VMware tried to reduce this complexity by providing VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup)-a set of scripts and drivers that allows TSM to centralize backups of VMs on a single proxy server, freeing administrators from having to put a backup agent on each client and server. The script takes a snapshot of the VM server and allows file-level backup as well as full-machine backup."While we had virtual consolidated backup with VMware and Tivoli, the virtual consolidated backup on a proxy server required a lot of hand-holding, syntaxes and other background work I didn't feel comfortable with," she said. To solve this issue and reduce labor costs at the same time, Cooper tried the STORServer Agent for VCB, essentially a front end for VCB and TSM. The tool provides a graphical interface on the proxy server that discovers all the VMs on a network and allows administrators to schedule both file-level and full backups without having to use the command line and scripting. The STORServer Agent allows IT administrators to provide fast disaster recovery services and makes it possible for end users to restore their own files so that a TSM administrator doesn't have to restore a whole VM just to retrieve one file. There are different flavors of STORServer available, from on-premises appliances to bare-bones software that integrates with TSM. Cooper selected the latter for Snohomish PUD No. 1; the package includes reporting capabilities and free online support. According to Cooper, once she downloaded the software to a proxy server, it picked up all the VMs on her network and allowed her to schedule backups by just pointing and clicking. Individual files are backed up for incremental changes every night, and Cooper schedules a full-machine backup once a month for security patches and software updates. Cooper said the STORserver user interface is easy to use. "I just go in every morning and make sure everything is backed up," she said. "It has event logs so if I'm unsure why something wasn't backed up, I can copy the log and send a ticket online" and take advantage of the online support. Cooper is currently backing up 25 VM servers in a production environment. Cooper couldn't pin a specific dollar amount on the power saved by using virtualized storage, but said, "We do know we're saving on power." Snohomish PUD No. 1 has also been able to gain server space by testing new software on VMs and then storing it virtually. "We're saving a lot of time by not having to use a full-sized server and building a whole OS-it's a godsend as far as being able to do things like that for our internal customers," Cooper said. Cooper added that it was vital for her to keep copious notes during the testing phase, especially as she was unfamiliar with the new environment. "[STORserver] might take a little longer to install, but you need to take those notes. Did you keep all the defaults, or did you change anything? What port numbers did you use? Because then when you get to the real production environment, you're scratching your head trying to remember all those details." Michael Hickins is a freelance writer based in New York.
However, VCB isn't always enough, as it's hard for administrators to manage if they're not familiar with scripting in languages like Perl, Cooper said.