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A few details about Veeam CDP in Veeam Availability Suite v10

Posted by Alex Samoylenko on June 30, 2017
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Recently, New Orleans has hosted the VeeamOn 2017 conference that was dedicated to providing availability for virtualized datacenters. I participated as Veeam Vanguard, a member of the community of professionals promoting the products of this company.

During the event, Veeam announced the release of the Veeam Availability Suite v10 aimed to provide complete availability for virtual datacenter. According to developers’ estimates, the suite will be released by the end of 2017.

NEW Veeam Availability Suite v10

CDP traditionally stands for as continuous data protection and implies the creation of reserved data copies by automatically saving the copy every time the changes are made to the data.

Earlier, Veeam Backup and Replication, which is a part of Veeam Availability Suite along with Veeam ONE, implemented standard replication utilizing the snapshot technology (called near-CDP data protection). But that was more of a marketing move, as in its pure form, a major CDP component – continuous saving of every change was not maintained.

Now, with help of Veeam CDP, it will be possible to operate RPO term (Recovery Point Objective), maximum period in which data might be lost in case of storage failure or data corruption.

Surprisingly, you can achieve an RPO of 15 seconds or less (depending on the host hardware and its workloads) without using the snapshot technology, but only the VAIO interface (vSphere APIs for IO Filters) provided by VMware. In truth, RPO reaches 3-4 seconds if you provide a separate high-speed network interface for these purposes.

These default values appear in the Veeam demo screens shown at the conference:

Edit CDP Policy Job (CDP Policy Important App) - Schedule

Note that the replication task looks as usual, except the newly-added Schedule tab you can use to configure the RPO if your ESXi host supports VAIO (this feature was added back in ESXi 6.0 Update 1). In addition, two more options appeared: the first is Short-term retention – specifies the short-term period during which the recovery points will be stored – for example, 4 hours.

During these 4 hours, you can roll back to any point in accordance with the RPO parameter.

This is of special importance especially in case you cannot immediately detect data corruption (for example, the Active Directory component failure) and the corrupted data starts replicating at some point in time. If you come to your senses within 4 hours, you can roll back the data replication to any point of time within the specified RPO interval, losing not more than 15 seconds at that very moment. Obviously, if you specify high retention values here, you will need a huge amount of space to store delta files once every 15 seconds. Therefore, 4 hours here is the most optimal value.

The second option, Long-term retention, allows you to return to recovery points at certain intervals and store them for a specified amount of time in accordance with the enterprise policy. These are points of long-term recovery – they won’t take up so much space since the interval between them is quite large.

Veeam Backup and Replication 10 will use the special VAIO driver (CDP filter driver) that will be installed on the VMware ESXi host as a VIB package and won’t require any special software to be installed in the guest OS of virtual machines. The driver works at the level of the separate VMDK, is attached to VMX-process and allows receiving data directly from the input-output stream. This, in turn, will significantly speed up the replication process and eliminate the need to create the VM snapshots.

When restoring a VM from a replica, we’ll see this picture (clickable):

Veeam Backup and Replication - Replica Tools - Virtual Machines - Restore Points

Green indicates the available recovery interval – you can roll back to any of these points. Dark green indicates an Application-consistent replica (made using VSS at the application level), and usual green shows a Crash-consistent replica, that is, the one used to ensure that the OS will boot (in fact, in 95% of cases the applications will start as well).

The Veeam CDP will have a few operational peculiarities:

  • You can use the traditional replication mechanism instead of the CDP.
  • It will be impossible to replicate templates and powered-off VMs via CDP (there is no I/O flow and no VMX process).
  • CDP does not need to be enabled for all virtual machines. It should be used to protect only the most business-critical applications since it requires a lot of space and creates an additional load on resources.
  • If you really do not need a 15-second protection (it is only required for business-critical systems with frequently changing data), then it is better to increase the interval.
  • If you, for example, set 60 seconds, then Veeam will have more time to organize the replication process and will start to dedupe replica storage space, as well as carry out other optimizations. As for small intervals, the cornerstone here will be, first of all, to ensure the RPO policy.
  • The technology will require customers to test it in their own infrastructure to check whether the hardware can enforce given policies.
  • You won’t be able to use Veeam CDP and VMware vSphere Essentials / Essentials Plus since these editions do not include VAIO (vSphere Standard edition or higher is required).

As for the architecture of the CDP solution, you can use the CDP Proxy machine, which retrieves data from the host virtual machines either as a VM on the same host (for small and low-cost environments) or as a VM running on a separate ESXi host. The latter must be connected via a separate NIC to a network dedicated to the ESXi host that will send CDP over the high-speed channel. Everything depends on the level of protection you need and the amount of money you can spend on a CDP-solution.

 

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