Veeam Agent for Linux Review

Has good instant VM recovery features and helps migrate physical to virtual or physical to cloud


What is our primary use case?

I'm a pre-sales engineer, so I'm basically supporting our partner. We're an IT distributor. There are many inquiries these days looking for backup solutions for Linux, so we made it for Linux. This tool already uses Linux, instead of a backup administrator needing manual workloads to backup the Linux machine. You can deploy this agent remotely, from a backup server. You just have to enable flash and pull and check the compatibility of Linux with big machines and you can remotely deploy it and start backing up in no time. 

Our backup is pretty plain and simple. We can back up the entire machine so that you can be able to restore from bare metal in case of loss of the entire machine. You have the option also to restore single files, including backup of the Oracle database. It supports a wide range of Linux distributions but because Linux is an entire world on its own, with many distributions and cable versions, there will always be some Linux distribution with kernel versions that are not supported. However, there is a big, diverse sets of Linux kernel versions that are supported.

I used both deployment models, the stand-alone mode model and the one deployed from the backup server.

How has it helped my organization?

The product has drastically improved. Veeam never used to have any Agents, whether for Linux or Windows. They were strictly focusing on virtual environments. Even within virtual environments, they were strictly focused on Hyper-V VMware. Now, however, with the addition of agents, it helps a lot. Many environments, due to constraints with the received design or performance, prefer to go with certain workloads to be physical. Now the trend in Saudi Arabia is to migrate workloads to Linux since they somehow think it's more secure, although that's a debatable argument. There are also a lot of Oracle databases being deployed on Linux nowadays, so it does come of value there.

What is most valuable?

The really amazing feature about Veeam Agent is that when you're using the central deployment model, you can actually use the instant VM recovery feature, which is really a pain point that I find some days. Here in Saudi Arabia, the market mentality is a bit different. Many customers are still running physical environments. They do not have virtual environments and they're not really keen towards going towards the virtual environment.

They always want to back up their systems every day. In the event of a disaster, they want to be able to restore in less than an hour, which is impossible on a physical environment, due to a lot of constraints, such as networking and other issues. However, Windows gives a feature that if you have a Hyper-V environment, for example, added to the Veeam backup infrastructure, you can choose to restore a backup of a physical server instantly into Hyper-V. The way that works is that they mount the backup to the Hyper-V as storage and just boot it up directly from the backup. That is an amazing feature, and it actually was useful for one customer, whose IT manager was pretty old. He didn't want to migrate his infrastructure to VMware or any virtualized platforms. He was looking for a way to backup these physical servers and at the event, he has a disaster, he'll be able to restore in time.

So that feature doesn't just help with restoring that server in no time inside a Hyper-V server or cluster. It also helps migration for customers who are trying to migrate from physical to virtual or from physical to cloud. The good part is that you can actually restore any backup to Microsoft Azure as well, or to Amazon AWS, almost instantaneously. As long as your bandwidth is sufficient enough, you can restore your workloads to the cloud or to a virtual environment.

That is not to mention the flexibility provided, as it gives you the ability to perform the three to one rule, which is the really necessary part of any backup solution. Being able to have a solution that will help you achieve the three to one rule. The rule basically means having three different backup copies of your data, inside two different mediums. For example, one disc-based storage and one tape or cloud, keeping one copy offsite. I prefer offline because offline backups are the latest backups in terms of a cyber attack, ransomware, or advanced malware attack.

What needs improvement?

It would be much better if more applications were supported on the Linux side. For example, their agent for Windows not only can back up the Windows machine, but it can also back up Active Directory for granular restore, SQL servers, Exchange, Oracle, SharePoint, etc. When it comes to Linux, only Oracle databases are supported. There are workarounds, though. There are other ways to perform application consistency or transaction consistent backups. For example, you can configure having a backup job to run a script to save the laws of the database and store them on specific storage. So more applications support would definitely be of great value because not everyone is using Oracle. Some people are using MySQL or MongoDB and they would like to see a plug and play native integration built into the tool as well.  There are plenty of applications in the market these days that are becoming mainstream. People are not only using vendor projects, but they may also use open source projects, which are gaining a lot of popularity.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's really important to note that Veeam Agents for Linux is the software that is installed inside the Linux machines, but Veeam Agent integrates with Veeam Backup Server. Backup Server is pretty scalable, but as for the Agents part, I can only tell you about the components that are related to the agent. The main components of Veeam are: Veeam Backup Server, Veeam Repository, Veeam Distribution Server, and Veeam Agents. Agents are going to be deployed on the clients. The Distribution Server is responsible for deploying Agents and monitoring them. The Repository is where you store your backups. Finally, the Backup Server is basically the big brain, so you can distribute and deploy as much of these components as you want across an environment. The distribution architecture is pretty scalable.

We'd like to see native support for clusters in Veeam, as well as other agents for Linux. For example, Microsoft has support for its clusters, which is amazing. There are many people that like Microsoft and really like their clusters, so they want to be able to have their backup solution to be clustered aware. Veeam Agent for Linux has no specific cluster support, however, it still can be used to backup Linux clusters. There is no native support as there is with Veeam Agents for Windows and Microsoft failover cluster support.

