Today the Dell EMC PowerMax Veeam Plug-in for Veeam Backup & Replication went GA and is available for download from their website here under the Storage Plug-ins tab.
The plug-in has been a high priority ask from our customers for a while because taking advantage of our local replication technology provides the same type of advantage as VAAI does – reducing the need for host CPU, memory, and network resources. I’m going to run through a brief overview of the capabilities – installation, setup, backup, restore, and manual snapshotting. I have published a detailed whitepaper here you can follow if you plan on implementing the plug-in.
Veeam PowerMax Plug-in
There are a few prerequisites before embarking on the plug-in installation. Here are the most essential ones.
- You’ll need Veeam Backup and Replication software version 10 or 11. Either is fine.
- We support PowerMax or VMAX All Flash arrays running 5978 PowerMaxOS code and with the TimeFinder software licensed. We don’t support other VMAX arrays.
- And on the software side you must have Unisphere for PowerMax version 18.104.22.168+. Now depending on your array code, this may mean it is not possible to use the embedded version of Unisphere (though we support it). If your embedded Unisphere does not match this version, you’ll need to install an external Unisphere vApp or OS-based (VM or physical).
The last thing that must be completed before installation of the plug-in is the setup of the export hosts on the array. An export host is just the ESXi hosts you plan to use in this environment. The instructions are basically the same for FC or iSCSI, it’s just your initiators are different. The key here is that each ESXi host must have its own masking view with only its initiators in the host group (a la vVols PE), and the storage group must be named VEEAM_ (case insensitive) with no Service Level (which means SRP is none). See below my masking view VEEAM_dsib1186_mv with a storage group set to NONE for SRP and the single host group. Remember, however, that you can’t create a masking view unless the storage group has a device, so we recommend a small cylinder (3) device as a placeholder. The SRP must be NONE because the device may be exported to more than one host and if the storage group has a service level you’ll get errors (a single device can only have one service level).
You’ll need to have one of these views for each and every ESXi host you plan on using with Veeam. When you export a snapshot to a vCenter, you can only select an ESXi host. You cannot export to a cluster. And be sure there is only one storage group with the prefix VEEAM_ presented to the export host. If any of that was confusing, please check the whitepaper which is step-by-step.
On with the installation.
The plug-in is delivered as an executable you install on the Windows box where your Veeam Backup & Replication software is located. I won’t walk through the installation as it really is self-explanatory. You click through a few screens and that’s it. For the remainder of the operations, however, I’ll include videos.
Once installed, you’ll need to configure the plug-in. For those of you who have used any of our other VMware plug-ins, you’ll find the step familiar. That’s because you need to add a REST API server (Unisphere). You can use either embedded or external Unisphere for PowerMax with the plug-in, but note that only “local” arrays are recognized. So if you are using embedded that means only the one array can be used even if you have multiple remote via RDF. You can of course add multiple embedded Unisphere instances if you wish. I’ve walked through adding REST in this video. We support both iSCSI and FC. No callouts here as I didn’t feel they were necessary.
After a Unisphere server is added, Veeam will collect information about all the devices and existing snapshots. Note that Veeam will list all snapshots whether they are from a policy, have a time to live set, or are secure. They are all available for use. Below I’ve highlighted the snapshots discovered by Veeam during the initial scan. Note the two arrays in my environment, 450 and 357, are both “local” to this external Unisphere server. I have a third array on this server but as it is “remote”, it does not appear.
With the storage configured, you’ll want to add any vCenters from which you expect to backup VMs. This is simple enough. Navigate to the INVENTORY screen and select ADD SERVER. Supply the FQDN and credentials. Be aware that the plug-in does NOT support Hyper-V. Veeam does, but not our plug-in.
Veeam will discover all VMs associated with the vCenter, regardless if they are stored on PowerMax storage.
You are now ready to back up a VM. In the following video I back up VM dsib2013.lss.emc.com which is located on datastore WSFC_1. This is the simplest type of backup where I use the capability of the PowerMax technology to store my backup as a targetless snapshot and Veeam catalogues the entry. A good analogous operation is when you take a VM snapshot of a vVol. In that situation we also use TimeFinder technology to avoid the creation of additional files or devices. There are other options, of course. If you prefer you can mount the snapshot and then copy the VM files over to another repository, though it somewhat defeats the purpose of the quick backup since you are back to using host CPU/memory/network. In the demo below I’ve included some callouts to help facilitate understanding.
Assuming we have a backup (snapshot), we can restore a VM residing on it to the same or different ESXi host/vCenter. I’ve used a different VM in this demo, veeam_test, on a different array. The backup is just a snapshot, but the plug-in will create a target device for me, link it, and then present it to my chosen ESXi host. At that point Veeam will tell VMware to resignature the datastore, and register the VM for me, including renaming it if I so choose (which I so choose in the demo). In the demo you will see I am able to choose any available snapshot of the datastore, including those made outside of Veeam, e.g. via snapshot policy. Although not exactly obvious in the demo (though I cover it), the restore session remains active until I stop it. The assumption is the user will be either replacing a lost VM, or using the restored VM for another purpose and will be migrating it off the resignatured datastore to another. After that time, you stop the session and Veeam reverses the actions, though it will not delete the snapshot, leaving it for future use. Alternatively the restore session can exist for as long as you wish. Again, callouts will help here.
Finally I wanted to mention that the plug-in allows manual snapshotting of devices, whether or not they are related to your VMware or Veeam environment. While a backup job will create a snapshot automatically for you, there are circumstances in which you may wish to generate your own. From the STORAGE INFRASTRUCTURE screen, right-click on a device and select Create snapshot…. Enter a snapshot name then hit OK. You’ll notice there are no options here – I can’t specify time to live or whether it is a secure snapshot.
One thing Veeam will do is scan the device for VMs. In this example, Veeam does not find any either because there is no VMFS on the device, or there is no proxy available to mount the snapshot.
In most cases, the issue is that there is no proxy. As part of the plug-in setup I cover in the whitepaper, is the need for a non-ESXi host with FC or iSCSI access to the array. This is known as a proxy host which Veeam will use to mount the snapshot and scan for VMs. It still may not find any VMFS/VMs but without it, you cannot know for sure. In my environment I don’t have any physical hosts but I do have iSCSI so I used a VM with iSCSI access. In fact I used the VM I created here. When you have a proxy, your log will look like this instead where Veeam is able to discover all VMs and catalogue them.
The proxy is not necessary, of course, but you lose this functionality.
I hope the quick overview was helpful for those with Veeam backup software and it encourages you to download the free plug-in from Veeam to integrate with PowerMax (or VMAX All Flash if you are using PowerMaxOS code). If you have specific questions, I again steer you to the aforementioned whitepaper. One area I can confirm I address is replication or SRDF. As we don’t replicate snapshots on our arrays, the ability to use snapshots from both arrays is helpful and indeed you can, though read up on it first so you understand the implications of doing so.
I cover these in the paper, but just a reminder that you cannot backup RDMs or vVols with Veeam.
As a final note, an important distinction to make with this plug-in from our others is that this one is owned from a support perspective by Veeam. If you have an issue with it you open a support case with Veeam, not Dell EMC. If Veeam needs our assistance, those channels are in place, but Veeam supports all their universal plug-ins rather than the vendors themselves. I’ve had my share of Dell EMC vs VMware conversations so I do admit I rather like this arrangement, and find it more customer friendly. With any luck, however, you’ll never need it.
Veeam also has a blog about it here.