Protecting the VMware environment has its own unique set of data protection challenges. There are basically three ways to protect VMware: the guest OS method, the console backup method and the VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) method. The guest OS method treats each virtual machine as a standalone server and backups take place as usual as if the virtual is physical server. The second practice is the console backup practice, in which virtualisation administrators back up the VMware ESX Server with no regard of the underlying virtual machines in the ESX environment. (There is a “free” product, ESXi, but it has no console, and requires add-ons to manage.)
VCB Backup requires VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) and initially SAN attached disk (iSCSI or Fibre Chanel) but now supports VMFS with local, JBOD, iSCSI and Fibre-Channel-attached disk, network file system (NFS) and virtual compatibility mode raw device mapping (RDM). The only mode not currently supported is physical compatibility mode RDM, together with a dedicated Windows Server 2003 acts as the backup proxy. You then install the VCB software on the Windows Server and provide access to the same SAN Logical Unit Number (LUN) used for the VMware Virtual Disk Files.
The Symantec Backup Exec 12.5 Agent for VMware Virtual Infrastructure (AVVI) is specifically related to the VMware Consolidated Backup framework and is designed and built to communicate directly with VMware ESX and VirtualCenter.VCB was originally introduced in 2006 as nothing more than a collection of interfaces and utilities that backup vendors could exploit. Since then VCB itself and backup vendor support has expanded considerably. The many different code levels for both VCB and backup applications have caused considerable confusion around what environments are supported and what VCB is today.
It is best to think of VCB as a backup framework with a collection of VMware utilities that facilitates backups. Today VCB utilises standard backup products together with snapshot capabilities. It uses command line interface (CLI) capabilities in VMware to take a VM snapshot of Windows-based VMs to offload a copy of the data for the backup product which Backup Exec then mounts and backs up.
Effectively, VCB provides a centralised backup facility that enables you to use Backup Exec to protect system, application, and user data in your virtual machines while reducing the load on virtualised servers. This allows you to backup your virtual machines without disrupting users and applications. So, VCB provides a way to do server-free and LAN-free backup and VM snapshots can be NFS mounted for quicker recovery and GRT as well as centrally manage backups to simplify management of IT resources.
Cool so far?
If you are not using VCB you do not need the BE 12.5 AVVI. Most organisations not using VCB are likely to be using ESXi. Although ESXi is free, there is no service console anymore. So you can’t use local agents on your ESXi host. Everything needs to be able to communicate with the VI API or any other remote connect method to gather information – not so cool.
So, the bottom line is AVVI is only needed when there is a VCB framework around the Virtual infrastructure.
VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) family includes: VMware ESX, VirtualCenter, VCB, VMware Converter & VMotion. Backup Exec 12.5’s Agent for VMware Virtual Infrastructure (AVVI) can leverage all of these components of VMware VI3 to automatically discover, protect, and recover virtual machines and their data. All Guest virtual machines (VM’s) hosted by V3I, including Windows and Linux virtual machines, can be protected using Backup Exec’s AVVI integrated support of VCB.