Review of Altaro Hyper-V Backup 3.5
notice: Altaro are giving away two Nexus 7’s to testers of their Hyper-V backup for Windows Server 2012 beta. Check out all the details at the bottom of this blog
The crew at Hyper-V.nu were offered a first glance of Altaro Hyper-V Backup back in May 2011. We agreed to do a review of the beta version of the product. That particular version of the beta did not have support for Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and we provided feedback to Altaro about this shortcoming. As our Great Big Hyper-V Survey of 2011 showed, over 94% of users with Hyper-V clusters use CSV. We were pleasantly surprised how quickly Altaro responded by adding support for CSV in one of their next beta’s. So we did a second review testing the backup and recovery of guests living on cluster shared volumes on a Hyper-V R2 SP1 cluster.
Since then Altaro released their RTM of version 2, version 3 and v3.1 which have continued to add functionality, ease and performance. You can find a change log of Altaro Hyper-V Backup here: http://wiki.altaro.com/releases/change-log-for-altaro-hyper-v-backup
One noticeable improvement in version 3 was installation of the product on a cluster. When on a cluster the application could detect each node and configure them during the installation. You only needed to install Altaro Hyper-V Backup on one node and it would then automatically deploy modules on all other cluster nodes. Additionally, the administrator was able to manage all guests across all nodes from a single console. This meant that all backups, restores and configuration could be done from one centralized console. In a cluster environment all guests could be backed up to a single backup target such as a USB drive, a NAS or a disk on a SAN. Even when guests moved around in the cluster, Altaro Hyper-V Backup would take care of that.
By using a technique called ReverseDelta, incremental backups could be made at tremendous speed. The last version introduced ReverseDelta v2 which made incremental backups at least 300% faster.
Version 3 of Altaro Hyper-V backup also dealt with one of CSV’s shortcomings: redirected access during backup operations (backup node claiming ownership of disk and redirecting I/O across the CSV network for all other nodes for that CSV disk). A new scheduling feature called ‘Scheduling Groups’ was introduced which allowed a quick and easy drag & drop of Hyper-V guests to one or more defined Scheduling Groups. It would group guests on the same CSV together in order to decrease time required in redirected access mode. If you are a Data Protection Manager user, you will appreciate this feature as DPM does not do this for you automatically. It is also quite time consuming to even select multiple Hyper-V guests for backup and add them to their Protection Group.
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Meanwhile, Altaro has been preparing for Windows Server 2012. A new version of Altaro Hyper-V Backup is being readied to cope with the new version of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012. Here is a list of some of the improvements:
Windows Server 2012 Support, including support for VHDX files, the new virtual hard disk format
Support for the new and totally rewritten version of Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV v2) which does not require redirected access anymore.
Support for backup and restore of VMs located on SMB 3.0 UNC network paths
Support for VSS shadow copies on SMB 3.0 UNC network paths
Support for Scale-Out File Servers
We were kindly offered an opportunity to take an early look at the beta of Altaro Hyper-V Backup version 3.5
Installation of the product is still very rapid and easy. The installer is able to detect when running on a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V cluster. One thing to remember before starting the installation of Hyper-V Backup 3.5 is to enable .NET Framework 3.5 first. Because the binaries for this version are not installed with the operating system anymore, you need to offer a path to the installation files (which in most cased will be an ISO file containing Windows Server 2012). By default Netfx3 is disabled with payload removed.
To check if the correct .NET Framework is installed, run this command in PowerShell:
> Get-WindowsFeature –Name *Framework*
The quickest way is by mounting the ISO (just double-click the file) and issue the following PowerShell command:
> Install-WindowsFeature -Name NET-Framework-Core -Source [drive:]sourcessxs
An alternative is using dism.exe:
> dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename=NetFx3 /all /source:f:sourcessxs
The installation goes like this:
Run installer which shows a Welcome screen; click Next.
As is common in our industry, we carefully read the licencing agreement before we accept it; click Next.
Select the destination folder. You can leave the default at c:Program FilesAltaroAltaro Hyper-V Backup because the binaries take less than 40MB and backups are not made to this directory; click Next.
Click Install to begin the installation.
This is all it takes to install the product. As shown in the next figure, you can click on Finish to complete the installation and automatically launch the Management Console.
When you launch the management console for the first time, the Altaro Hyper-V Backup Setup Wizard starts a 3-step process.
