FREE WHITE PAPER: Configuring a VEEAM Off Host Backup Proxy Server for backing up a Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster with a DELL Compellent SAN (Fiber Channel)


Whilst I’m attending TechEd North America 2014, being able to learn and network again with the community at large I think this is a good moment to share. So here’s a little contribution to that community: it’s a white paper on How to configure a VEEAM Off Host Backup Proxy server for backing up a Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster with a DELL Compellent SAN (Fiber Channel).

VEEAM Back & Replication is currently under and extensive test before we make the decision. So far it is going (very) well. And no, VEEAM or DELL did not sponsor this. It’s sharing with the community. A prosperous, successful community makes my professional live better to!

I have to applaud VEEAM for allowing such easy access to their software for trials, to their engineers for assistance and to their support forum and resources even without yet being a paying customer. This is how it should be: vendors having faith in their products both in quality and ease of use. It’s a refreshing experience as some vendors don’t want you to get your hands on new versions of their products even as a existing paying customer “because due to its complexity we might get the wrong impression”. It’s even near impossible with some to get a test license for the lab of the version you currently use with some of them. Not so with VEEAM and that’s great.

I hope you enjoy it. As you might realize I don’t have this kind of infrastructure in my home lab so some of the screenshots have been edited / blurred. I’m sure you can live with that. Otherwise feel free to provide me with the gear in a paid for data center.

Some Insights Into How Windows 2012 R2 Hyper-V Backups Work


How Windows Server 2012 R2 backups differ from Windows Server 2012 and earlier

You’ll remember our previous blog about an error when backing up a virtual machine on Windows Server 2012 R2, throwing this error:

Dealing With Event ID 10103 “The virtual machine ‘VM001′ cannot be hot backed up since it has no SCSI controllers attached. Please add one or more SCSI controllers to the virtual machine before performing a backup. (Virtual machine ID DCFE14D3-7E08-845F-9CEE-21E0605817DC)” In Windows Server 2012 R2

The fix was easy enough, adding a virtual SCSI controller to the virtual machine. But why does it need that now?

Well, this all has to do with the changed way Windows Server 2012 R2 backups work. Before Windows Server 20012 R2 the VSS provider created a VSS snapshot inside the guest virtual machine. That snapshot was exposed to the host, to create a volume snapshot for backup purposes. Right after the volume snapshot has been taken this VSS snapshot inside the guest virtual machine needed to be reverted. The backups then run against that volume snapshot and is consistent thanks to both host & guest VSS capabilities.

For an overview of VSS based backup process in general take a peak at Overview of Processing a Backup Under VSS

Now it is the “Hyper-V Integration Services Shadow Copy Provider” that is being used. When the the host initiates a volume snapshot (Microsoft or hardware VSS provider) the host VSS writer goes in to freeze. This process leverages the Hyper-V Integration Services Shadow Copy Provider  to create the virtual machine checkpoint. After that the volume/LUN/CSV snapshot is taken. When that is done the host VSS writes goes into thaw and the virtual machine checkpoint is deleted. After that the backup runs against the Volume snapshot and at the end that is also deleted. You can follow this process quite nicely in the GUI of your Hyper-V host, you SAN (if you use a Hardware VSS provider).

Dear storage vendors: a great, reliable, fast VSS Hardware Provider is paramount to success in a Microsoft environment. You need to get this absolutely right and out of the door before spending any more time and money on achieving yet more IOPS. Keep scalability in mind when doing this.

Dear backup software vendors: think about the scalability when designing your products. If we have 200 or 500 or a thousand VMs … can we leverage CSV based backups to protect every VM on the LUN or do we need to snap the LUN for every VM backed up? Choice there is good for both data protection schemes and scalability.

