Preston de Guise

Oct 102017

At VMworld, DellEMC announced a new backup technology for virtual machines called Hypervisor Direct, which represents a paradigm that I’d refer to as “convergent data protection”, since it mixes layers of data protection to deliver optimal results.

First, I want to get this out of the way: hypervisor direct is not a NetWorker plugin, nor an Avamar plugin. Instead, it’s part of the broader Data Protection Suite package (a good reminder that there are great benefits in the DPS licensing model).

As its name suggests, hypervisor direct is about moving hypervisor backups directly onto protection storage without a primary backup package being involved. This fits under the same model available for Boost Plugins for Databases – centralised protection storage with decentralised access allowing subject matter experts (e.g., database and application administrators) to be in control of their backup processes.

Now, VMware backups are great, but there’s a catch. If you integrate with VMware’s snapshot layer, there’s always a risk of virtual machine stun. The ‘stun’, we refer to there, happens when logged data to the snapshot delta logs are applied to the virtual machine once the snapshot is released. (Hint: if someone tries to tell you otherwise, make like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz and look behind the curtain, because there’s no wizard there.) Within NetWorker and Avamar, we reduce the risk of virtual machine stun significantly by doing optimised backups:

  • Leveraging changed block tracking to only need to access the parts of the virtual machine that have changed since the last backup
  • Using source based deduplication to minimise the amount of data that needs to be sent to protection storage

Those two techniques combined will allow you seamless virtual machine backups in almost all situations – in fact, 90% or more. But, as the old saying goes (I may be making this saying up, bear with me) – it’s that last 10% that’ll really hurt you. In fact, there’s two scenarios that’ll cause virtual machine stun:

  • Inadequate storage performance
  • High virtual machine change rates

In the case of the first scenario, it’s possible to run virtual machines on storage that doesn’t meet their performance requirements. This is particularly so when people are pointing older or under-spec NAS appliances at their virtual machine farm. Now, that may not have a significant impact on day to day operations (other than a bit of user grumbling), but it will be noticed during the snapshot processes around virtual machine backup. Ideally, we want to avoid the first scenario by always having appropriately performing storage for a virtual infrastructure.

Now, the second scenario, that’s more interesting. That’s the “10% that’ll really hurt you”. That’s where a virtualised Oracle or SQL database is 5-10TB with a 40-50% daily change rate. That size, and that change rate will smash you into virtual machine stun territory every time.

Traditionally, the way around that has been one or two (or both) data protection strategies:

  • LUN or array based replication, ignoring the virtual machine layer entirely. That’s good for a secondary copy but it’s going to be at best crash consistent. (It’s also going to be entirely storage dependent – locking you into a vendor and making refreshes more expensive/complex – and will lock you out of technology like vVOL and vSAN.)
  • In-guest agents. That’ll give you your backup, but it’ll be at agent-based performance levels creating additional workload stresses on the virtual machine and the ESX environment. And if we’re talking a multi-TB database with a high change rate – well, that’s not necessarily a good thing to do.

So what’s the way around it? How can you protect those sorts of environments without locking yourself into a storage platform, or preventing yourself from making architectural changes to your overall environment?

You get around it by being a vendor that has a complete continuum of data protection products and creating a convergent data protection solution. That’s what hypervisor direct does.

Hypervisor Direct

Hypervisor direct merges the Boost-direct technology you get in DDBEA and ProtectPoint with RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines (RP4VM). By integrating the backup process in via the Continuous Data Protection (CDP) functionality of RP4VM, we don’t need to take snapshots using VMware at all. That’s right, you can’t get virtual machine stun even in large virtual machines with high IO because we don’t work at that layer. Instead, leveraging the ESXi write splitter technology in RP4VM’s CDP, the RecoverPoint journal system is used to allow a virtual machine backup to be taken, direct to Data Domain, without impact to the source virtual machine.

