We live in a virtualized world. Companies like VMware, Oracle, Microsoft, Citrix, and Red Hat are spreading their seeds of virtualization everywhere. While virtual machines are helping Fortune 1000 companies and SMBs manage their businesses like never before, they are also creating new challenges for IT when it comes to business continuity/disaster data recovery.
So, who invented virtualization? If you answered VMware you aren't even close. It was Big Blue. Those of us who got their starts coding mainframe applications in the late 70s and early 80s typically dealt with three IBM OS environments: MVS, DOS, and VM. Originally called CP/CMS (Control Program/Cambridge Monitor System), VM was invented by IBM at their Cambridge Scientific Center near Boston and was basically "freeware" to IBM customers.
Roll forward 30+ years and most surveys state the percentage of virtualized production systems are at over 50% and growing. Analysts' predictions put that number at over 60% in just two years. While a backup administrator's job was never easy, the virtual server world has made it more difficult. VMware and all virtualized environments in general change the way we think about backup and VMDK data recovery. More importantly they force us to re-access RPO and RTO.
"I am continually amazed by companies who concentrate solely on backup speeds and feeds," said Steven B. Aldridge, Senior Director, Global Sales & Marketing, ACE Data Recovery. "One of Fred Moore's Maxims is 'Backup is one thing; recovery is everything.' So, while VMware and other vendors give you many options to backup your virtual servers, recovering them properly can be a huge challenge. Data protection tools that are built for virtualization can go directly to the hypervisor host or virtual infrastructure management system to find out the names and locations of virtual disks, and then backup those VMs -- all without agents. While virtualization is growing in popularity, the majority of organizations are not backing up every virtual server. Over 70% of organizations do not backup all of their virtual servers. On average, all organizations surveyed backup less than 70% of their virtual environment."
In recent months several websites and blogs have made mention of an apparent issue with VMware backups and restores using their VDDK toolkit. VMware was very forthcoming about it " … an issue with the VMware Virtual Disk Development Kit (VDDK) that may cause backup and restore operations to hang or fail. Third-party backup vendors that are using the VMware VDDK may encounter backup or restore issues when backing up VMware vSphere environments." Symantec also published a blog on the issue, in which they suggest that "any 3rd party vendor depending on the current API cannot perform consistent backups and cannot ensure a reliable recovery point."
While the problem with the VDDK does exist and has not been fixed as of this writing, it is intermittent. Also, similar issues have existed in previous VDDK versions. It should be noted that up-and-coming virtualization backup vendor Veeam apparently confirmed that there were issues present in previous VDDK versions that caused VDDK calls to hang indefinitely and coding around them. The bottom line is that no matter how you try and protect your VM environment, hardware, software, or human errors can still cause recovery issues. As Scotty said in Star Trek III, "The more they over think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."
So what other options do virtual machine administrators have when it comes to VMware data recovery? Simple, they need to look into physical data recovery. Backup and recovery mechanisms are meant to restore data to a state before a corruption or loss. The same is true with physical data recovery. Companies like ACE Data Recovery have over 30 years experience retrieving data from logically or physically damaged media. They are experts at getting your data back from ANY media including failed RAID arrays recovery, SSD, tape, and flash devices. They are also experts in virtualization, databases, and file systems. What that means to corporations is that they can handle any type of complex recovery. It starts with using their custom designed and in-house built hardware and software to retrieve an image copy of your valuable data. That is usually followed by reassembling that data back into a readable format based upon RAID type, or the underlying database, or if it was part of a virtual machine. And that is where the real magic happens.