PHD Virtual esXpress 3.6 offers a number of innovative replication features aimed at solving offsite data protection and recovery problems experienced in remote data centers .
Among these new features are esXpress 3.6's built-in replication that can send either full copies or deduplicated, block-level updates to remote VMware ESX hosts. Another lets your virtual backups coexist with other physical backup solutions. Their "Date Smart Dynamic Export" lets you export native VMX and VMDK files to another host or backup system so that full backups can be taken that way. They also let you create self-extracting backup archives, so esXpress is not needed for restores.
Like other backup products, PHD Virtual esXpress 3.6 can do image-level backups and restores for all VMware-supported guest operating systems, with "deltas" or incremental backups as an option to speed backups and reduce space usage.
PHD Virtual esXpress 3.6 can perform file-level backups and restores for Linux and Microsoft Windows guest operating systems. But unlike other backup solutions it does not support Windows Volume Shadow Copy Services. Rather, file-level restores are done easily through management interfaces without needing to mount restored virtual disks. esXpress does not require VMware Consolidated Backup.
PHD Virtual delivers the product itself as two virtual appliances: one for the management console and one to serve as a deduplication backup target. The GUI management console is accessible via a web browser, but also integrates with another unique and welcome feature -- vCenter.
Through PHD vCenter virtual technologies, the virtual appliances communicate with themselves and with the individual components installed on each VMware ESX server via an NFS-mounted VMFS data store. This means that each VMware ESX host needs its VMKernel configured to support NFS, which is significant because each host handles backups for its own virtual machines in a distributed fashion. Consequently, there is no single point of failure and multiple backup targets can be configured to handle individual outages.
While the deduplication functionality relies on the deduplication virtual appliance, non-deduplicated backup targets can be reached via FTP, CIFS, SSH, or direct to a shared or local VMFS data store. The deduplication appliance can use external NFS shares for storage, or local VMDK disks residing on VMFS data stores.
PHD Virtual esXpress 3.6 is licensed per VMware ESX host, unlike most other products which are licensed per socket. This licensing model can be less expensive and also more flexible for the IT staff implementing it. Additional support and software maintenance contracts are available for access to software upgrades.
Bob Plankers is the lead Linux and VMware systems engineer at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. Plankers has 14 years of experience in IT, and he also runs The Lone Sysadmin blog.
This was first published in October 2009