Do you want to know the really cool feature of this? It’s application consistent, too. That 5-10TB Oracle or SQL database with a high change rate I was talking about earlier? Well, your DBA or Application Administrator gets to run their normal Oracle RMAN backup script for a standard backup, and everything is done at the back-end. That’s right, the Oracle backup or SQL backup (or a host of other databases) triggers the appropriate virtual machine copy functions automatically. (And if a particular database isn’t integrated, there’s still filesystem integration hooks to allow a two-step process.)

This isn’t an incremental improvement to backup options, this is an absolute leapfrog – it’s about enabling efficient, high performance backups in situations where previously there was no actual option available. And it still lets your subject matter experts be involved in the backup process as well.

If you do have virtual machines that fall into this category, reach out to your local DellEMC DPS team for more details. You can also check out some of the official details here.

Basics – device `X’ is marked as suspect

 Basics, Data Domain, NetWorker  Comments Off on Basics – device `X’ is marked as suspect
Sep 282017

So I got myself into a bit of a kerfuffle today when I was doing some reboots in my home lab. When one of my DDVE systems came back up and I attempted to re-mount the volume hosted on that Data Domain in NetWorker, I got an odd error:

device `X’ is marked as suspect

Now, that’s odd, because NetWorker marks savesets as suspect, not volumes.

Trying it out on the command line still got me the same results:

[root@orilla ~]# nsrmm -mv -f adamantium.turbamentis.int_BoostClone
155485:nsrd: device `adamantium.turbamentis.int_BoostClone' is marked as suspect

Curiouser curiouser, I thought. I did briefly try to mark the volume as not suspect, but this didn’t make a difference, of course – since suspect applies to savesets, not volumes:

[root@orilla ~]# nsrmm -o notsuspect BoostClone.002
6291:nsrmm: Volume is invalid with -o [not]suspect

I could see the volume was not marked as scan needed, and even explicitly re-marking the volume as not requiring a scan didn’t change anything.

Within NMC I’d been trying to mount the Boost volume under Devices > Devices. I viewed the properties of the relevant device and couldn’t see anything about the device being suspect, so I thought I’d pop into Devices > Data Domain Devices and view the device details there. Nothing different there, but when I attempted to mount the device from there, it instead told me the that the ‘ddboost’ user associated with the Data Domain didn’t have the rights required to access the device.

Insufficient Rights

That was my Ahah! moment. To test my theory I tried to login as the ddboost user onto the Data Domain:

[Thu Sep 28 10:15:15]
[• ~ •]
$ ssh ddboost@adamantium
EMC Data Domain Virtual Edition
You are required to change your password immediately (password aged)
Changing password for ddboost.
(current) UNIX password:



I knew I’d set up that particular Data Domain device in a hurry to do some testing, and I’d forgotten to disable password ageing. Sure enough, when I logged into the Data Domain Management Console, under Administration > Access > Local Users, the ‘ddboost’ account was showing as locked.

Solution: edit the account properties for the ‘ddboost’ user and give it a 9999 day ageing policy.

Huzzah! Now the volume would mount on the device.

There’s a lesson here – in fact, a couple:

  1. Being in a rush to do something and not doing it properly usually catches you later on.
  2. Don’t stop at your first error message – try operations in other ways: command line, different parts of the GUI, etc., just in case you get that extra clue you need.

Hope that helps!

Oh, don’t forget – it was my birthday recently and I’m giving away a copy of my book. To enter the competition, click here.

Birthday give-away competition

 NetWorker  Comments Off on Birthday give-away competition
Sep 272017
iStock Balloons

Towards the end of September each year, I get to celebrate another solar peregrination, and this year I’m celebrating it with my blog readers, too.

iStock Balloons

Here’s how it works: I’ve now been blogging about NetWorker on since late 2009. I’ve chalked up almost 700 articles, and significantly more than a million visitors during that time. I’ve got feedback from people over the years saying how useful the blog has been to them – so, running from today until October 15, I’m asking readers to tell me one of their success stories using NetWorker.

I’ll be giving away a prize to a randomly selected entrant – a signed copy of my book, Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability.

