Essential Information About VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB)

Posted on January 8, 2009 by David Davis in VMware with 0 Comments

As part of VMware Infrastructure (VI), VMware includes VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). This product is used to backup VMware ESX Virtual Servers. For those of you who are dealing with the challenge of backing up VMware ESX virtual machines, this article is for you. So why would you want to use VCB? What can it do for you? And what do you need to know about it? Let’s find out…

What is VCB?

As I said, VCB is used to help you backup your VMware ESX virtual servers. Essentially, VCB is a “backup proxy server”. It is not backup software. If you use VCB, you still need backup software. It is commonly installed on its own dedicated Windows physical server (not a virtual server). VCB is included in VMware’s virtual infrastructure enterprise edition or you can buy it separately for $500.

What will VCB do for me?

Here are the benefits of VMware’s VCB:

  • Centralize backups of VMware ESX Virtual Servers
  • Provide file-level backups of VMware ESX Virtual Servers – both full and incremental (file level backup available to only Windows guests)
  • Provide image-level backups
  • Prevent you from having to load a backup agent on every Virtual Machine
  • Prevent you from having to shutdown Virtual Machines to get a backup
  • Provides LAN-Free backup because the VCB server is connected to the SAN through your fibre channel adaptor
  • Provides centralized storage of Virtual Server backups on the VCB server, that is then moved to your backup tapes through the 3rd party backup agent you install
  • Reduces the load on the VMware ESX servers by not having to load a 3rd party backup agent on either the VMware ESX service console or on each virtual machine.
  • Utilizes VMware Snapshots

Basically, here is how VCB works:

  • If you are doing a file level backup, VCB does a snapshot of the VM, mounts the snapshot, and allows you to backup that mounted “drive” through VCB to your 3rd party backup software
  • If you are doing an image level backup of the VM, VCB does a snapshot of the VM, copies the snapshot to the VCB server, unsnaps the VM, and allows you to backup the copied snapshot image with your 3rd party backup software.

VCB is certainly a unique product however it is still in its 1.x version. Because of that, it isn’t very intuitive and has a way to go in providing all the features that could really be utilized for backing up virtual servers. There are also trade offs between running a 3rd party backup agent in the ESX host or the ESX guests when compared to using VCB. Still there are room for other third party virtualization backup products like Vizioncore’s esxRanger. Even with VCB, you still may opt to use esxRanger.

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For more information on VMware’s VCB, see the homepage for this product on the Web: VCB Overview.

You can also find a couple of very nice videos on VCB and VMware Infrastructure at the following links:

Summary

The ability to manage VMware virtual machines using the built-in VMware VNC server is a little known feature that could be helpful to many of you out there. This feature is easy to turn on and can even provide access to the VM without the OS booted. Disadvantages include that the VM must be powered on, basic security, and the inconvenience of having to use a different port for each VM. Overall, this is a very cool feature that all VMware Server users should know about. Even if you choose not to enable this feature today, keep it in your toolbox because you never know when you will need it.

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