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:


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

Windows Server 2012 Deduplication Results In A Small Environment

There is a small environment that provides web presence and services. In total there a bout 20 production virtual machines. These are all backed up to a Transparent Failover File Share on a Windows Server 2012 cluster that is used to host all the infrastructure and management services.

The LUN/Volume for the backups is about 5.5 TB of storage is available. The folder layout is shown in the screenshot below. The backups are run “in guest” using native Windows Backup which has the WindowsImageBackup subfolder as target. Those backups are  archived to an “Archives” folder. That archive folder is the one that gets deduplicated, as the WindowsImageBackup folder is excluded.


This means that basically the most recent version is not deduplicated guaranteeing the fastest possible restore times at the cost of some disk space. All older (> 1 day) backup files are deduplicated. We achieve the following with this approach:

  • It provides us with enough disk space savings to keep archived backups around for longer in case we need ‘m.
  • It also provides for enough storage to backup more virtual machines while still being able to maintain a satisfactory number of archived backups.
  • Ay combination of the above two benefits can be balanced versus the business needs
  • It’s a free, zero cost solution

The Results

About 20 virtual machines are backed up every week (small delta and lots of stateless applications).As the optimization runs we see the savings grow. That’s perfectly logical. The more backups we make of virtual machines with a small delta the more deduplication can shine. So let’s look at the results using Get-DedupStatus | fl


A couple of weeks later it looks like this.


Give it some more months, with more retained backusp, and I think  we’ll keep this around 88%-90% .From tests we have done (ddpeval.exe) we think we’ll max out at around 80% savings rate. But it’s a bit less here overall because we excluded the most recent backups. Guess what, that’s good enough for us Winking smile. It beats buying extra storage of paying a wad of money for disk deduplication licenses from some backup vendor or appliance. Just using the build in deduplication mechanisms in Windows Server 2012 Server saved us a bunch of money.

The next step is to also convert the production  Hyper-V cluster to Windows Server 2012 so we can do host based backups with the native Windows Backup that now supports Cluster Shared Volumes (another place where that 64TB VHDX  size can come in handy as Windows backup now writes to VHDX).

Some interesting screen shots


The volume reports we’re using 3TB in data. So 2.4TB is free.


Looking at the backup folder you see  10.9TB of data stored on 1.99 TB of disk .

So the properties of the volume reports more disk space used that the actual folder containing the data. Let’s use WinDirStat to have a look.


So the above agrees with the volume properties. In the details of this volumes we again see about 2TB of consumed space.


Could it be that the volume might is reserving some space ensure proper functioning?

When you dive deeper things we get some cool view of storage space used.. Where Windows Explorer is aware of deduplication and shows the non deduplicates size for the vhd file, WinDirStat does not, it always shows shows the size on disk, which is a whole lot less.


This is the same as when you ask for the properties of a file in Windows Explorer.



Is it the best solution for everyone? Not always no. The deduplication is done on the target after the data is copied there. So in environments where bandwidth is seriously constrained and there is absolutely no technical and/or economical way to provide the needed throughput this might not be viable solution. But don’t dismiss this option to fast. In a lot of scenarios is it is very good and cost effective feature. Technically & functionally it might be wiser to do it on the target as you don’t consumes to much memory (deduplication is a memory hog) an CPU cycles on the source hosts. Also nice is that these dedupe files are portable across systems. VEEAM has demonstrated some nice examples of combing their deduplication with Windows dedupe by the way. So this might also be an interesting scenario.

Financially the the cost of deduplication functionality with hardware appliances or backup software hurts like the kick of a horse straight onto the head. So even if you have to invest a little in bandwidth and cabling you might be a lot better of. Perhaps, as you’re replacing older switches by new 1Gbps or 10Gbps gear, you might be able to recuperate the old ones as dedicated backup switches. We’re using mostly recuperated switch ports and native Windows NIC teaming, it works brilliantly. I’ve said this before, saving money whilst improving operations rarely gets you fired. The sweet thing about this that this is achieved by building good & reliable solutions, which means they are efficient even if it costs some money to achieve. Some managers focus way to much on efficiency from the start as to them means nothing more than a euphemism for saving every € possible. Penny wise and Pound foolish. Bad move. Efficiency, unless it is the goal itself, is a side effect of a well designed and optimized solution. A very nice and welcome one for that matter, but it’s not the end all be all of a solution or you’ll have the wrong outcome.