The competition is open to everyone, but here’s the catch: I do intend to share the submitted stories. I take privacy seriously: no contact details will be shared with anyone, and success stories will be anonymised, too. If you want to be in the running for the book, you’ll need to supply your email address so I can get in contact with the winner!

The competition has closed.

Oh, don’t forget I’ve got a new project running over at Fools Rush In, about Ethics in Technology.

Basics – Understanding NetWorker Dependency Tracking

 Backup theory, NetWorker  Comments Off on Basics – Understanding NetWorker Dependency Tracking
Sep 162017

Dependency tracking is an absolutely essential feature within a backup product. It’s there to ensure you can recover data through the entire specified retention period for your backups, regardless of what mix of full, differential and/or incremental backups you do. It’s staggering to think there are some backup products out there (*cough* net *cough* ‘backup’), that treat backup retention with such contempt that they don’t bother to enforce dependency preservation.

Without dependency tracking, you’ve always got the risk that a recovery you want to do on the edge of your specified retention period might fail.

NetWorker does dependency tracking by default. In fact, it only does dependency tracking. To understand how dependency tracking works, and what that means for protecting your backups, check out my video below. (Make sure to switch it into High Definition – it’s not about being able to see more of my beard, but it is to make sure you can see all the screen content!)

Dependency tracking is such an important feature in data protection that you’ll find it’s also covered in my book, Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability.

On another note, I’m starting a new project. I may work in IT, but I’ve always been a fan of philosophy, too. The new project is called Fools Rush In, and it’s going to be an ongoing weekly exploration of topics relating to ethics in IT and modern technology. It’s going to be long-form in its approach – the perfect thing to sit down and read over a cup of coffee or tea. This’ll be an exciting journey, and I’d love it if you joined me on it. The introductory article is …where angels fear to tread, and the latest post, What is Ethics? gives a bit of a primer on schools of ethical thought and how we can start approaching ethics in IT/technology.

Talking about Ransomware

 Architecture, Backup theory, General thoughts, Recovery, Security  Comments Off on Talking about Ransomware
Sep 062017

The “Wannacry” Ransomware strike saw a particularly large number of systems infected and garnered a great deal of media attention.

Ransomware Image

As you’d expect, many companies discussed ransomware and their solutions for it. There was also backlash from many quarters suggesting people were using a ransomware attack to unethically spruik their solutions. It almost seems to be the IT equivalent of calling lawyers “ambulance chasers”.

We are (albeit briefly, I am sure), between major ransomware outbreaks. So, logically that’ll mean it’s OK to talk about ransomware.

Now, there’s a few things to note about ransomware and defending against it. It’s not as simplistic as “I only have to do X and I’ll solve the problem”. It’s a multi-layered issue requiring user education, appropriate systems patching, appropriate security, appropriate data protection, and so on.

Focusing even on data protection, that’s a multi-layered approach as well. In order to have a data protection environment that can assuredly protect you from ransomware, you need to do the basics, such as operating system level protection for backup servers, storage nodes, etc. That’s just the beginning. The next step is making sure your backup environment itself follows appropriate security protocols. That’s something I’ve been banging on about for several years now. That’s not the full picture though. Once you’ve got operating systems and backup systems secured via best practices, you need to then look at hardening your backup environment. There’s a difference between standard security processes and hardened security processes, and if you’re worried about ransomware this is something you should be thinking about doing. Then, of course, if you really want to ensure you can recover your most critical data from a serious hactivism and ransomware (or outright data destruction) breach, you need to look at IRS as well.

But let’s step back, because I think it’s important to make a point here about when we can talk about ransomware.

I’ve worked in data protection my entire professional career. (Even when I was a system administrator for the first four years of it, I was the primary backup administrator as well. It’s always been a focus.)

If there’s one thing I’ve observed in my career in data protection is that having a “head in the sand” approach to data loss risk is a lamentably common thing. Even in 2017 I’m still hearing things like “We can’t back this environment up because the project which spun it up didn’t budget for backup”, and “We’ll worry about backup later”. Not to mention the old chestnut, “it’s out of warranty so we’ll do an Icarus support contract“.