As you can see in above picture, the installer can detect it is running on a Hyper-V Cluster and allows you to install Altaro Agents on each node. By default the node you chose to install Altaro Hyper-V Backup on, automatically becomes the Master Controller Node. Although, the management console can only run on the master node, this role can easily be moved to another node.
The management console is used for:
Selecting which VMs to backup across the cluster
Select/manage backup drive
Configure backup schedules
Initiate manual backup/restore operations.
After a list of nodes on the cluster is built in Step 2 of 3, you can decide where to place the Altaro Master Controller and which nodes will receive the Altaro Backup Agent. In our test configuration we only have a single node cluster, so the Altaro Master Controller is installed on this node.
In step 3 of 3 you can review the selected Altaro Master Controller. From a separate button at the bottom of the screen you can Install and Configure Agents. When you are done, the Altaro Backup Service is started on the master controller for the first time and you can now see an Altaro icon in the notification area on the taskbar.
As you can see the installation of Altaro Hyper-V Backup on Windows Server 2012 by no means requires a PhD in Backup. If you press the Windows key the user interface previously called Metro appears. It shows a few tiles:
Altaro Hyper-V Backup
See first figure below
Altaro Hyper-V Backup Service Controller
Controls the Altaro services; Allows you to Discard the current backup profile; Allows you to switch to a secondary backup drive.
Altaro Hyper-V Backup Error Reporter
Allows you to generate an error report, add addition information screenshots or other file, save it to a folder and then manually send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Because I expect to be working from the Desktop more often, I usually add the applications I use a lot. If the Altaro tiles don’t show up in Start yet, just start typing Altaro after pressing the Windows button. You can add the programs as tiles to Start or Pin them to the taskbar. I usually do both.
The resulting screen is still quite empty because now is the time to configure your backup. Again you are guided by a wizard which checks if all four steps have been completed. These steps are:
Select Hyper-V Guest VMs
Select a Backup Drive
Setup a Backup Schedule
The first task is to select which Hyper-V guests to add to your backup plan. This is just a matter of ticking the checkboxes of the shown guests which are organized by cluster node. You can also just hit Select All as shown in the next figure.
You need to click on Save Changes when you are ready for the next step. The Altaro wizard then reminds you to configure a backup drive.
Just select a backup drive which can be any local disk, a NAS or a disk on the SAN. If want some sort of mobility for your backup drive, you can tick the checkbox for enabling multiple backup drive swapping. USB drives will obviously be the kind of drives which allow for easy swapping. Altaro Hyper-V Backup first scans for connected drives on the master controller. Note that you can also backup to a network path (UNC path) and choose a network folder for the backup.
In a Hyper-V cluster with CSV environment it is probably required to choose a backup folder on a UNC path so all nodes can directly backup to a network path as shown in this figure:
After you have selected a backup drive or folder, you can continue to setup your backup schedule. The wizard asks if you want to jump to the panel to configure the schedule. It is extremely easy to rename the Schedule Groups and add the different Hyper-V guests to a group by means of drag & drop.
The last configuration step allows you to setup notifications. You can optionally use event log and email notifications. Click on Save Changes when you are done.
Backup of Hyper-V guests automatically kick in on the next schedule. You can also manually backup one or more guests by selecting them and click on Backup.
There are individual configuration options which can be edited via Settings at the end of each row representing a Hyper-V guest. On the different tabs you can configure ReverseDelta to save disk space as well as CPU cycles and increase both backup and restore speed. By default ReverseDelta is turned on.
You can also control backup retention in days, weeks, months or years. You can define a schedule for purging older versions as shown in the next figure. Click on Save Changes when you are ready.
A very nice feature is the Dashboard which can be started from the Altaro Hyper-V Backup management console. The dashboard quickly gives you an overview of the guests that are protected, and how much space has been used on the backup device or whether there were any errors. In this beta it struck me that the backup/restore time was not correct and differed from the system time which is governed by the Active Directory domain controller. In the accompanying Known Issues file this was not mentioned.
All VSS-compliant operating systems (Windows XP SP2, Windows Sever 2003 and up) support online backup and don’t suffer any downtime during backup.
One thing to remember is that non-Windows operating systems do not support Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS). If you backup a Linux guest for example, be careful when you plan a guest backup, as the guest is saved for the duration of the creation of the shadow copy (not for the duration of the backup!). Since a VSS snapshot must be created within a maximum timeframe of 60 seconds, the non-VSS compliant guest will be offline for a short period of time.
