EMC Avamar Review

EMC Avamar has lots of Ying but not so much Yang


First off let me say that Avamar is a great product and hopefully this won’t sound like a rant. I started working with Avamar last year and quickly saw the value in this product which provides enterprise class data protection (backups) to disk. The architecture I went with consisted of large centralized grids, multiple datastore nodes with a utility node, which would be hosted in regional datacenters with remote locations having smaller configurations of either a single datastore node or small grid setup. So at a high level remote sites would backup locally then replicate to a grid in one of the regional datacenters. The local backups in the datacenter would replicate to another datacenter as well. This way there is redundancy for site and datacenter backups while providing a way to do local restores.

Avamar easily showed it’s power in reducing backup windows and reducing the amount of data put on LAN/WAN with source side deduplication for backups and replication. Even the first system backed up benefited from the deduplication and transferred roughly 80% of it’s data across the wire. Avamar backs up the data once so the first time pass will have a greater hit but all subsequent backups are incremental or blocks that are not already on the datastore. The more data in Avamar, the better the deduplication. This also helps reduce the amount of storage needed to store backups which could effectively yield a higher amount of data being protected than whats actually being stored on disk. Avamar also has a image proxy appliance for backing up virtual machines in vSphere which were easy to setup to start backing virtual machines agent-less. Not only is there an appliance that can be used to backup virtual machines there is also the Avamar Virtual Edition. This is an appliance that gets you all the features and functionality in an easy to deploy virtual machine where you have to supply the storage. It only supports a limited storage capacity and there is no supported grid setup but it works really well for those smaller locations.

Now, I talked about some of the goodness of Avamar but there is a flip side. When I say “Avamar has lots of Ying but not so much Yang” I’m simply stating that Avamar has a lot going for it with a solid set of core features and functionality but it’s lacking in some key areas. One of those areas is in the ease of configuration. EMC support actually has to do a lot of the setup and configuration. This can be a good thing but something as simple as the Active Directory integration setup could be a long drown out setup with EMC logged in at the command line. Replication setup is also something that needs improvement because you can only setup a single replication cron job from either the Enterprise Manager or the Avamar Administrator java application. That brings up another area of improvement and in my opinion the most important thing which is the management of Avamar.

There are two separate management consoles that can be used to do certain things Avamar like managing clients or checking backups. This can leave the consumer confused as to which tool should be used for what. The enterprise manager is web based and the avamar administrator is a java application and they both seem to be a bit disjointed and unfinished. The avamar administrator is not too bad and once you get where everything is you can be productive but you can lose yourself in all the windows which can be opened at one time that all look somewhat the same. I can go on with some of the small things like having to click the “show sub-domain groups”, why not make this a default' I use a Mac and the java application looks different. Not so much that I can’t find my way around but some of the elements don’t work the same. So a user interface change is needed in my opinion to add more functionality for configuring things without needing EMC support or going to the command line. And this change should also bring a more clean look and feel with a single pane with easy transitions from one area to the next. Plain and simple just make the management as powerful as the core features and functionality so that Avamar can have balance.

Well, maybe I did rant just a little but there more good to say than bad with Avamar when it comes to protecting data, reducing LAN/WAN traffic, reducing backup windows, etc.

EMC Avamar has lots of Ying but not so much Yang originally appeared on theHyperadvisor by Antone Heyward

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Avamar VMware Virtual Machine Protection Pt.1

I wanted to give some insight into how Avamar protects VMware virtual machines. I have been using Avamar 6.0.x and most of the management and configuration from a Mac. Since the operating systems running on the Avamar servers and proxies are linux, having a terminal comes in handy. Plus the management using Avamar Administrator uses Java so it can be used on Windows, Mac or Linux. If your on a Windows system the Avamar Administrator console is a bit more attractive but offers the same functionality. The management of Avamar needs a bit of work and from the grape vine I hear the next release, which is coming soon, will fix a lot of the issues I’ve complained about in my previous post. Either way data protection and recovery with Avamar is pretty solid once you have all the pieces setup and ready but if your looking for easy, look elsewhere. PHD Virtual Backup fits the bill for easy but it only covers VM backups where Avamar can do both physical and virtual.

First, let me give a short tour of the components we’ll need to protect a VMware vSphere environment with Avamar. This only includes the components for data protect or recovery and assumes you already have the VMware vSphere environment configured with vCenter, ESX hosts, with shared storage.

As far as the Avamar Servers and Avamar Virtual Edition (AVE) are concerned you only need one or the other for a single location. They are the backend that stores all the backup data. The Avamar VM Proxy is used to do image level backups and the Windows File-Level VM Proxy is used to do file-level restores from the image backups. This removes the need for backup agents in the virtual machines. This is how the environment layout would look.

I found the documentation very good and easy to follow but here are the basic step you’ll have to do in order to backup and restore VMware virtual machines.

  • Setup the Avamar Server with AvFS
  • Deploy and configure Avamar Image Proxy appliance
  • Setup vCenter Server in Avamar
  • Setup Avamar Image Proxy in Avamar
  • Deploy and configure a Windows File-Level Proxy

Notes:

  • The Avamar Image Proxy in it’s current 6.0.x version has to be configured to protect either Windows or Linux.
  • I have seen the resolve.conf not be configured properly a couple times so you may want to check them if you have issues.
  • When adding the Avamar Image Proxy to Avamar don’t forget to select the VMFS datastores it should protect.
  • The Avamar Image Proxy can do only one VM at a time so you will have to deploy and configure multiple proxies for parallel processing of VM backups.
  • Make sure change block tracking is used which means virtual machine hardware needs to at version 7 or higher.
  • Image level backups leverages vStorage APIs for Data Protection which uses snapshots so it’s important to make sure datastores have plenty of free space.
  • By default, only a single vCenter Server can be added to the Avamar Server. You can override this if required but I think the max is 10.

Once all the setup is done you can start protecting the VMs for that vCenter Server which you’ll see in the Avamar Administrator as a domain with a Virtual Machines sub domain. Restores are pretty easy from the Avamar Administrator whether it’s for a single file or a full virtual machine. The documentation shows the process for both very well so I will not try to recreate it here. Image based backups with Avamar have been unmatched compared to agent backups. I see more successful backups without the open file errors from agent backups.

Avamar VMware Virtual Machine Protection Pt.1 originally appeared on theHyperadvisor by Antone Heyward

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
2 visitors found this review helpful
10 Comments
CEO at a tech consulting company with 51-200 employeesConsultant

Great write up. thank you for taking the time to detail your experience.

12 July 13
HenryReal UserTOP REVIEWERTOP 5

Is Avamar 6 stable? Too many backup failure......

12 July 13
System Architect at a manufacturing company with 10,001+ employeesVendor

Avamar 6 is pretty stable and adds some need UI features, like add AD users and groups to the administrator console.

30 July 13
HenryReal UserTOP REVIEWERTOP 5

Thanks Antone!

30 July 13
System Architect at a manufacturing company with 10,001+ employeesVendor

NP henry. The product is very expensive but it's a great product once you get to know it. It may seem a bit confusing at first and though it is complex under the hood you should start seeing better backups and restores right away. Not to mention, you don't have to worry as much about infrastructure like you would with tape. Just make sure theres space for the solution to do it's job.

30 July 13
HenryReal UserTOP REVIEWERTOP 5

Cool Antone!

30 July 13
Network Engineer at a tech services company with 501-1,000 employeesReal User

Is anyone using the 7.0 Avamar update? If so how is that working for you? Better / Worse?

29 October 13
Rodney BarnhardtReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

I have been using Avamar since February 2009. I love the product. I am currently running version 7 and have been since I had an RA version installed. The new central console takes a little getting used to, but having the new information that it presents is helpful. The only down side I see to 7 is it seems a little slower. That may be due to the fact I am still on Gen3 hardware, but it is a fact I have noticed.

02 April 14
Network Expert at a comms service provider with 1,001-5,000 employeesReal User

Can Avamar backup an operating system running on SPARC servers?

10 April 14
Application Architect at a local government with 501-1,000 employeesUser

Good writeup Antone, and I must agree totally that its configuration process is the most convoluted mess that I've ever had the "pleasure" to work with. The product seems to be trying to be all things to all OS's. Ah, well, at least when it works, it works well.

08 May 14
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