Now the flipside of the above paragraph is this: if things go wrong in any of those situations, suddenly there’s a very real interest in talking about options to prevent a future issue.

It may be a career limiting move to say this, but I’m not in sales to make sales. I’m in sales to positively change things for my customers. I want to help customers resolve problems, and deliver better outcomes to their users. I’ve been doing data protection for over 20 years. The only reason someone stays in data protection that long is because they’re passionate about it, and the reason we’re passionate about it is because we are fundamentally averse to data loss.

So why do we want to talk about defending against or recovering from ransomware during a ransomware outbreak? It’s simple. At the point of a ransomware outbreak, there’s a few things we can be sure of:

  • Business attention is focused on ransomware
  • People are talking about ransomware
  • People are being directly impacted by ransomware

This isn’t ambulance chasing. This is about making the best of a bad situation – I don’t want businesses to lose data, or have it encrypted and see them have to pay a ransom to get it back – but if they are in that situation, I want them to know there are techniques and options to prevent it from striking them again. And at that point in time – during a ransomware attack – people are interested in understanding how to stop it from happening again.

Now, we have to still be considerate in how we discuss such situations. That’s a given. But it doesn’t mean the discussion can’t be had.

To me this is also an ethical consideration. Too often the focus on ethics in professional IT is around the basics: don’t break the law (note: law ≠ ethics), don’t be sexist, don’t be discriminatory, etc. That’s not really a focus on ethics, but a focus on professional conduct. Focusing on professional conduct is good, but there must also be a focus on the ethical obligations of protecting data. It’s my belief that if we fail to make the best of a bad situation to get an important message of data protection across, we’re failing our ethical obligations as data protection professionals.

Of course, in an ideal world, we’d never need to discuss how to mitigate or recover from a ransomware outbreak during said outbreak, because everyone would already be protected. But harking back to an earlier point, I’m still being told production systems were installed without consideration for data protection, so I think we’re a long way from that point.

So I’ll keep talking about protecting data from all sorts of loss situations, including ransomware, and I’ll keep having those discussions before, during and after ransomware outbreaks. That’s my job, and that’s my passion: data protection. It’s not gloating, it’s not ambulance chasing, it’s let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.

On another note, sales are really great for my book, Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability, released earlier this year. I have to admit, I may have squealed a little when I got my first royalty statement. So, if you’ve already purchased my book: you have my sincere thanks. If you’ve not, that means you’re missing out on an epic story of protecting data in the face of amazing odds. So check it out, it’s in eBook or Paperback format on Amazon (prior link), or if you’d prefer to, you can buy direct from the publisher. And thanks again for being such an awesome reader.

Aug 052017

It may be something to do with my long Unix background, or maybe it’s because my first system administration job saw me administer systems over insanely low link speeds, but I’m a big fan of being able to use the CLI whenever I’m in a hurry or just want to do something small. GUIs may be nice, but CLIs are fun.

Under NetWorker 8 and below, if you wanted to run a server initiated backup job from the command line, you’d use the savegrp command. Under NetWorker 9 onwards, groups are there only as containers, and what you really need to work on are workflows.

bigStock Workflow

There’s a command for that – nsrworkflow.

At heart it’s a very simple command:

# nsrworkflow -p policy -w workflow

That’s enough to kick off a backup job. But there’s some additional options that make it more useful, particularly in larger environments. To start with, you’ve got the -a option, which I really like. That tells nsrworkflow you want to perform an ‘adhoc’ execution of a job. Why is that important? Say you’ve got a job you really need to run today but it’s configured to skip … running it in adhoc will disregard the skip for you.

The -A option allows you to specify specific overrides to actions. For instance, if I wanted to run a job workflow today from the command line as a full rather than an incremental, I might use something like the following:

# nsrworkflow -p Gold -w Finance -A "backup -l full"

The -A option there effectively allows me to specify overrides for individual actions – name the action (backup) and name the override (-l full).

