VM Backup and Restore Times Reduced By 90%

Protecting the fast-growing student and administrative data for Santa Barbara City College became more complex and expensive as the IT staff used VMware to virtualize their servers.

Virtual Logjam

“We virtualized as much of our server infrastructure as we could,” explains Brandon Lovelace, network administrator, “but the more we virtualized… the harder the backup got and the more problems we had.”

The IT team started out using VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) but needed to customize the environment to get the data protected. “It was a mess,” Lovelace says. “We wrote scripts, spooled data to disk, and then used NetBackup to send that data to tape… It was way too complex.” Full weekly backups were taking two to three days to complete, much too slow for daily incrementals, and restores were a major bottleneck. “If a lost file had already been moved to off-site storage, there was an automatic delay of 24 hours while we retrieved the tapes, and it could take hours to restore the VM,” Lovelace reports.

Quantum Provides Right Combination of Performance, Economy, and Support

“We talked to our all of our current providers and everybody else we could think of to find a solution,” says Lovelace. Finally, the College selected two Quantum products: vmPRO data protection software and two DXi deduplication appliances. “The Quantum system had all the features we wanted, it was the most cost-effective solution we saw, and we had confidence in Quantum as a supplier that understood backup, and was in the business for the long haul,” says Lovelace.

Now all the VMs are backed up by vmPRO software and written directly to a DXi appliance in the school’s main data center. Physical servers are backed up by NetBackup to the same DXi. Every day, all the backups are replicated to the second DXi appliance, located in a remote data center.

Reduces Backup Window by 90%

“Those two- to three-day long weekly backups now all finish in 4 to 6 hours—so we’ve seen a 90% reduction in our backup window,” reports Lovelace. “And the vmPRO software tracks and snaps just the changed blocks, letting us do daily incrementals for everything. It’s the way VMs should be backed up.”

With the DXi’s patented variable-length deduplication, a full six-month cycle of backup data can be retained on disk cost-effectively enough for the College’s tight budget. Off-site protection is also handled more efficiently; each day the primary DXi automatically replicates all the backup changes to the second unit.

Restores Take Minutes not Days

Further, because vmPRO creates copies of VMs in their native format, the new system provides much faster file-level access. The IT team can restore or boot VMs quickly without using a separate backup application.

“Restoring files inside VMs used to be delayed by at least one day and take hours of my time. Now, with vmPRO and the DXi, it just takes me a few minutes once I’ve found the file I want—it’s great,” says Lovelace. “With this kind of backup and restore performance, when we get to our goal of 100% virtualization, vmPRO will be the only backup software we need.”