Storing VMware VM backups in Azure
When implementing a 3-2-1 backup strategy, one backup needs to be stored offsite. In a hybrid cloud environment, offsite will likely be the datacenter of your cloud provider. If you run VMware VMs in an on-premises datacenter and use Azure public cloud services, how can you copy a backup of a VM to Azure? Well, there are multiple solutions but every solution has it pros and cons. In this article we will shortly explain 2 solutions and compare them: Veeam Backup & Recovery 9.5 and Microsoft Backup Server (latest update).
Microsoft Backup Server
Microsoft Backup Server is one of the solutions components Microsoft offers to make backups of VMware VMs and store an Azure Recovery Services vault. The other one is System Center DPM. To use Microsoft Backup Server, you’ll need a live Azure subscription. Downloading and deploying Microsoft Backup Server is guided through the Azure portal. With Microsoft Backup Server you can connect to a local vCenter server and backup VMs. The backup is stored locally on the Backup Server. Unfortunately, deduplication and compression are not supported when you run the Backup Server on a VMware VM. Keep in mind that you’ll need around two times the amount of local storage compared to the amount of data you need to backup.
A copy of the backup can be stored in an Azure Recovery Services Vault. The compression rate of the data in the Recovery Services fault is around 30%. The default replication type is GRS, but for storing a backup copy offsite LRS should be sufficient. The Recovery Services vault uses block blob storage. Block blob storage is blob (object) storage for efficient uploading of large blobs.
Read here how to install the Microsoft Backup Server on a VM running Windows Server 2012 in your datacenter and here how to connect to vCenter and backup a VM. It’s all quite easy.
Veeam Backup & Replication
Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 is part of the Veeam Availability Suite, but is also offered as a separate product. Veeam offers multiple ways to copy and store backup files into Azure. After installing Veeam Backup & Replication, add the VMware vCenter server as a managed server and create a local backup of a VM. You can add an Azure VM as a backup repository (possibly in combination with the WAN accelerator), use the (free) Veeam FAST SCP for Azure or use Veeam Cloud Connect for the Enterprise (in the Azure Marketplace). For the comparison I use Veeam Backup & Replication and add an Azure VM as a backup repository.
Keep in mind that the on-premises backup server will use the admin$ share of the VM in Azure to install and configure the VM to be a backup repository. This also requires to enable File and Printer Sharing. If you’re on-premises backup server is behind a firewall configure all the required TCP and UDP ports and the range of ports used as transmission channels for replication jobs (2500-5000). Also be sure to add these ports to the networking security group where the network interface of the repository server is associated to. This knowledgebase article might help if you have problems connecting to the repository server. To save you from all this trouble, set up a VPN between you’re on-premises network and the network in Azure where the repository server resides.
The backup copies in Azure will be stored on a (SSD or HDD) disk attached to the VM that acts as the backup repository server. Note that these disks can only be 1023GB max, so you might need multiple disks (so chose the right VM size!). Veeam Backup & Replication offers deduplication and compression. This will save a lot of local storage space and also reduces the amount of disk space on the repository server in Azure. In my test environment the deduplication and compression ratio was 3.5 (a backup of a 70GB VM resulted in 20GB required disk space) with the recommended compression level. You can get higher ratio’s, but this will increase the CPU usage.
At this time, it’s not possible to use Azure Blob storage as a repository. Veeam just introduced version 10 and it seems that they are now also going to support Azure Blob storage. Let’s wait for the details.
Having worked with both solutions, choosing the right one for your environment depends on multiple factors. The best way is to make a business case depending on your situation and requirements. The following table quickly summarizes the differences between the 2 solutions:
This article will be updated when Veeam and Azure releases new versions, i.e. Veeam announced a new version of Veeam B&R v10 will be GA soon.