Another useful option is -c component which allows you to specify to run the job on just a single or a small list of components – e.g., clients. Extending from the above, if I wanted to run a full for a single client called orilla, it might look as follows:

# nsrworkflow -p Gold -w Finance -c orilla -A "backup -l full"

Note that specifying the action there doesn’t mean it’s the only action you’ll run – you’ll still run the other actions in the workflow (e.g., a clone operation, if it’s configured) – it just means you’re specifying an override for the nominated action.

For virtual machines, the way I’ve found easiest to start an individual client is using the vmid flag – effectively what the saveset name is for a virtual machine started via a proxy. Now, to get that name, you have to do a bit of mminfo scripting:

# mminfo -k -r vmname,name

 vm_name name

What you’re looking for is the vm:a-b-c-d set, stripping out the :vcenter at the end of the ID.

Now, I’m a big fan of not running extra commands unless I really need to, so I’ve actually got a Perl script which you’re free to download and adapt/use as you need to streamline that process. Since my lab is pretty basic, the script is too, though I’ve done my best to make the code straight forward. You simply run as follows:

[root@orilla bin]# -c krell

With ID in hand, we can invoke nsrworkflow as follows:

# nsrworkflow -p VMware -w "Virtual Machines" -c vm:5029e15e-3c9d-18be-a928-16e13839f169
133550:nsrworkflow: Starting Protection Policy 'VMware' workflow 'Virtual Machines'.
123316:nsrworkflow: Starting action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/backup' with command: 'nsrvproxy_save -s -j 705080 -L incr -p VMware -w "Virtual Machines" -A backup'.
123321:nsrworkflow: Action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/backup's log will be in '/nsr/logs/policy/VMware/Virtual Machines/backup_705081.raw'.
123325:nsrworkflow: Action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/backup' succeeded.
123316:nsrworkflow: Starting action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/clone' with command: 'nsrclone -a "*policy name=VMware" -a "*policy workflow name=Virtual Machines" -a "*policy action name=clone" -s -b BoostClone -y "1 Months" -o -F -S'.
123321:nsrworkflow: Action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/clone's log will be in '/nsr/logs/policy/VMware/Virtual Machines/clone_705085.raw'.
123325:nsrworkflow: Action 'VMware/Virtual Machines/clone' succeeded.
133553:nsrworkflow: Workflow 'VMware/Virtual Machines' succeeded.

Of course, if you are in front of NMC, you can start individual clients from the GUI if you want to:

Starting an Individual ClientStarting an Individual Client

But it’s always worth knowing what your command line options are!

NetWorker 9.2 Capacity Measurement

 Licensing, NetWorker, Scripting  Comments Off on NetWorker 9.2 Capacity Measurement
Aug 032017

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s a few different licensing models for NetWorker, but capacity licensing (e.g., 100 TB front end backup size) gives considerable flexibility, effectively enabling all product functionality within a single license, thereby allowing NetWorker usage to adapt to suit the changing needs of the business.

Data Analysis

In the past, measuring utilisation has typically required either the use of DPA or asking your DellEMC account team to review the environment and provide a report. NetWorker 9.2 however gives you a new, self-managed option – the ability to run, whenever you want, a capacity measurement report to determine what your utilisation ratio is.

This is done through a new command line tool, nsrcapinfo, which is incredibly simple to run. In fact, running it without any options at all will give the default 60 day report, providing utilisation details for each of the key data types as well as summary. For instance, against my lab server, here’s the output:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF8" standalone="yes" ?>
~ Copyright (c) 2017 Dell EMC Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
~ This software contains the intellectual property of Dell EMC Corporation or is licensed to
~ Dell EMC Corporation from third parties. Use of this software and the intellectual property
~ contained therein is expressly limited to the terms and conditions of the License
~ Agreement under which it is provided by or on behalf of Dell EMC.