There is however a way to circumvent this limitation. If you go back to the Hyper-V Guest VM Backup Settings, you can configure the Advanced Settings for Non-VSS Aware VMs but be careful with this setting because restoring a VM which is backed up with the so-called Hot Backup setting enabled may be detrimental to the health of the VM.
This option should only be used if you can answer YES to all the statements below:
This is a Non-VSS Aware Guest such as Linux or an older version of Windows
This Guest VM does NOT run one of the following operating systems:
|Windows Server 2012||Windows 8|
|Windows Server 2008 R2||Windows 7|
|Windows Server 2008||Windows Vista|
|Windows Server 2003||Windows XP SP2|
You need this VM to be running all the time and cannot spare a few minutes of downtime while the backup is being taken
You understand that if you restore this VM from a backup that was taken with this option enabled you will be restoring a VM that was backed up as if the power cord was yanked out and then a backup was taken (while still off). The restored VM would probably require some sort of maintenance and includes the possibility of some type of corruption.
Backing up a VM also includes the backup of the Hyper-V snapshots taken and restoring that VM will also include these same snapshots.
Restoring a Hyper-V guest is even easier than taking the backup itself. Just select the Backup/Restore Guest VMs menu in the Altaro management console, select the guest you wish to restore and click on Restore as shown in the next figure.
All you need to do is choose the desired version and whether to copy to the original location (overwriting the current guest) or to restore a clone to a different location (creating a new guest). The following figure shows the configuration options.
Click on Restore Selected and click OK on the confirmation box. Another confirmation box appears which requires an OK as well.
And as expected we have successfully restored the Hyper-V guest (with our eyes closed).
There are several advanced restore options that can be selected from the Advanced Restore Options menu in the Altaro Hyper-V Backup administrator console:
Import Backup from another Host
Allows transport of backup plans between different Hyper-V hosts
File Level Restore
This option mounts the (A)VHD(X) files so that individual files can be restored
To routinely perform test restores upon your VM backups (on a schedule or on demand)
Boot from Backup Device
Before testing restores, I did the following:
Removed guest from Hyper-V Manager
Removed guest from disk
Removed cluster resources for guest in Failover Cluster Manager
Important to note is that when you restore a high available Hyper-V guest, the cluster resources will not be recovered if for some reason they were not preserved. To fix this, you need to run the High Availability Wizard (via Right-Click Roles | Configure Role) to recover these resources. One pleasant improvement in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V is that the guest does not have to be offline to renew the cluster resources.
For Altaro Hyper-V Backup to function correctly in a highly secure environment, a number of firewall rules must be configured.
Within the same Node – between the management console and the “Altaro Hyper-V Backup” Windows Service
IPC Ports Used
Between Nodes on the same Cluster – Between the management console and the “Altaro Hyper-V Backup” Windows Service on the remote node
TCP Port: 24252
Between the “Altaro Hyper-V Backup” Windows Service and the “Altaro Hyper-V Backup” on the remote node
TCP Port: 24251
The licensing model for Altaro Hyper-V Backup is quite easy to understand and is explained in the next figure. Please note that for backing up VM’s on a Hyper-V cluster, you always need the Unlimited Edition for each cluster node.
The new version 3.5 of Altaro Hyper-V Backup is just a breeze to install and operate. It offers you all the options to quickly configure Hyper-V host level backups of Hyper-V guests. It is reassuring that Altaro has jumped on the Windows Server 2012 bandwagon so quickly. Because CSV is a lot easier to deal with compared with version 1 of Cluster Shared Volumes and VSS is still the main backup API in the operating system, no big changes to this superbly working backup product seem to have been necessary.
Although Microsoft now also supports backup of Hyper-V guests on CSV with its built-in Windows Server Backup application, the ease and speed of backup & recovery in a Windows Server 2012 cluster is just amazing and well worth its (limited) cost.
Although this is still an early beta, I can merely congratulate Altaro on the upcoming version for Windows Server 2012 and say: “I am convinced!”
Marcel van der Berg has also reviewed this product. Take a look at his view on the product
Altaro are giving away two Nexus 7’s to a couple of lucky testers of their Win Server 2012 Backup for Hyper-V Beta. All you need to do is send a screenshot of the beta installed by Aug 24th. For full info check out the contest page: http://www.altaro.com/hyper-v-backup/contest.php