Azure Backup Adds Support for VMware

Microsoft recently added support for protecting VMware virtual machines (VMs) using Azure Backup Server, and storing your backups of these VM in Azure for long-term retention.

The Need to Support VMware

I am a self-confessed advocate of Hyper-V, but even I can admit that VMware has carved out a very large slice of the virtualization pie for themselves. Many of these VMware customers have looked for cloud services, and failing to find anything adequate from VMware, they’ve turned their attention to the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

The new Microsoft would like you to run your apps or your services on its platforms and devices, but it isn’t fussy about selling cloud services to Android users, Apple customers, and, as it turns out, VMware customers’ money is as good as that of a Hyper-V user. It’s been more than a year since Azure Site Recovery added support for replicating vSphere virtual machines to the cloud for disaster recovery purposes. Microsoft recently updates System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) to add support for backing up vSphere virtual machines, and now Microsoft has added support for Azure Backup Server to do the same.

vSphere Support in Azure Backup Server

Microsoft announced that Azure Backup Server (MABS) added support for ESXi 5.5 and 6.0 (with or without vCenter) with the recently released Update 1 for Azure Backup Server.

Azure Backup Server Update 1 supports ESXi 5.5 and 6.0 [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Azure Backup Server Update 1 supports ESXi 5.5 and 6.0 [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
MABS provides disk-disk-cloud backup. You can protect your workloads (Hyper-V, SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange, and now vSphere) using local disk storage; this means that you can restore VMs from a recent backup at LAN speeds. If you need long-term retention, you can modify a protection group (think of it as a policy) to forward some/all of your VMs to Azure blob storage (in the form of a Recovery Services Vault) where it’s stored for just a few cents per GB per month. Note that:

  • Azure Backup compresses data.
  • No data leaves your site without being encrypted using a secret that Microsoft does not have access to (“trust no-one” security).
  • After a full backup, you only every do incremental backups.
  • You can seed your first backup using a secure disk transfer process that was improved in August.

As with DPM, MABS uses VMware’s VADP API to provide agentless protection of vSphere VMs; this means that you have less software on the hosts (none in the case of MABS or DPM) and you are using the backup mechanism that VMware recommends and supports.
MABS and DPM are designed to leverage vCenter’s folder structure to improve VM scalability and discoverability. VMs are discovered automatically, even if they are on external storage targets such as a SAN or NFS. If you have a large environment, you can browse the VM folder structure — this improves browsing performance. You can protect a folder, and any VM that is added to the folder is automatically discovered and protected.

Update 1 for Azure Backup

This is the first update for the free (pay-as-you-go for usage) MABS — note that the cloud integration provided by a single MARS agent on the MABS machine is updated regularly. The 856MB update is a simple update (requiring a reboot to complete) to your backup server and provides several improvements:

  • Support for discovering and protecting vSphere virtual machines.
  • New Azure Backup security features.
  • Several bug fixes, including one to finally allow us to configure email alerts from the MABS console, and another that also allows ASR to replicate virtual machines at the same time.