That’s in XML by default – and the numbers are in GiB.

If you do fulls on longer cycles than the default of a 60 day measurement window you can extend the data sampling range by using -d nDays in the command (e.g., “nsrcapinfo -d 90” would provide a measurement over a 90 day window). You can also, if you wish for further analysis, generate additional reports (see the command reference guide or, man nsrcapinfo if you’re on Linux for the full details). One of those reports that I think will be quite popular with backup administrators will be the client report. An example of that is below:

[root@orilla ~]# nsrcapinfo -r clients
"Hostname", "Client_Capacity_GiB", "Application_Names" 
"", "2.3518", "Unix_Filesystems"
"vulcan", "16.0158", "VMware_Filesystems"
"win01", "80.0785", "VMware_Filesystems"
"picon", "40.0394", "VMware_Filesystems"
"win02", "80.0788", "VMware_Filesystems"
"vega", "64.0625", "VMware_Filesystems"
"test02", "16.0157", "VMware_Filesystems"
"test03", "16.0157", "VMware_Filesystems"
"test01", "16.0157", "VMware_Filesystems"
"krell", "32.0314", "VMware_Filesystems"
"", "27.8482", "Windows_Filesystems"
"", "1119.5321", "Other_Applications Unix_Filesystems"
"", "2156.1067", "Other_Applications Unix_Filesystems"

That’s a straight-up simple view of the FETB estimation for each client you’re protecting in your environment.

There you have it – capacity measurement in NetWorker as a native function in version 9.2.

NetWorker 9.2 – A Focused Release

 NetWorker  Comments Off on NetWorker 9.2 – A Focused Release
Jul 292017

NetWorker 9.2 has just been released. Now, normally I pride myself for having kicked the tyres on a new release for weeks before it’s come out via the beta programmes, but unfortunately my June, June and July taught me new definitions of busy (I was busy enough that I did June twice), so instead I’ll be rolling the new release into my lab this weekend, after I’ve done this initial post about it.

bigStock Focus

I’ve been working my way through NetWorker 9.2’s new feature set, though, and it’s impressive.

As you’ll recall, NetWorker 9.1 introduced NVP, or vProxy – the replacement to the Virtual Backup Appliance introduced in NetWorker 8. NVP is incredibly efficient for backup and recovery operations, and delivers hyper-fast file level recovery from image level recovery. (Don’t just take my written word for it though – check out this demo where I recovered almost 8,000 files in just over 30 seconds.)

NetWorker 9.2 expands on the virtual machine backup integration by adding the capability to perform Microsoft SQL Server application consistent backup as part of a VMware image level backup. That’s right, application consistent, image level backup. That’s something Avamar has been able to do for a little while now, and it’s now being adopted in NetWorker, too. We’re starting with Microsoft SQL Server – arguably the simplest one to cover, and the most sought after by customers, too – before tackling other databases and applications. In my mind, application consistent image level backup is a pivot point for simplifying data protection – in fact, it’s a topic I covered as an emerging focus for the next several years of data protection in my book, Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability. I think in particular app-consistent image level backups will be extremely popular in smaller/mid-market customer environments where there’s not guaranteed to be a dedicated DBA team within the IT department.

It’s not just DBAs that get a boost with NetWorker 9.2 – security officers do, too. In prior versions of NetWorker, it was possible to integrate Data Domain Retention Lock via scripting – now in NetWorker 9.2, it’s rolled into the interface itself. This means you’ll be able to establish retention lock controls as part of the backup process. (For organisations not quite able to go down the path of having a full isolated recovery site, this will be a good mid-tier option.)

Beyond DBAs and security officers, those who are interested in backing up to the cloud, or in the cloud, will be getting a boost as well – CloudBoost 2.2 has been introduced with NetWorker 9.2, and this gives Windows 64-bit clients the CloudBoost API as well, allowing a direct to object storage model from both Windows and Linux (which got CloudBoost client direct in a earlier release). What does this mean? Simple: It’s a super-efficient architecture leveraging an absolute minimum footprint, particularly when you’re running IaaS protection in the Cloud itself. Cloud protection gets another option as well – support for DDVE in the Cloud: AWS or Azure.

