- Fast, reliable backups of virtual machines (VMs)
- No need to switch off VMs while making backups or replicas
- Integrates with VMware Consolidated Backup software for better backup/restore jobs
- Integrates with VMware VirtualCenter for better usability
- Excellent view of server CPU, disk, RAM and network utilisation
- Easy to maintain replica VMs on secondary servers
- Can be installed on a Windows XP workstation; no requirement for Windows Server platform
- Billback option could be used for inter-department charges
- Some VM settings needed adjusting for successful backup/restore
- Poor granularity in the billback option leaves room for improvement
- We found a bug that will be addressed in forthcoming updates
Combining comprehensive backup, monitoring and virtual machine (VM) replication tools for VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure 3, Vizioncore esxEssentials provides the main utilities needed to manage VMs in a datacentre environment. Priced at £509 (ex. VAT) with one year's support, or £649 with three years' support, the esxEssentials pack costs less than buying the individual applications separately. The suite was originally launched last summer, and has recently been updated with new versions of esxRanger and esxCharter.
We tested the suite in our VI3 and VirtualCenter 2.0 datacentre by installing the software onto a desktop PC running Windows XP SP2. As the backup tools can also be configured to use VMware’s Consolidated Backup, we installed a second copy of the esxRanger Pro backup suite on our lab VCB server, which also runs our VMware VirtualCenter 2.0 management console and Windows Server 2003. Although we experienced a few hitches during installation and operation of the Vizioncore software, by and large we were very impressed by the facilities on offer.
esxRanger Professional 3.1
We found the esxRanger Professional backup suite particularly valuable. The suite comes as two main components: a graphical user interface (GUI) enables users to define and run backup and restore jobs from a conventional Windows point-and-click environment. However, the GUI does not run the jobs — it merely creates a command line for esxRanger Pro’s command line interpreter (CLI), which takes commands and actually runs the jobs. This two-tier architecture means that system administrators can define and test backup jobs using the GUI and then use the Windows scheduler to automatically run the jobs when they have been tested and are known to work properly.
esxRanger Pro has three operating modes. In the most basic mode, it connects directly with various ESX Server systems. Although this mode is simple and works well, the main drawback is that you can select one or all of the VMs on a particular server, but you can’t select a subgroup of VMs to be handled by a single job. In the second mode, esxRanger Pro connects to VirtualCenter rather than the individual servers. VMs can be organised into folders with VirtualCenter, and esxRanger Pro can select such a folder and backup all its VMs in a single job.
In the above two modes, the esxRanger Pro CLI issues tasks to an ESX Server, which actually does all the hard work of running the backup or restore jobs. For example, to make a backup the server would need to snapshot the VM’s disk and RAM, read those files from disk, compress the data and send the compressed data to a storage device — probably via a LAN connection. All this work places a relatively high load on one of the ESX Server’s CPUs (in our tests we often recorded about 70 percent CPU utilisation on one of our server’s two 3GHz Xeon processors while running esxRanger Pro jobs).
However, companies running VMware’s Consolidated Backup (VCB) can download and install a free plugin for esxRanger Pro that integrates with VCB to offload much of the overhead from the server CPU. Using the VCB plugin, the esxRanger Pro CLI issues a few commands to the server to take the snapshots. The CLI then uses VCB to copy those files directly from the storage area network (SAN) to the VCB server’s hard disk without using the ESX Server’s CPU for the transfer. In our test using the VCB option, backups took about twice as long to complete but had almost no effect the server’s CPU performance. However, our VCB server has only a single CPU and 32-bit PCI slots. We would expect VCB backups to be quicker if we tested with a higher-specification VCB server.
Unfortunately we encountered a few installation hitches with esxEssentials on our XP system. All three Vizioncore programs repeatedly failed to install if we used the option to install the software for all users, but succeeded if we installed for only a named user. Another problem affected esxRanger Pro’s backups of a VM stored on a SAN volume that had the same name as the directory in which the VM was stored. In our tests this VM consistently failed to restore properly. However, when we moved the VM to a different SAN volume and made a new backup, the restore process worked perfectly. Vizioncore is investigating this problem and we expect it to be addressed in a future release.
Overall, however, we are impressed with esxRanger Pro. In fact, we have been using various versions of esxRanger for over a year and have found it to be a reliable and easy way to backup VMs. In particular, we like the fact that it's not necessary to shut down or even quiesce the VM operating system while making backups. We also like the fact that esxRanger Pro now maintains a simple database of backup jobs and archive file locations, making it easy to find the files for a particular VM without needing to hunt through a directory listing of obscurely named archive files.
We tested the suite by backing up nine VMs from one server and 12 from another server. We completed the test by restoring the VMs to a specific server using a different name for the restored VM. However, three of our VMs would not restore properly at first. We needed to adjust the VM configuration settings to successfully backup and restore two of these problem systems. After about two weeks of dialogue with Vizioncore, we were still unable to restore one VM. The company says that it's working on an update that should address the problem. The bottom line is that, as with all backup suites, it’s important to test your backups to ensure they will actually restore if needed.
There are currently no specifications for this product.
There are currently no prices available for this product.