How are customer service and technical support?

It's as simple as just opening a support ticket online and calling the toll free number. An engineer engaged remotely within five to ten minutes. They're really responsive and very supportive when it comes to support. Somehow, they love to achieve a higher customer satisfaction rate. Support is a big deal for them.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

I'll try not to be as biased as possible regarding Unitrends and Arcserve.

These are backup vendors that have been in the physical backup industry for quite some time. Unitrends has wide Linux distribution and cabinet supports like Veeam, but it goes way too far with Unitrends. It goes even to legacy systems, which Veeam is currently releasing software that supports. With Unitrends, you can back up a Windows NT or a really old Linux machine, but Veeam it's only the most mainstream Linux distributions that are supported. For that and for the physical part, I can say that they are improving drastically. They're on the way, but when it comes to all the legacy systems and cross-platform support, they're a bit backward, compared to other vendors. Veeam started in 2006 as a company, I believe, and the agents were first released in 2015. Still, the pace that they're growing at is pretty fast. It's faster than the other vendors were, but when it comes to physical support, all of these other vendors were much younger, so they've had this experience way before.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was really straightforward and easy. Veeam solutions, in general, are really easy to configure and deploy and they have amazing after-sales support. Veeam can be a nightmare, however, when people are trying to size and design a solution. It's not exactly a nightmare, but it's the phase that is really important and everybody puts an emphasis on. So long as that phase is done correctly, everything should be good to go. Basically, make sure to check compatibility and be sure that the solution is going to fit the customer's required needs. So long as that has been clear from the start, there's no cost to the solution whatsoever.

The time I dealt with Veeam Agent, I tried it in a home lab. At that time, it was pretty new to me. However, when I looked at the installation guide online, which is elaborated thoroughly, I basically installed the Windows machine in which I installed the Veeam Backup Server. I already had a Linux machine, for which I enabled the SSH. I went back to the Backup Server and simply added the IP address and the root account of the machine. Then all of a sudden the agent was already deployed without even a reboot and I managed to do the backup. All of that happened in less than an hour and a half from installing the Backup Server to deploying the Agent to performing the actual backup.

You should try it out to see it for yourself. It's really easy and straightforward.

The maintenance needed for Agent for Linux at our company would be hard to quantify, but it's a huge number because we deal with resellers and systems integrators that deal with end-users. We're not talking about less than 1,000 agents.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's a subscription-based license, which is started on a yearly basis.

Currently, the licensing is split between three editions: standard, enterprise, and enterprise plus. As long as you check the comparison between the additions and make sure that you have what you need, there are no extra costs with Veeam. You can have Veeam Agent for Linux installed and start doing backups locally, to the cloud, or to tape. There are plenty of options available.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Veeam provides the software solution, as does Arcserve and Unitrends. However, for the most part, they pitch their backup appliances. Some people may prefer to go with a backup appliance. Others may prefer a software solution. The main reason why people go with Veeam is because of its ease of use and configuration. It just works. Veeam is much easier to use and configure than a software solution that can run on your existing infrastructure. This is better than having to buy all the backup appliances and be tied to that appliance. When it fills up, you need to go buy another appliance, which is not exactly a scalable solution.

What other advice do I have?

Check the compatibility, in detail. Generally speaking, there are many distributions and kernel versions supported, but it's important to be very picky about the kernel and distribution version that they are running. First, to check the agent that's compatible with them or not. For example, the most known Linux distribution is Red Hat. There have been many releases of Red Hat, many of which are being used in production. Right now, there is a version from Red Hat 5 through Red Hat 8, which I think is the latest. At the moment, I think Veeam supports 6 to 7.5 and it had 8 which is a new release, but still not supported. I imagine it will be supported very soon. However, many people are using Red Hat 5 and that's not supported yet.

In addition, make sure you plan your backups in general. This is not just tied to Veeam Agent for Linux, but tied to any backup solution. You need to know what kind of expectations you are looking for. Some people already have their backup strategy planned and want to backup their server every day and keep a retention policy of one month, for example. Because Veeam is a software solution and works with almost any storage, they come into the situation where they don't know how much storage they need. So they just make some assumptions instead of properly sizing it and they get the backup storage. Either it exceeds what they need, which is okay, or it's lower than what they need and they run into an issue at the end of the month, where the backups are failing because the storage is too full. This is the situation with any backup solution.

It's also really important to set up the antivirus and anti-malware exceptions and firewall ports. If you know about them before deployment, set up the exceptions for the firewall port and anti-malware, then you won't have any issues to worry about during deployment.

I'll give this a nine out of ten because it's really easy and straightforward. I haven't faced any issues with it yet to this day and I've done many proof of concepts and demos for clients. Veeam Agent for Linux works like a charm and after-sales support is amazing, so I can only say that the product is very new. If there is room for improvement, that would be specifically with application support, instead of just supporting Oracle databases. They should be more open to supporting other open-source AWS backups as well, however that can be done. In the backup job, you have the option either to specify your application work processing to backup Oracle databases or to use a script. This basically means whoever is administering the database can provide a script that Veeam will execute before running the backup, after running the backup, or freezing the database so that when the backup is taken the database is in a consistent state.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller.
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