(note: this post also appears on the official Veeam blog)
Also available in this series:
Part 1: linux certificate-based authentication
Part 2: Quick Rollback
Part 3: Quick Backup
Part 4: support for vSphere tags
Part 5: Snapshot Hunter
Part 7: Save as Default
Part 8: Hyper-V
Veeam Availability Suite v8 has been released and customers and partners are already upgrading their environments and exploring the several new features that have been added to this latest version of the software. There are many enhancements that are not part of the marketing activities, but nonetheless they all contribute to create every time an awesome version of the software.
I’ve created a list of my favorite 8 new technical features, my “gems”. In this series of posts, I will show you them and dive a little bit into their technical details. In this sixth episode, we will talk about Tape Server.
Tape is dead, long live the tape
In Modern Data Center solutions, tape is no more a viable solution as a primary destination for any backup. It’s completely sequential access, even more than the pure speed, it’s a limiting factor to store on it deduplicated backups, and most of all when it comes to restore operations involving a high amount of completely random I/O. No one will ever dare to run an Instant VM Recovery from a tape! And for the record, it’s not a supported capability.
Disk based solutions have become the de-facto standard for primary backup targets, because they are the only ones able to guarantee the needed RPO and RTO values of an Always-On Business. This, however, does not mean tapes are dead, at all.
Just like storage snapshots are not backups, but they are an effective first line of defense if combined and integrated into a multi-tiered data protection design, so are tapes. Disk storage is expensive, and it’s often used to store few restore points as a source for fast recoveries. But nothing beats tapes when it comes to long time archival. If you want to extend your retention, tapes are a really effective solution.
Veeam Tape Server
In Veeam Backup & Replication v8, we added a new dedicated role to our distributed architecture: Tape Server. The name totally explains its role: this Windows machine is directly connected to a supported tape library (direct attached or using iSCSI/FC fabrics) and thanks to a dedicated Veeam component, the “Tape Server” itself, it becomes the server dedicated to manage reads and writes towards the tape libraries, and to drive automated or multi-tape libraries. As any of the existing roles, you can decide in which machine you will install it: it can be a dedicated machine, a server running already other Veeam roles, or still the Veeam server if you are willing to have an all-in-one deployment.
Its usage is quite simple: first of all you connect your tape library to the Windows server designated as your new Tape Server, and you check that tape libraries are correctly recognized in Device Manager thanks to MTF (Microsoft Tape Format) support.
Then, in Veeam Backup & Replication you go into the Tape Infrastructure and choose to add a new Tape Server.
Once the quick wizard has completed and Veeam scans the Tape Server to identify the different components and loaded media, you will see drives and media directly into the main Veeam Console:
With the dedicated Tape Server role, the Veeam Console is relieved of being the tape manager. Thanks to this, the console can be a control-only machine, maybe a virtual machine protected by the high availability features of the hypervisor, while the Tape Server can be as near as possible to the tape library, and also properly configured and sized based on the tape library model it will have to manage (think for example a FC tape library connected in direct attach) and the expected load in terms of CPU and Memory. An additional benefit now of the Tape Server is that a Veeam Console can also manage multiple tape drives or libraries via multiple Tape Servers.
The tape catalog will still reside in the central Veeam Backup & Replication server, so if anything would happen to the Tape Server, it could be quickly replaced by a new one without any data loss. Tape information elements are also saved into the Veeam Configuration Backup, so they are completely safe.
And it’s not the only improvement to Tape management! We added for example Tape Vaults, that are logical containers where you can store information about offline tapes. The vaults are created by user and allow to virtually move the offline tapes to a vault, grouping them by any criteria. For example, if you have a number of offsite locations for physical tapes, you can create a media vault for each of them. When you transport the physical tapes to the offsite storage, you can accordingly move the offline tapes to a vault in your Veeam backup console mirroring the physical storage. This will allow you to have convenient representation of the list of tapes in each of your physical storages.
Finally, I’d like to list another great gem for tapes in Veeam Availability Suite v8: Virtual Synthesized Full Backup for Tape. Whit this new feature, you can create full backups directly on tape without requiring to allocate additional disk space on your primary backup location for its creation.
Every time you use as a source a job that has only one full backup file (so, forever forward incremental backup jobs, or backup copy jobs), writing its chain to tape is easy, but a restore requires you to restore the entire chain into a repository if you need to do a recovery from the latest restore point, because you need to read the entire chain. With this new feature, you can now “split” the unique chain in the repository in smaller chains on tape, so restores will require less data to be retrieved from tape.
Tape is an incredibly and effective solution for extending the retention of any data protection project, and it’s characteristics of durability, cost efficiency and portability cannot be matched by any other solution. And with the new Tape Server role, Veeam given additional functionality to customers and partners who require a tape infrastructure.