NMC isn’t left out – as NetWorker continues to scale, there’s more information and data within NMC for an administrator or operator to sort through. If you’ve got a few thousand clients, or hundred of client groups created for policies and workflows, you might not want to scroll through a long list. Hence, there’s now filtering available in a lot of forms. I’m always a fan of speeding up what I have to do within a GUI, and this will be very useful for those in bigger environments, or who prefer to find things by searching rather than visually eye-balling while scrolling.

If you’re using capacity licensing, otherwise known as Front End TB (FETB) licensing, NetWorker now reports license utilisation estimation. You might think this is a synch, but it’s only a synch if you count whitespace everywhere. That’s not something we want done. Still, if you’ve got capacity licensing, NetWorker will now keep track of it for you.

There’s a big commitment within DellEMC for continued development of automation options within the Data Protection products. NetWorker has always enjoyed a robust command line interface, but a CLI can only take you so far. The REST API that was introduced previously continues to be updated. There’s support for the Data Domain Retention Lock integration and the new application consistent image level backup options, just to name a couple of new features.

NetWorker isn’t just about the core functionality as well – there’s also the various modules for databases and applications, and they’ve not been left unattended, either.

SharePoint and Exchange get tighter integration with ItemPoint for granular recovery. Previously it was a two step process to mount the backup and launch ItemPoint – now the NMM recovery interface can automatically start ItemPoint, directing it to the mounted backup copies for processing.

Microsoft SQL Server is still of course supported for traditional backup/recovery operations via the NetWorker Module for Microsoft, and it’s been updated with some handy new features. Backup an recovery operations no longer need Windows administrative privileges in all instances, and you can do database exclusions now via wild-cards – very handy if you’ve got a lot of databases on a server following a particular naming convention and you don’t need to protect them all, or protect them all in a single backup stream. You also get the option during database recovery now to terminate other user access to the database; previously this had to be managed manually by the SQL administrator for the target database – now it can be controlled as part of the recovery process. There’s also a bunch of new options for SQL Always On Availability Groups, and backup promotion.

In addition to the tighter ItemPoint integration mentioned previously for Exchange, you also get the option to do ItemPoint/Granular Exchange recovery from a client that doesn’t have Exchange installed. This is particularly handy when Exchange administrators want to limit what can happen on an Exchange server. Continuing the tight Data Domain Cloud Tier integration, NMM now handles automatic and seamless recall of data from Cloud Tier should it be required as part of a recovery option.

Hyper-V gets some love, too: there’s processes to remove stale checkpoints, or merge checkpoints that exceed a particular size. Hyper-V allows a checkpoint disk (a differencing disk – AVHDX file) to grow to the same size as its original parent disk. However, that can cause performance issues and when it hits 100% it creates other issues. So you can tell NetWorker during NMM Hyper-V backups to inspect the size of Hyper-V differencing disks and automatically merge if they exceed a certain watermark. (E.g., you might force a merge when the differencing disk is 25% of the size of the original.) You also get the option to exclude virtual hard disks (either VHD or VHDX format) from the backup process should you desire – very handy for virtual machines that have large disks containing transient or other forms of data that have no requirement for backup.

Active Directory recovery browsing gets a performance boost too, particularly for large AD trees.

SAP IQ (formerly known as Sybase IQ) gets support in NetWorker 9.2 NMDA. You’ll need to be running v16 SP11 and a simplex architecture, but you’ll get a variety of backup and recovery options. A growing trend within database vendors is to allow designation of some data files within the database as read-only, and you can choose to either backup or skip read-only data files as part of a SAP IQ backup, amongst a variety of other options. If you’ve got a traditional Sybase ASE server, you’ll find that there’s now support for backing up database servers with >200 databases on them – either in sequence, or with a configured level of parallelism.

