on very old workstation hardware onto a new desktop PC now running as a server. The new server is running Windows Server 2003 as the host OS and the new FREE VMWare Server. All is working fine.

    We also have a new ReadyNAS NV+ box coming for additional storage and to store the school's cameras images. The thru-put is supposed to be pretty fast on this NAS so would like to either...

    A) Store the VM's on the NAS box

    or

    B) Backup the VM's to the NAS box


    Now after much reading theres alot to do with the subject of NFS and iSCSI etc. Could anyone adise me on what direction to go down?

    How do you all backup VM's?

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by techyphil View Post
    How do you all backup VM's?
    I'm using a completely different system to you, so I can't recommend details. However, I'd point out that you don't necessarily have to store data on your virtual server, your virtual server itself will be perfectly capable of connecting to a shared volume on your NAS device. All you would have to store on your VMWare machine is enough to get the OS to boot and connect to the network share on the NAS.

    To backup your VM images you want to be able to do snapshot imaging on your physical server's file system. That's something to do with shadow copy on Windows - i.e. you want to get the shadow copy utility to take a backup copy of your VM disk images and send them to the NAS server for storage. I don't know if shadow copy handles sparse disk images particularly well, so probably best sticking to full-sized disk images.

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    David Hicks

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    We have been running the whole school on VM-Server on top of Windows 2003 for the last two years, and have experimented with various options as to how to manage the environment....

    Our preferred option is to keep the size of the VM files as small as is possible -just the systems' 'C' drive. The VMs connect using iSCSI to their data drive(s), which we backup using the 'normal' windows backup tools.

    Using the standard commandline management of the VMs we have a schduled entry on the (physical) servers that takes a VM down, copies it VM files locally as a backup, restarts the VM, and then copies and deletes the backup copy of the VM from the local disk to our SAN. This means that the VM is down for a minimum amount of time (we do not care over-much about the time it takes to copy from loal to SAN).

    We have also tried running the VMs directly off the SAN, and have seen no obvious difference in performance while running - but the above backup approach takes longer due to the copy being over the network.

    FYI
    Even though we have been running the above for the last two years, and consider it to have been a success, we have just invested in VI3 (even though Hyper-V is now available).
    I have been getting advice from VMware (their UK HQ is just down the road) - given the size of our data drives their recommendation is for us to have the data within the VM rather than as separate data drives. This is because of the additional functionality for backing up VMs that we will have with VI3.

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    One of my schools use VMware ESX, highly recommended! The only way you can get down time is if something took down the 3 servers or the switches at the same time. I diffidently think virtualisation is the way forward.

    Personally I would Backup the VM's to the NAS box rather than have them stored on the NAS, just incase the NAS goes down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FN-Greatermanchester View Post
    One of my schools use VMware ESX, highly recommended! The only way you can get down time is if something took down the 3 servers or the switches at the same time. I diffidently think virtualisation is the way forward.

    Personally I would Backup the VM's to the NAS box rather than have them stored on the NAS, just incase the NAS goes down.
    We currently don't virtualise (but I plan to change this somewhat) - although I'd agree with the philosophy of 'backing up to' rather than 'storing on'.

    If your NAS fails - you lose the VMs (or their data) if you store it on the NAS, if you back it up TO the NAS, then if the NAS goes down - you only lose the backups for the VM.

    Az

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    If I was to use NTBACKUP, then it uses volume shadow copies... in which case will it enable me to backup without pausing/shutting down the vms?

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    Quote Originally Posted by techyphil View Post
    If I was to use NTBACKUP, then it uses volume shadow copies... in which case will it enable me to backup without pausing/shutting down the vms?
    I want to say 'yes it would' but I don't think I can in all honesty.
    While VSS can snapshot most things while running - to be quite honest I'd rather down the VM itself (if you can) rather than back it up while it's running.

    You can of course restore a running VM - but it may not be too happy when you try to reboot it. Best thing to do is to use NTBACKUP inside the VM itself (as you would a real server) or down the VMs and then use NTBACKUP.

    But it's all up to you - take a plain server VM - load something on it and then see if you can happily NTBACKUP it while it runs or no - that way you don't mess up anything that runs already and you get your answer with your own eyes too.

    But personally - I'd rather drop the VMs as a scheduled task and then back them up.

    Az



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