Common FAQ’s about VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB)

VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) is an add-on for VMware ESX Server & VMware Virtual Center. Many times, VCB is included in the VMware Infrastructure Suite along with the aforementioned applications. But VCB is a mysterious product, with little documentation that is difficult to explain. In this article, I will cover some of the most common VMware Consolidate Backup (VCB) questions and their answers.

What is VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB)?

VCB is a set of utilities that work with VMware Virtual Center and VMware ESX Server. VCB runs on a Windows system only. There is NO graphical interface for VCB. VCB consists of about 5 command line interface (CLI) tools. Of those, about 3 are used by a VMware administrator to take advantage of what VCB has to offer.

With VCB you can perform an IMAGE level or FILE level backup of a VMware ESX Server Guest Operating system. With an image level backup, the image of that VMware ESX Server Guest OSs virtual disk will be transferred to the VCB Server. Thus, you may need a significant amount of disk space to backup all ESX Server Virtual Guest systems at the image level.

At the file level, VCB simply provides command line access to a mapped drive that point to the live ESX Server Guest OS virtual disk over on the ESX Server. From there, you could choose to copy the files on the virtual disk, ZIP them, or back them up with a backup application

No matter which option you choose, with VCB alone, the data that you are wanting to backup simply ends up on the VCB Server.

Is VCB a backup application?

As VCB doesnt know anything about tape drives or any other kind of offsite storage medium, VCB cannot be considered a backup application. Additionally, VCB does nothing beyond simply mounting virtual volumes and (in the case of the image backup option) transfer that image to the server. Anything else you want to do with VCB must be done with scripting. Essentially, VCB is a “backup proxy utility”.

For this reason, there are third party backup applications available for VMware ESX Server that take advantage of VCB. One such application is Vizioncores vRanger Pro.

What does the VCB interface look like?

As I mentioned above, there is no GUI for VCB. Anything that you do with VCB is done at the command line. Perhaps, one day, there will be a GUI interface (I hope so). As VCB is still in a 1.x version, there are a lot of features that VCB is missing (besides features, VCB 1.x is also missing quality documentation).

Thus, to use VCB, you go to a Windows CLI prompt, CD into the VCB directory, and run a command like this one:

vcbmounter -h virtualcenter -u vcbadmin -p MyPassword1 -a name:blackberry -r c:\mount\blackberry -t fullvm -m san

With this command, I tell VCB to do a full backup, at the image level, of one of my VMware ESX Server Guest virtual machines. Obviously, you arent going to want to type this out every day for every virtual machine you want to “backup” with VCB. Thus, you would certainly incorporate this into a script or use an application like Vizioncores vRanger Pro.

What are the most commonly used VCB Commands?

In another Petri article, entitled VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) utilities , I reviewed the top 3 VCB Commands that a VMware administrator needs to get the job done. To see demos of commands like vcbmounter, vcbvmname, vcbsnapshot, vcbexport, and mountvm, please check out that article.

Why do I need VCB?

While VCBs interface is limited, there are some very important reasons for using VCB. Lets look at my list of VCB benefits:

  • Centralize backups of VMware ESX Virtual Servers
  • Provide file-level backups of VMware ESX Virtual Servers – both full and incremental (file level backup available to only Windows guests)
  • Provide image-level backups
  • Prevent you from having to load a backup agent on every Virtual Machine
  • Prevent you from having to shutdown Virtual Machines to get a backup
  • Provides LAN-Free backup because the VCB server is connected to the SAN through your fibre channel adaptor
  • Provides centralized storage of Virtual Server backups on the VCB server, that is then moved to your backup tapes through the 3rd party backup agent you install
  • Reduces the load on the VMware ESX servers by not having to load a 3rd party backup agent on either the VMware ESX service console or on each virtual machine.
  • Utilizes VMware Snapshots

Why most people usually end up using VCB is to be able to backup their VMware ESX Server guest operating systems without every having to shutdown that guest system AT ALL. Plus, the recovery of that guest system, if you used the image level backup/restore, could be done in the time it takes to copy the VCB image to the ESX Server.

What do I need to run VCB?

To run VCB, you will need:

  • Windows 2003 Server
  • iSCSI or FC connection from that server to the SAN where the VMware ESX Server Guest virtual disks are stored
  • Virtual Center Server on the network
  • Lots of disk space
  • License for VCB configured on the license server and activated for each VMware ESX Host system that you will be backing up VMs on

How much does VCB cost?

Most VMware Administrators dont buy VCB by itself because, to be used, it needs VMware ESX Server and VMware Infrastructure. Thus, VCB is usually bought in a package with those products such as one of these three VMware packages:

  • VMware Infrastructure Foundation (Starter)
  • VMware Infrastructure Standard
  • VMware Infrastructure Enterprise

To learn the costs for VCB and these packages, please see the How to Purchase VMware Infrastructure website.

In Summary

Believe me, there was a time that I was stuck at the ESX service console interface, trying to resolve a networking issues, and struggling to find the right commands to do it. I hope that you will save this URL or print this article to keep it handy the next time you are in a similar situation because that know that these 5 commands can help you get out of any VMware ESX Server networking configuration or troubleshooting issue.

For more information directly from VMware on VCB, see the homepage for this product on the Web: VCB Overview

You can also find a couple of very nice videos on VCB and VMware Infrastructure at the following links:

You can find more information on these tools, consider the following websites: