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We are going to be moving our current physical server infrastructure to a VMware solution with 3 nodes (The Essentials Plus Kit). I need recommendations for storage. From what I've read, an iSCSI SAN device is the way to go. What's the best way to implement this so I can back it up on and off-site? With 4TB of capacity, that feels like a hurdle to me.

I would need to backup the VM images. Also, one VM will be a file server and I will need to be able to restore individual files in case someone accidentally deletes or ruins one or two. The backups will need to be replicated to another location as well.

SAN devices are new to me, so any advice you can give me would be helpful. Thanks.

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closed as not a real question by mdpc, ewwhite, MDMarra, Tom O'Connor, adaptr Feb 23 '12 at 8:49

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is really two questions. Backup is a separate topic. For storage, people are quite happy with HP, Dell Equalogic, Netapp and other SAN solutions. Your main concern is going to be budget, application requirements and may require some evaluation. There's no easy blanket recommendation. So this question is a bit too broad. – ewwhite Feb 22 '12 at 16:14
I'm not going to kill this question because the second part ("How do we make the backups happen?") has some value as a conceptual question, but please note that Product and service recommendations are generally considered to be off-topic on Stack Exchange sites - As Jeff said in his answer you basically need to consult with various vendors and The Great Google to determine what storage technology best meets your needs... – voretaq7 Feb 22 '12 at 16:29
I have been consulting with "The Great Google" for a few days now on this and can't seem to find a good answer, at least for the backup portion of this, since there seems to be a new backup product released every day. I know of Symantec's BackupExec, but it costs nearly double what VMware costs to backup 3 nodes. I was looking to see if there was a better solution. I asked the question in a generic way to see if there was another way of thinking about it that I had not considered. – Ross Peoples Feb 22 '12 at 16:53
I should also add that the company doesn't want me to get too involved with any vendors for anything more than pricing information of products. I figured ServerFault was the closest thing to consulting an engineer as I could get. To say that they've had some bad experiences with outside vendors would be an understatement. And they want to do it all in house, so I figured asking for some help would be a good idea. – Ross Peoples Feb 22 '12 at 16:58

Can anyone recommend a SAN device

Not really. Take a look at the offerings of major manufacturers and see what fits your needs.

How do I back it up on and off site?

You can approach things in several ways. For example, it may work best to have your file server image manage backups from inside it as if it were a real machine. For other machines, you might find it more efficient to use the snapshot feature of the SAN and treat the whole block device as a file.

As far as getting things off-site, that's the same realm as any other backup. You might have remote storage over a network or ship tapes around.

Personally, I work really hard on separating things into "System" (doesn't need to be backed up), "Configuration" (Should be quickly deployable to scale and replace. Consider the pragma of things like Puppet), and "Data" -- everything that can't be recreated and needs to be saved. For that reason, I would try to avoid backuping VMs in general and focus on making sure that I had ready copies of the software that needs to install, the configuration to do it automatically, and the data needed to be placed on them after they were running.

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In our environment, we have iSCSI and FC SANs and NFS servers. Here's how they break down:

iSCSI SAN: cheap OK thing if running over GigE, don't expect any magic here; more expensive per port but more performant and easier to implement (a teamed pair of connections instead of 6+ gig ports) if you have 10GigE. If you go with the latter, in just a few weeks you'll have a good selection of HP 8th gen or Dell 12th gen servers that have 10GigE LOM ports.

FC SAN: HBAs are still expensive, switches not so much ($300 per port or less), ridiculously easy to make it perform well (just do nothing).

NFS: useful, but creates some limitations (MCSC is not supported, for example). This is where your success really depends on the quality of the product you buy.

And maybe I'm bending some Serverfault rules here, but allow me to recommend specific vendors (and this part is really very subjective, so please don't flame me - I'm sure there are other equally good or better products).

First, VM storage: Tintri. It's a SSD/SATA box that provides NFS based storage for vSphere environments. They don't do anything else. We have two of their units, and this is the holy grail for an overworked admin who doesn't want to spend time managing storage. Once installed, their systems don't need any attention whatsoever.

If you do want SAN, EMC has finally seen the light, and their VNX/VNXe product lines have more reasonable price tags than the older hardware - as long as you don't ask them for advanced software capabilities. But you can't go wrong buying storage from VMware parent company.

Second, backups. I see one standout company in VM-specific backup space: Veeam. Again, they focus on VMware (lately Hyper-V too), and their approach checks all the boxes you have, including restoring specific files from VMs. They achieve it by enabling the administrator to restore a complete VM in a sandbox and then pulling whatever data is needed from that VM, manually or with some helper wizards in case of Windows file servers, Exchange, or AD servers.

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This is the kind of answer I was looking for. Thanks! – Ross Peoples Feb 23 '12 at 12:48

Backing up 4TB offsite comes with its own unqiue problems.

There's really no such thing as an "iSCSI SAN device", since you can build one with off-the-shelf PC components.

Consider something like FreeNAS powering 6x 1TB HDD in RAID-Z2; you'll need about 8GB of memory and a decent dualcore or better CPU, but all of this can be assembled for under $1000.

More (smaller) disks and memory will improve performance.

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-1. 6x1tb powering 3 vmware servers? are you SERIOUS? The IOPS budget of that is pathetic. I have 8 Velociraptors in a Raid 10 powering ONE server a,d that gets overlaoded quite often. WIthout knowing explicitly this is a LOW LOW END envrionment, 6x1tb is just a recipe for desaster. Not "improove performance" but "40 ton truck with a 20 horse power engine" type of bad match. – TomTom Feb 22 '12 at 16:22
TomTom could run it on his phone. – Tom O'Connor Feb 22 '12 at 17:09
Actually now ;) But I am just planning an upgrade to my storage structure with a SuperMicro case - 4 rack units, 72 disc slots ;) Put in an Adaptec 6805Q and 4 no too small SSD for hardware supported 2nd level read/write cache and I may finally see the light in terms of starting 15 vm's without overloading the damn disc subsystem. – TomTom Feb 23 '12 at 5:36
He's not talking to a storage vendor, and I clearly state that this is a budget solution. – adaptr Feb 23 '12 at 8:47

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