Long-term archival policies remain a consistent part of many enterprise infrastructures today. The need to maintain the 3-2-1 rule, ensure corporate standards, or provide regulatory compliance, keep liability of archival options out of the question. Convenient use of virtual tape libraries (VTL) enables enterprise businesses to extend their tape-based backups to virtual disks, or simply switch to newer operational methods without a long preparation as the staff is familiar with the terms already. While Veeam provides native tape support for backing up to virtual tape libraries, it’s now extending it with an option to leverage StarWind VTL for Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, enabling all users looking for cheap and reliable cloud storage to easily and securely store backups/files there.

With this integration, Veeam and StarWind customers can tier their backup data on site, maintaining one to two weeks of data on-premises, while moving longer-term archives directly to a more cost-effective Microsoft Azure Blob Storage. In this blog, I’ll be covering how to tackle the latter. For a more detailed look, you can view the webinar.

Before we rush into details, I’d like to mention that it will take very little effort from existing Veeam customers to accomplish the process. However, due to many available deployment scenarios (starting from Veeam Backup & Replication (VBR) and StarWind software installed on the same server on-premise and ending with VBR and StarWind being independently deployed on Azure VMs), please take a moment to think about traffic flow and the best configuration for your system before you proceed.

As for the configuration itself, I’d prefer to split it onto three logical steps:

1. Azure preparation

Go to Azure portal, find storage accounts, and add another one (or repurpose an existing blob storage). Make sure to provide all the required information and select blob storage within the account kind option. Then, proceed to a newly created storage account and copy the storage account name and a key (settings –> access keys) as well as create a container which is going to be used for storing the data (blob service –> containers –> new). You’ll need this data later, when configuring a cloud replication in StarWind VTL.


Figure 1. Azure blob storage details

2. Configuring StarWind VTL

The purpose of such an action is to emulate a tape library setup on a desired server, so Veeam is going to send data to that library where it will be processed and ready for a cloud archival. A classic Disk to Disk to Cloud (D2D2C) scheme in action.

Get the latest StarWind VTL package (version 8.0.0.12248 or newer) and install it on any appropriate physical, virtual, cloud server or even Veeam server itself. During installation, make sure to select the “VTL and Cloud Replication” option so StarWind automatically deploys the corresponding components. Specify a convenient path for the storage pool or leave it by default at disk C. Then, operating from the StarWind management console, connect to a desired server (use localhost or 127.0.0.1 when setting up an all-in-one scenario) and add a virtual tape device (drive) with as many virtual tapes you’d like. StarWind VTL emulates the actual HPE MSL8096 Tape Library, so all the principles of working with such a library will be applicable here. Note: You might need to install the latest drivers pack so that the server recognizes the said tape library properly. Once that is done, this server can be pointed to a VTL using the standard Windows iSCSI tools (control panel –> administrative tools –> iSCSI initiator). Go to Discovery –> Discovery Portal to initialize VTL and then connect to it from the Targets tab.


Figure 2. Connecting to discovered VTL target

Now you should enable a cloud archival via the cloud replication functionality: Simply select Microsoft Azure Cloud Storage on the first step, then specify the required Azure details from step #1, and finish the process by providing the desired retention settings.


Figure 3. StarWind. Setting up the retention settings

3. Veeam Backup & Replication

From a Veeam Backup & Replication perspective, you’ll need to add a server from above as a tape server to the VBR console. For that, an IP/DNS address and appropriate credentials will be required. During the procedure, Veeam will install a Transport and Tape Proxy services to the server and perform a tape libraries inventory if the option is specified. Once the tapes are detected and put into a Free Media Pool, it’s a good idea to create a dedicated Media Pool with some tapes, which will be used on another step.

Now, Veeam is connected to VTL and can push the data there. Create a Backup to Tape or File to Tape Job, specify the backup scope (you’ll need some pre-created backups for the first option), and point the Job to a previously created Media Pool. Depending on the backup/file size, you’ll get the data effectively delivered to the VTL server.


Figure 4. Backup to Tape Job in action


Figure 5. StarWind management console. Tape in Slot 1 has gotten a backup.

Now you can switch to the VTL server and remove the tape from the slot if it wasn’t automatically exported upon the Veeam Job completion. Since in my case the cloud replication was scheduled to start immediately, I can already see the motion in progress.


Figure 6. Uploading to Azure Blob Storage in action

After a successful upload, the Cloud tab will get a blue check and I should be able to verify that by navigating to my Azure Blob Storage and seeing the actual files uploaded to this container.


Figure 7. “ColdContainer” with uploaded data

I can go ahead and manually change the access tier for any of those files right from the Azure portal.


Figure 8. Azure Access Tier change

As an alternative, I could tweak the StarWind settings or even use PowerShell to manipulate the access tier in an automated way.

Restore VMs from VTLs in Azure

On the restore side, StarWind customers can initiate restores from Azure through their Veeam Backup & Replication console to recover the necessary files or VMs. Better yet, why not recover in Azure? Available in the Azure Marketplace, the virtual StarWind appliance, as well as Veeam Backup & Replication, can be installed in an Azure instance, and recoveries can be done from the archive storage directly into a new Azure virtual machine, accelerating your restore times and providing application portability across your backup infrastructure.

In addition, you can provide access to these newly restored VMs in Azure with Veeam PN (Powered Network), establishing a secure connection back to your HQ data center or wherever you need to provide access to these workloads.

Conclusion

Organizations are still using tape for a variety of reasons, but many want to take advantage of the cloud for their backups in order to maintain business continuity and unlock Availability. With Veeam Backup & Replication customers can leverage a seamless integration with StarWind to get their backups off site and into Microsoft Azure Blob Storage. To watch a full demo on the solution, you can watch this webinar.

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