Microsoft has started offering Online Backup of Hyper-V Virtual Machines to Windows Azure using System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1. In this blog I will explain how to set this up and I can assure you this is absolutely no rocket science.
First of all you need to register for an account to get access to Windows Azure Online Backup Preview. The registration process will not ask you for a credit card and offers you 300GB for the limited time of 6 months to test with. Well that sounded like an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The best way to start this process is to select the Management work pane from the DPM 2012 SP1 Administrator Console. When you are registered you can click on Manage Subscriptions from the Ribbon in DPM. It will ask you to login with your newly created [name]@[domain].onmicrosoft.com account.
After sign in you arrive at the Windows Azure Online Backup portal. Click on the Setup menu, download and install the Window Azure Online Backup Agent for Windows Server 2012. Note there is a special module for Windows Server 2012 Essentials.
Under the service health menu you can find up-time information of the Windows Azure Online Backup service in different parts of the world.
The next step is to Register your DPM server, which again is done from the Ribbon in the Management work pane of the DPM Administrator Console.
Use the credentials you used for registering Windows Azure Online Backup.
You can add a proxy server if that is how you connect to the Internet. Click Next to continue.
If you want to prevent Online Backup eating up your network bandwidth you can set throttling for backup operations.
It is required that you define a staging folder for recovery purposes. This is a temporary location that is automatically cleaned up after recovery. For example, if you want to recover up to 10 virtual machine backups (from online protection) in parallel and the size of each VM backup can be up to 100GB, select folder which can hold 1000GB of data.
Click on the Generate passphrase button or create one yourself. This passphrase is used for encrypting the backup and to make sure that no one else can get access to your virtual machine backups. Of course the passphrase shown below is only an example.
Click on Register to register the DPM server with Windows Online Backup. Click Close when the registration has completed successfully.
You are now ready to create or modify your DPM Protection Group to enable online backup. If you already use System Center Data Protection Manager, the next steps will be very familiar. I must say Windows Azure Online backup is very tightly integrated with DPM 2012 SP1.
Specifically for Online backup there are two additional pages targeted at defining Online Protection in the New/Modify Protection Group wizard:
On the Specify Online Protection Data page, you can specify which virtual machines need online protection.
On the Specify Online Protection Goals page, you can set a maximum retention time of 30 days (which is the current limit for the preview) and you can synchronize twice per day. You can choose a daily or a weekly interval. Online backup requires that you have at least one online recovery point available using the latest DPM replica on disk.
Finally create or update your protection group.
After this DPM is ready to update the policies for the protection group. In this example the protection policy states that online backups of the Hyper-V virtual machines start at 9.00PM. If you want quicker results and test if things work properly, you can use the standard DPM technique to manually create a recovery point.
Select Online protection to make sure your recovery point is written to Windows Azure.
I could verify that Online Backup actually took no more than 5Mbps during working hours by looking at the network performance counters in Task Manager.
It will take some patience before I can restore my VM because at a pace of 5 Mbps, it takes a couple of hours to backup those Hyper-V guests. In practice this means you need a fast Internet connection to really make this work.
Oddly enough, when I wanted to modify throttling for online backups, I couldn’t immediately find an option to do this. After tracing the steps I took to get here, I concluded I had to use the Register Server Wizard again to make changes to the throttling settings.
The Online section of the Management work pane will show you your storage quota and how much you have consumed from the Azure cloud service.
Here is a method to get some more details about the settings of the Protection Group using PowerShell:
$pg = Get-ProtectionGroup –DPMServername [Name DPM Server]
# Since we are interested in the Hyper-V Virtual Machines protection group,
# we need the first item in the array which is $pg
$pg[0[ | fl
As you can see just using | fl does not reveal all that much.
But adding a * behind the format-list command opens up all available information.
In conclusion, I am very happy with the tight integration of Windows Azure Online Backup and System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 SP1. There was really nothing that surprised me because all familiar DPM user interface and procedures are used.
If you are looking for an interesting offline backup method without having to resort to tape, this might be just it. It will save you the expense of buying and managing a second DPM server and tape library, not to mention hiring space in another datacenter. Apart from a Capex reduction you will also benefit from an Opex reduction. Microsoft will run your online backups without ever having to deal with hardware or software.
Of course 30 days is not really enough for a long-term backup strategy, but it is only a matter of time when these limits are lifted.
I’d say … bye bye tape library, bye bye tape!
In about one hour I was able to transfer over 2GB of data. The important question is how much data is transferred after the first initial backup. Will Online backup start all over again, or just synchronize the delta as DPM 2012 SP1 now does with Hyper-V standalone and clustered servers (including Cluster Shared Volumes v2) as you can see here: