February 05, 2020

Protect Virtual Appliances with SIRIS Agentless Backup

By Andrew Burton

SIRIS Agentless now has the capability to protect any server running on the VMware hypervisor—even virtual appliances that didn’t have an easy backup method in the past. We are excited about this update and the potential it holds for partners. But, before we take a look at some possible use cases, let’s take a step back to better understand agentless backup.

As you are likely aware, a backup agent is a lightweight piece of software installed on a protected device. The agent tracks changes to the VM’s dataset, which are periodically copied to the backup device on a set schedule. Agent-based backup was the norm before virtualization became widespread, and it is still widely used for protecting physical and virtual servers. However, agent-based backups have some limitations when it comes to protecting virtual servers, especially at scale.

First, you need to install an agent on each virtual machine. Obvious right? Of course. But, VMs can be spun up and decommissioned so easily, sometimes it doesn’t happen and workloads go unprotected. Second, agent-based backups rely on local compute resources to perform backups and send data to the backup target, which can impact application performance. Finally, many backup vendors bill customers on a per-agent basis. In large, virtualized environments, this can be expensive and difficult to manage.

Agentless backup was developed to address these issues. Agentless solutions use APIs to interface with protected applications and the hypervisor’s changed block tracking (CBT) capability to conduct backups without the need for agent software. They are typically easier to manage since you do not need to manually install agents. And, because they operate at the hypervisor level, they do not impact application performance. Agentless solutions can be less expensive as well, depending on your vendor’s pricing model.

New Datto Agentless Use Cases

As noted above, the latest update to Datto Agentless enables you to protect data on virtual appliances—i.e., a purpose-built virtual machine designed to perform a specific function.

VMware’s vCenter Server Appliance, a preconfigured virtual server optimized for hosting vCenter Server and its associated services, is one example. Other examples include the virtual desktop load balancing systems like Citrix Netscaler VPX and PBX phone systems like the Switchvox for VMware PBX virtual appliance. These are just a few examples, there are many others. Virtual appliances are not as data-heavy as VMs running business-critical applications. However, they do hold configuration data.

Protecting configuration data on virtual appliances has presented some challenges for Datto partners. It isn’t possible to install third-party software on many virtual appliances. So, agent-based backup isn’t an option. You could deploy a separate agentless backup solution to protect these virtual appliances, but that would incur licensing costs and complicates management. As a result, configuration data on virtual appliances often doesn’t get backed up.

With this update, you can protect configuration data on any virtual machine. This prevents downtime since you don’t need to re-configure settings manually when you restore. “This is just part of our commitment to protecting data wherever it lives,” said Sergio Espinoza, Datto Product Manager.

It also ensures you can standardize on Datto since it’s not necessary to deploy secondary solutions to protect these types of virtual appliances. This, of course, reduces licensing costs. Plus, it eases management, since you don’t need to switch back and forth between different products.

“This update is all about giving partners confidence when supporting highly virtualized environments,” said Espinoza. “There’s no need to do all that reconfiguration work when restoring virtual appliances. This can be a real time saver.”

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