DB2 gets some loving, too – NMDA 9.1 gave support for PowerLink little-endian DB2 environments, but with 9.2 we also get a Boost plugin to allow client-direct/Boost backups for DB2 little-endian environments.

(As always, there’s also various fixes included in any new release, incorporating fixes that were under development concurrently in earlier releases.)

As always, when you’re planning to upgrade NetWorker, there’s a few things you should do as a matter of course. There’s a new approach to making sure you’re aware of these steps – when you go to and click to download the NetWorker server installer or either Windows or Linux, you’ll initially find yourself redirected to a PDF: the NetWorker 9.2 Recommendations, Training and Downloads for Customers and Partners. Now, I admit – in my lab I have a tendency sometimes to just leap in and start installing new packages, but in reality when you’re using NetWorker in a real environment, you really do want to make sure you read the documentation and recommendations for upgrades before going ahead with updating your environment. The recommendations guide is only three pages, but it’s three very useful pages – links to technical training, references to the documentation portfolio, where to find NetWorker focused videos on the Community NetWorker and YouTube, and details about licensing and compatibility. There’s also very quick differences details between NetWorker versions, and finally the download location links are provided.

Additional key documentation you should – in my mind, you must – review before upgrading include the release notes, the compatibility guide, and of course, the ever handy updating from a prior version guide. That’s in addition to checking standard installation guides.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a geeky data protection weekend ahead of me as I upgrade my lab to NetWorker 9.2.

Basics – Using the vSphere Plugin to Add Clients for Backup

 NetWorker, NVP, vProxy  Comments Off on Basics – Using the vSphere Plugin to Add Clients for Backup
Jul 242017

It’s a rapidly changing trend – businesses increasingly want the various Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) running applications and essential services to be involved in the data protection process. In fact, in the 2016 Data Protection Index, somewhere in the order of 93% of respondents said this was extremely important to their business.

It makes sense, too. Backup administrators do a great job, but they can’t be expected to know everything about every product deployed and protected within the organisation. The old way of doing things was to force the SMEs to learn how to use the interfaces of the backup tools. That doesn’t work so well. Like the backup administrators having their own sphere of focus, so too do the SMEs – they understandably want to use their tools to do their work.

What’s more, if we do find ourselves in a disaster situation, we don’t want backup administrators to become overloaded and a bottleneck to the recovery process. The more those operations are spread around, the faster the business can recover.

So in the modern data protection environment, we have to work together and enable each other.

Teams working together

In a distributed control model, the goal will be for the NetWorker administrator to define the protection policies needed, based on the requirements of the business. Once those policies are defined, enabled SMEs should be able to use their tools to work with those policies.

One of the best examples of that is for VMware protection in NetWorker. Using the plugins provided directly into the vSphere Web Client, the VMware administrators can attach and detach virtual machines from protection policies that have been established in NetWorker, and initiate backups and recoveries as they need.

In the video demo below, I’ll take you through the process whereby the NetWorker administrator defines a new virtual machine backup policy, then the VMware administrator attaches a virtual machine to that policy and kicks it off. It’s really quite simple, and it shows the power that you get when you enable SMEs to interact with data protection from within the comfort of their own tools and interfaces. (Don’t forget to ensure you switch to 720p/HD in order to see what’s going on within the session.)

Don’t forget – if you find the NetWorker Blog useful, you’ll be sure to enjoy Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability.

Jul 212017

I want to try something different with this post. Rather than the usual post with screen shots and descriptions, I wanted instead to do a demo video showing just how easy it is to do file level recovery (FLR) from NetWorker VMware Image Level Backup thanks to the new NVP or vProxy system in NetWorker 9.

The video below steps you through the entire FLR process for a Linux virtual machine. (If your YouTube settings don’t default to it, be sure to switch the video to High Def (720) or otherwise the text on the console and within NMC may be difficult to read.)

Don’t forget – if you find the information on the NetWorker Blog useful, I’m sure you’ll get good value out of my latest book, Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability.

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