How to backup hyperconverged infrastructure

Backing up hyperconvered infrastructure means backing up virtual machines, and that means several options to choose from.

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Enterprises running hypervisors on hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems typically have backup options available to them that are not available to those running on generic hardware. Such customers may also have additional backup challenges depending on the HCI vendor and hypervisor they have chosen. Let’s take a look.

Traditional hypervisor backup

When backing up physical servers you might run a full backup on all of them at one time, and that’s fine. It’s an entirely different situation if all of those servers are actually virtual machines sharing the same physical server. Even running several full-file incremental backups (backing up the entire file even if only one byte has changed) at the same time can significantly affect the performance of your hypervisor. That’s why most customers using server-virtualization products such as VMware or Hyper-V have switched to more hypervisor-friendly methods.

Options include block-level incremental or source-side deduplication methods. While they’re not technically designed for VM backups, they can be very helpful because both significantly reduce the I/O requirements of a backup by an order of magnitude or more. They also make it possible to run VM-level backups without impacting the overall performance of the hypervisor. One downside is that it reduces the efficiency of virtualization because it requires the installation and maintenance of client software on each VM. That’s why most people backing up VMs opt for hypervisor-level backups.

Hypervisor-level backups utilize software or APIs at the hypervisor level. Each major hypervisor offers such an API. Backup systems interfacing with these APIs are typically able to ask the hypervisor for the blocks that have changed since the last successful backup. The backup system backs up only those changed blocks, significantly reducing the I/O requirement and reduces the amount of CPU required to identify and locate change blocks. The combined effect of these two features significantly reduces the impact of backups on the hypervisor.

Snapshot-based backup

Some storage products have connected hypervisor-backup APIs with their snapshot capability as a backup methodology. All customers need to do is to put their datastore on the storage system in question and provide the appropriate level of authentication into the hypervisor. At the agreed-upon schedule, the snapshot system interfaces with the hypervisor, places the various

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