At this stage the hardware VSS snapshot is being taken …

image_thumb3

Contrary to common belief this means that the backup will indeed application consistent to the time of the checkpoint as the CSV snapshot being taken is of a consistent checkpoint. It’s the delta in the active avhdx that is only crash consistent, like any running VM by the way. Now pay attention to the screenshot below. The two red arrows are indicating to ntfs source events, two volumes seem to be exposed to the next free drive letters. E: and F: here as C: is the virtual machine OS and D: the DVD.

image_thumb5

Look at the detail. Indeed two. Well it the previous screenshot we only saw one in the CSV path but there are two avhdx files indeed.

image_thumb[1]

Exposing a snapshot on the SAN to a server actually shows us this much better … look here at the avhdx with the GUID and one with “AutoRecovery” in the name. So that makes for two nfts events … and as the backup needs to do this life it requires a vSCSI controller to be present in the virtual machine … and vIDE controller can’t do this.

image_thumb[3]

Anyway, enough under the hood detective work for now, In VEEAM that stage looks like this:

image_thumb7

And on the Compellent it looks like this. The screenshots are from different backups at different times so don’t get confused about the time stamps here. It’s just as illustration of what you can expect to see.

image_thumb12

Now when the CSV snapshot has been taken the virtual machine checkpoint is removed. At that time the backup runs against the CSV snapshot. In our case (hardware VSS provider) this is a snapshot on the SAN that gets exposed in a view and mapped to the off host backup proxy VEEAM server. On the DELL Compellent it looks like this.

image_thumb16

This takes a while to o…but after a while the backup will kick off. Do not that the checkpoint has merged and is no longer visible at this time.

image_thumb18

Once the backup is complete, the mapping is removed, the view deleted and the snapshot expired. So your SAN is left as the backup found it.

There you go. I hope this helped clarify certain things on how Hyper-V guest backups work in Windows 2012 R2. So your backups are still application consistent, just not when you’re running Linux or DOS or NT4.0 as there is no support / VSS for that. However they are based on a  consistent virtual machine snapshot which explains why Hyper-V backups can protect Linux guests very adequately!

Dealing With Event ID 10103 “The virtual machine ‘VM001′ cannot be hot backed up since it has no SCSI controllers attached. Please add one or more SCSI controllers to the virtual machine before performing a backup. (Virtual machine ID DCFE14D3-7E08-845F-9CEE-21E0605817DC)” In Windows Server 2012 R2


I was doing backups of a Windows 2012 R2 Hype-V cluster recently and it runs only Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual machines. It’s a small but very modern and up to date cluster Smile.

Using VEEAM as backup software I have high expectations and VEEAM did deliver. All went well except for one virtual machine.

image

VEEAM states "Processing Error. Guest processing skipped (check guest OS VSS state and integration components version)". Well all  virtual machines  are W2K12R2 as are the cluster host and all IC components are up to date and backup (volume checkpoint) is enabled.

image

I dove into the Hyper-V log and sure enough I found following event:

The virtual machine ‘VM001′ cannot be hot backed up since it has no SCSI controllers attached. Please add one or more SCSI controllers to the virtual machine before performing a backup. (Virtual machine ID DCFE14D3-7E08-845F-9CEE-21E0605817DC).

As it turns out in in Windows Server 2012 R2 the VM requires a SCSI controller for the backup to function. It doesn’t need to have any storage attached. It just needs one to be there (default). So the fix is easy, just add one.

image

image

Click “Apply” and “OK”. You can now start the virtual machine and that’s it. Once we fixed that it was a squeaky clean backup run.

But why does it need to be there?

Well when we monitor the event logs inside a virtual machine we are backing up we see that during the backup process, very briefly a VHDX get’s mounted inside the guest.

image

To answer this question we need to dive into how Windows Server 2012 R2 backups work as that is different from how it used to be. You can read about that over here when it’s published.

Hyper-V Cluster Node Pause & Drain fails – Live Migrations fail with “The requested operation cannot be completed because a resource has locked status”


One night I was doing some maintenance on a Hyper-V cluster and I wanted to Pause and drain one of the nodes that was up next for some tender loving care. But I was greeted by some messages:

image

[Window Title]
Resource Status

[Main Instruction]
The requested operation cannot be completed because a resource has locked status.

[Content]
The requested operation cannot be completed because a resource has locked status.

