Read this if you’re thinking of going 100% agentless!

Since the beginning of backup times (almost), backing up specific platforms has typically required an agent optimized for the environment in question.  Typically, you’d get one agent installed on each server, the agent would interact with the backup engine/server and do its thing.  This became very cumbersome when virtualization exploded, when adding a server (virtual) could be easily done with one phone call to your favorite admin. Not just one, but dozens or hundreds. It meant installing one agent on each virtual machine, which quickly became cumbersome and operationally created data protection gaps and issues.

Along came agentless backup which significantly reduced the difficulty associated with backing up virtual machines.  With this approach, you can capture all of the VMs with a proxy server without having to install an agent in each virtual machine.  Less administration, less data loss exposure…what else could be better? It certainly made agent backup look old and clunky.

Not so fast…. As is often the case, there’s more than meets the eye.  You can’t just go 100% agentless…Here’s why:

  • With VMware, any virtual machine that does not use native VMFS cannot be properly protected “agentless-ly” leveraging the native VMware API’s.  Raw Device Maps (RDM’S), and SQL Cluster disks are both examples where a different File System to VMFS is used.
  • Our competitor Company V’s agentless technology, for example, can’t protect these systems.  In contrast, Arcserve easily can through the installation of an agent.  In a recent conversation with our field, we confirmed that we often see customers who use RDM’s being told by Company V that they have to convert them to ‘normal’ virtual machines.  That’s a dirty little secret, and something that many customers just won’t deal with. (By the way, this company’s recent announcement around agent deserves serious inspection – a glorified desktop agent is not the same thing as a full-featured server agent.)

To quote one of our field leads: “Our physical server support through the UDP agent install is a significant advantage over Virtual only agentless solutions.  The ability to be able to protect and recover physical machines as bare metal, as virtual machines or at an object and file level is obvious, but it also allows us to protect virtual machines that are not supported by the native tools and API’s.  There are also circumstances where it may be preferable to install an agent inside the virtual machine – for example if the virtual machine is very large or has a very high change rate, or if the VM Tools are perhaps not properly configured or up to date.”

Also, with our High Availability module, which provides Continuous Data Protection, Fail Over, Fail Back and more, supporting replication and backup of an MSCS cluster running on Windows 2008 R2 in VMware with physical RDM is easy.  It is however a big issue with our competitors Company V and Company Z.  In addition, remember that Arcserve offers great deduplication, global across nodes.  Not everyone does that!

Beware of 100% agentless solutions – they just don’t cut it in many cases!

CTRL Z your life

After a busy day of writing emails, copying and pasting into spreadsheets and tweaking objects in this and that presentation; I was finishing up the last of it… tapping away on my laptop at the kitchen table when my right hand suddenly slipped and the mouse went “Saturday Night Fever” on me across the tabletop only to knock a glass of water off the side.

As the glass fell in slow motion, my left hand – still resting on the keyboard, jumped into action and out of pure reflex hit CTRL Z. To paint the picture for those of you who do not use keyboard shortcuts, I tried to stop a real life glass of water from breaking on my kitchen floor by using a computer’s “Undo” command. And… smash.control_z

This immediately provided my Mrs. with a new entry for her long catalogue of ‘silly things Louis has done’, the source material for her best jokes at my expense. It was one morning as I melodramatically writhed in pain following a stubbed little toe that she suggested satirically “Why don’t you just hit CTRL Z?” Funny…I’m told. But it got me thinking about it again and you know what? I need CTRL Z in my life.

This is the stuff science fiction is made of! Oh to imagine what it would be like to live in a virtual world where you can pick the rules, read the dark warnings of William Gibson’s Burning Chrome or enjoy the pop asceticism of The Matrix. However, as we spend even more time online, our lives routinely uploaded there, perhaps the future is closer than we think.

What commands would you want in your virtual world? I am just a Backup and Disaster Recovery guy so please forgive my lack of imagination for this bucket list of Louis’ Must Have Commands For His Virtual World:

1. Save a Recovery Point from when I was 21 so I can go back and have hair again any time I want.

2. Replicate myself on holiday. After deduplicating and compressing myself so that I could travel on even a modest connection, I would encrypt myself and then, either real time or scheduled, replicate myself to a datacenter in Barbados. NICE!

3. Use Virtual Standby to create a lookalike of me. Not feeling like work today? I would spin up a Virtual Machine copy of myself fully equipped with all the relevant data; applications and send the poor chap into work instead.

4. Archive my fashion mistakes to the cloud. This is pretty much all the way from 1995 till present day with only a few exceptions like weddings and one or two fancy dress parties. I would take Granular Restore with that just in-case I am ever feeling nostalgic and want to have a laugh at one or two badly dressed memories without having to remember the whole lot.

5. Make everything much easier to do than it currently is. I’m thinking of absolutely everything here; but specific examples include: baking a decent macaron, DARPA’s math challenge and Morris dancing.

6. Deduplicate plastic bags. If only we could delete all the unnecessary plastic bags in the World! Well this is my virtual world and we just did it! Of course we’ll keep one plastic bag to put in a museum somewhere…

7. SSD my brain. Daft Punk have already had this upgrade.

8.Intuitively know exactly what to do and when to do it. In my virtual world I’m not asking to be smarter, I’m just asking that everything else is simpler.

9. Truncate my logs before I go to bed.

There is probably a far more controversial version of this list available to anyone who uses Adobe Photoshop extensively; but all of the above mentioned Backup and Disaster Recovery capabilities are available at this very moment with Arcserve UDP in both software and appliance options. And for those of us left wanting CTRL Z right now and in the real world, Virtual Reality exists via our smartphones and we still have the power to untag bad photos of ourselves on the likes of Twitter and other social media platforms. Things are looking up – we’re getting there!