It’s been nearly a year since VMware released vSphere 6.5 which marked the 12th major release of VMware’s hypervisor and hypervisor management product suite. And while VMware has been focusing on more recent products like vSAN and NSX, it shouldn’t be forgotten that vSphere still remains at the core of the virtualization platform on top of which all other products are consumed. Veeam has a strong history of working with and supporting vSphere features, and the 6.5 release is no different.
As timing would have it, vSphere 6.5 was released a week before Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5, and with that, Veeam officially supported vSphere 6.5 with Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 1 which was released in January. Since then, VMware recently released Update 1 for vSphere 6.5 which brought a number of features and enhancements over the GA release. This is officially supported in Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 2.
vSphere 6.5 brought a simpler customer experience with automation and management at scale being a core focus. Enhancements focused on:
- vCenter Operations
There is a VMware technical white paper that contains the vSphere 6.5 What’s New information as well as the general release notes (plus release notes for vSphere 6.5 Update 1). Rather than go through the whole list, this article will focus on new features we at Veeam support, specifically covering how we plug into those vSphere features and enhancements to increase the efficiency of Veeam Backup & Replication which in turn creates a more efficient and trusted Availability platform.
With vCenter 6.5, there is now a native backup and restore function if you run the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) that enables users to back up vCenter and the Platform Service Controllers directly from the vCenter Appliance Management Interface (VAMI) or the API. In addition to that, we have come out with a technical white paper on how to back up and recover the VCSA and PSC with Veeam to ensure full recoverability of your vCenter components.
With the release of vSphere 6.5, the HTML5 Web Client was available as a side-by-side alternative to the existing Flash-based Web Client. This HTML5 is a big step forward and is based on a VMware Fling. The version included in the GA of 6.5 had partial functionality, meaning it was not a one-to-one replacement for the Flash client, and as of Update 1, the HTML client has about 90% of general workflows completed. The HTML5 client can be accessed from https://<vcenter>/ui and requires no browser plugins to work.
Veeam has its own Web Client Plugin that’s currently compatible with the Flash-based Web Client and gives backup administrators an operational view of Veeam Backup & Replication as well as the ability to perform full backups with VeeamZIP or incrementals with Quick Backup. The Web Client Plugin also works when Veeam ONE is installed. You can also examine the Protected VMs report that provides a list of which VMs are protected by Veeam Backup & Replication and those which are not.
With regards to storage, vSphere 6.5 introduced VMFS 6 and offered support for advanced drive format support. VVol 2.0 was also enhanced in 6.5 and Veeam fully supports backup and recovery operations to both VVol and VMFS6 backed datastores. There have also been significant improvements in snapshot performance which leads to more efficient backup windows and less stress on applications due to less risk of VM stun if Veeam Hot-Add mode is used as a backup transport mode.
vSAN has also been improved in the vSphere 6.5 timeframe with the release of vSAN 6.5. Veeam is fully vSAN-aware and has some built-in logic in the job engine that detects if a VM is on a vSAN datastore and then works out which Veeam Proxy should be the primary for the VM Hot-Add, ensuring an optimal backup traffic path from the host to the backup repository.
Security has become a big focus for VMware and vSphere 6.5, and Update 1 added significant improvements to VM security. Apart from encrypted vMotion and secure boot, one of the most important features is the introduction of encrypted VMs.
Encryption occurs at the hypervisor level and not at the VM guest level, and therefore works with any guest OS and datastore type. Encryption is managed via policy, and the policy can be applied to many VMs, regardless of their guest OS. Verifying that the VM is encrypted is as simple as confirming that the policy is applied. The policy framework being used leverages vSphere Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM). Veeam Backup & Replication fully supports encrypted VMs for backup and recovery operations.
There is an enhanced set of APIs released as part of vSphere 6.5 including an API explorer as part of the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). However, vSphere 6.5 discontinued the VIX API that previous Veeam versions leveraged for network-less guest interaction for functionality such as application-aware processing. As part of Veeam’s vSphere 6.5 support effort, we have switched the corresponding functionality to the new vSphere API for guest interaction, so that you can continue using the existing product functionality with vSphere 6.5.
There is also a new VM tag API support by way of new APIs for programmatic access and management of vSphere tags. With its support by Veeam, you can continue using advanced backup policies based on tags even after you upgrade to vSphere 6.5, which is all part of Storage-Based Policy Management.
Networking and Availability
Finally, there have been a number of under the hood enhancements to networking including dedicated gateways for VMkernel adapters and datapath enhancements that improve the scalability or the vSphere Distributed Switch. While not directly related to backup, having a resilient networking stack is critical for Veeam to work as efficiently as possible when performing backup and restore tasks. With regards to Availability in terms of core vSphere enhancements, there is new Proactive HA and Admission control improvements as well as DRS enhancements.
Veeam vSphere enhancements
In Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5, we released some significant scalability enhancements to specifically optimize the backup and recoverability experience for our users. In general, there was a doubling of I/O performance that can shorten backup windows by up to five times while reducing the load on core virtualization platform components such as vCenter. Advanced Data Fetcher improves backup performance for individual virtual disks while reducing the load on primary storage due to the reduced number of I/O operations required to complete a backup. This was a VMware feature in 9.5 and is used by Backup from Storage Snapshots, Hot-Add and Direct NFS modes. VMware vSphere Infrastructure Cache maintains an in RAM mirror of vSphere infrastructure hierarchy to accelerate the Building VM list operation when creating or modifying a job. This also removes loads from vCenter. The cache is maintained with real-time updates via a subscription to vCenter Server infrastructure change events.
That put together with the other vSphere supportability talked about above, continues to show Veeam’s commitment to ensuring its VMware customers are getting the best Availability experience possible, and we are set to continue that with future releases.