[OK]

Strange, the cluster is up and running, none of the other nodes had issues and operational wise all VMs are happy as can be. So what’s up? Not to much in the error logs except for this one related to a backup. Aha …We fire up disk part and see some extra LUNs mounted + using “vssadmin list writers“ we find:

clip_image002

 

 

Writer name: ‘Microsoft Hyper-V VSS Writer’
…Writer Id: {66841cd4-6ded-4f4b-8f17-fd23f8ddc3de}
…Writer Instance Id: {2fa6f9ba-b613-4740-9bf3-e01eb4320a01}
…State: [5] Waiting for completion
…Last error: Unexpected error

Bingo! Hello old “friend”, I know you! The Microsoft Hyper-V VSS Writer goes into an error state during the making of hardware snapshots of the LUNs due to almost or completely full partitions inside the virtual machines. Take a look at this blog post on what causes this and how to fix fit. As a result we can’t do live migrations anymore or Pause/Drain the node on which the hardware snapshots are being taken.

And yes, after fixing the disk space issue on the VM (a SDT who’s pumped the VM disks 99.999% full) the Hyper-V VSS writer get’s out of the error state and the hardware provider can do it’s thing. After the snapshots had completed everything was fine and I could continue with my maintenance.

Money Saving Hero of 2012: Windows 2012 In Box Deduplication Delivers Big Value


To wave goodbye to 2012 I’m posting the latest screenshot of the easiest and very effective money saving feature you got in Windows Server 2012 than RTM in August. Below you’ll find the status report of a backup LUN in a small environment.  Yes those are real numbers in a production environment.image

If you are not using it; you’re really throwing away vast amounts of money on storage right this moment. If you’re in the market for a practical, economical and effective backup solution my advice you to  is the following. Scrap any backup vendor or product that prevents it files of LUNs being duplicated  by Windows Server 2012.  They might as well be robbing you at gun point.

You can pay for a very nice company new years party with these savingsMartini glassParty smile

I wish you all a great end of 2012 and a magnificent 2013 ahead. In 2013 we’ll push Windows Server 2012 into service where we couldn’t before (waiting for 3 party vendor support and if they keep straggling they are out of the door) and work at making our infrastructure ever more resilient an protected.  With System Center SP1 some products of that suite will make a come back in our environment. 10Gbps is bound to become the standard all over our little data center network and not just our most important workloads.

You Got To Love Windows Server 2012 Deduplication for Backups


I’ve discussed this before in Windows Server 2012 Deduplication Results In A Small Environment but here’s a little updated screenshot of a backup volume:

image

Not to shabby I’d say and 100% free in box portable deduplication … What are you waiting for Winking smile

Altaro Backup for Hyper-V Has Gifts for the Festive Season


Here’s an early X-Mas gift from Altaro. They are giving away 50 free licenses of their desktop backup solution to all Hyper-V admins until December 24th 2012. Altaro is better known for their cost effective and good Hyper-V Backup product.

There is no catch. Now there is no such thing as a free lunch in life but there are some very decent meals to be gotten at very democratic pricing. This is one such case. All you need to do is send them a screenshot of Hyper-V in your environment that proves that you’re really using Hyper-V. I guess that means I qualify due to the amount of Hyper-V related screenshots on my blog Winking smile. I’m going to check it out for sure.

What do you get? 50 licenses of their desktop backup solution ($2,000 worth of software). You’re free to use them in your company, at home of as a gift to friends and family. 50 Licenses is something that a lot of companies using Hyper-V in the SMB market can leverage to protect their desktops so that’s a pretty nice gift.

If you’re interested you can go to http://www.altaro.com/hyper-v/50-free-pc-backup-licenses-for-all-hyper-v-admins

There more information about Altaro Hyper-V Backup at http://www.altaro.com/hyper-v/ and http://www.altaro.com/hyper-v-backup/?LP=Xmas. If you’re a SMB shop in need of easy to use, affordable backup software for Hyper-V and want one that has full support for all features in Windows Server 2012 you should try them out. In that respect they were very fast to market beating most or all competitors I know (a lot of them still don’t have that support) They are also a non-aggressive vendor, which is something I appreciate.