Disk to Disk to Cloud Protection of Hyper-V Virtual Machines

Microsoft has started offering Online Backup of Hyper-V Virtual Machines to Windows Azure using System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1. In this blog I will explain how to set this up and I can assure you this is absolutely no rocket science.

First of all you need to register for an account to get access to Windows Azure Online Backup Preview. The registration process will not ask you for a credit card and offers you 300GB for the limited time of 6 months to test with. Well that sounded like an offer I couldn’t refuse.

image

The best way to start this process is to select the Management work pane from the DPM 2012 SP1 Administrator Console. When you are registered you can click on Manage Subscriptions from the Ribbon in DPM. It will ask you to login with your newly created [name]@[domain].onmicrosoft.com account.

image

After sign in you arrive at the Windows Azure Online Backup portal. Click on the Setup menu, download and install the Window Azure Online Backup Agent for Windows Server 2012. Note there is a special module for Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

image

image

Under the service health menu you can find up-time information of the Windows Azure Online Backup service in different parts of the world.

image

The next step is to Register your DPM server, which again is done from the Ribbon in the Management work pane of the DPM Administrator Console.

image

Use the credentials you used for registering Windows Azure Online Backup.

image

You can add a proxy server if that is how you connect to the Internet. Click Next to continue.

image

If you want to prevent Online Backup eating up your network bandwidth you can set throttling for backup operations.

image

It is required that you define a staging folder for recovery purposes. This is a temporary location that is automatically cleaned up after recovery. For example, if you want to recover up to 10 virtual machine backups (from online protection) in parallel and the size of each VM backup can be up to 100GB, select folder which can hold 1000GB of data.

image

Click on the Generate passphrase button or create one yourself. This passphrase is used for encrypting the backup and to make sure that no one else can get access to your virtual machine backups. Of course the passphrase shown below is only an example.

image

Click on Register to register the DPM server with Windows Online Backup. Click Close when the registration has completed successfully.

image

You are now ready to create or modify your DPM Protection Group to enable online backup. If you already use System Center Data Protection Manager, the next steps will be very familiar. I must say Windows Azure Online backup is very tightly integrated with DPM 2012 SP1.

image

Specifically for Online backup there are two additional pages  targeted at defining Online Protection in the New/Modify Protection Group wizard:

On the Specify Online Protection Data page, you can specify which virtual machines need online protection.

image

On the Specify Online Protection Goals page, you can set a maximum retention time of 30 days (which is the current limit for the preview) and you can synchronize twice per day. You can choose a daily or a weekly interval. Online backup requires that you have at least one online recovery point available using the latest DPM replica on disk.

image

Finally create or update your protection group.

image

After this DPM is ready to update the policies for the protection group. In this example the protection policy states that online backups of the Hyper-V virtual machines start at 9.00PM. If you want quicker results and test if things work properly, you can use the standard DPM technique to manually create a recovery point.

image

Select Online protection to make sure your recovery point is written to Windows Azure.

image

image

I could verify that Online Backup actually took no more than 5Mbps during working hours by looking at the network performance counters in Task Manager.

image

It will take some patience before I can restore my VM because at a pace of 5 Mbps, it takes a couple of hours to backup those Hyper-V guests. In practice this means you need a fast Internet connection to really make this work.

Oddly enough, when I wanted to modify throttling for online backups, I couldn’t immediately find an option to do this. After tracing the steps I took to get here, I concluded I had to use the Register Server Wizard again to make changes to the throttling settings.

The Online section of the Management work pane will show you your storage quota and how much you have consumed from the Azure cloud service.

image

Here is a method to get some more details about the settings of the Protection Group using PowerShell:

$pg = Get-ProtectionGroup –DPMServername [Name DPM Server]
$pg

# Since we are interested in the Hyper-V Virtual Machines protection group,
# we need the first item in the array which is $pg[0]

$pg[0[ | fl

As you can see just using | fl does not reveal all that much.

image

But adding a * behind the format-list command opens up all available information.

image

In conclusion, I am very happy with the tight integration of Windows Azure Online Backup and System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1. There was really nothing that surprised me because all familiar DPM user interface and procedures are used.

If you are looking for an interesting offline backup method without having to resort to tape, this might be just it. It will save you the expense of buying and managing a second DPM server and tape library, not to mention hiring space in another datacenter. Apart from a Capex reduction you will also benefit from an Opex reduction. Microsoft will run your online backups without ever having to deal with hardware or software.

Of course 30 days is not really enough for a long-term backup strategy, but it is only a matter of time when these limits are lifted.

I’d say … bye bye tape library, bye bye tape!

image

In about one hour I was able to transfer over 2GB of data. The important question is how much data is transferred after the first initial backup. Will Online backup start all over again, or just synchronize the delta as DPM 2012 SP1 now does with Hyper-V standalone and clustered servers (including Cluster Shared Volumes v2) as you can see here:

image

Stay tuned!

3 Comments

  1. September 12, 2012    

    Hans, great article. It’s no surprise Microsoft is pushing its own hosting services through its own backup solution DPM; however, we found several issues with this process. First, control. Do you really want Microsoft to be able to access your data? Even if you encrypt, you can never be certain that your sensitive info can’t be accessed.
    Second, cost. Azure isn’t the cheapest hosting out there. It’s true that there are other hosting companies out there, too, but still cost is an issue since VMs aren’t lightweight.
    Third restore time. As you mentioned, 5 Mbps is going to take a while when you need to bring the machine back to the office.
    But there are other solutions out there. For example, you could link your offices together. If they are close enough you can use external drives to copy and bring everything back to the original location. That way you also avoid expensive hosting costs which would go on forever. Naturally you still need good internet upload bandwidth to set something up like this.

    • adminHans's Gravatar adminHans
      September 12, 2012    

      Thank you for your reaction.
      As to your first point this might be an issue for customers outside of the USA, but encryption may help the trust issue.
      Second, price I don’t know. I looked at the technical details and I like them.
      Your third point is likely to be addresses by Hyper-V Replic which can not only take advantage of another business location, but also a hosting provider’s location

      Thanks, Hans

  2. November 28, 2013    

    I’m interested as to whether DPM allows the use of cloud backup providers. From what I can see only Azure is supported.
    Do you know anything around this?

    Dan

  1. Windows Azure Community News Roundup (Edition #36) - Windows Azure - Site Home - MSDN Blogs on September 14, 2012 at 18:25
  2. Windows Azure Community News Roundup (Edition #36) - Windows Azure Blog on September 14, 2012 at 19:02
  3. Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 9/13/2012+ - Windows Azure Blog on September 14, 2012 at 19:10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code class="" title="" data-url=""> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <pre class="" title="" data-url=""> <span class="" title="" data-url="">