Based on a recent request, a customer had the requirement to use Tape as part of their Backup strategy following a significant investment in this technology. Ideally the requirement is to perform a Tape Backup for different workloads and consolidate the data protection strategy. Different workloads and applications spanning Nutanix AHV VMs, Hyper-V, Solaris and some more KVM too. As the technologies and the platforms are evolving, the primary requirement to protect all of them and in a equal manner is still vital. Tape Backup along with Storage Snapshots and immutable storage are the de-facto standards helping IT organizations to recover from different types of threats. These are technologies that Veeam covers and also thanks to the agnostic approach for both a compute and storage perspectives.
As part of a quick demo presenting the Veeam capabilities with Tape Backup, the Virtual Tape Library (VTL) is an excellent companion. And in particular VTLs are most suited for Backup and Recovery scenarios. Through the virtualization of the disk storage as Tape, Veeam can execute the backup and recovery policies. The benefits of this approach include consolidation and faster data restore processes. Most current VTL solutions use SAS or SATA disk arrays as the primary storage component due to their relatively low cost. Last but not least and for the most nostalgic VTL also are not affected by the “shoe shine effect”. Which in the long term can damage the Tape!
After some research and looking for a free VTL software, QUADstor came across very nicely! In fact, QUADStor provides Enterprise ready storage virtualization with two solutions:
- Virtual Tape Library
- Storage Virtualization
Both are free to use and available from their website for download. This article explores the option of preparing a Linux CentOS 7 virtual machine to install the QUADStor software and connect to a Veeam Server for Tape Backup jobs.
Linux CentOS 7 setup
First step is to deploy a standard Linux CentOS 7 VM.On the light of the latest announcements CentOS will be is discontinued in favor of CentOS Stream. Release 7 will be officially supported until 2024 vs release 8 which will stop receiving maintenance updates as of end 2021. The latest version of QUADstor VTL is officially supported on CentOS 7 along with RHEL, Debian 7/8/9, SLES 12 SP3,SP4/15, FreeBSD 11.3/12.1. In order to prepare the CentOS server for the QuadSTOR VTL and Tape Backup the following components are required:
As soon as the Linux CentOS is installed, next is to update and upgrade to the latest kernel using a root account. The following are the commands to add the extra components:
- yum update
- yum install httpd
- yum install gcc
- yum install perl
- yum install sg3_utils
- yum install kernel-devel
Some of these components might already be installed as dependencies of other software. Before proceeding it is important to check both running Kernel and Devel tools are the same version as these will be used later to help compile on the QuadSTOR software on the fly.
QUADstor VTL install
At this point the Linux CentOS virtual machine is ready to start the QuadSTOR VTL install. A simple wget will obtain the software from this link.
Now moving to the directory where the file has been downloaded. By default it is the same location where the wget is launched. The next commands to follow on the Terminal app:
- rpm -ivh quadstor*.rpm
The installer will take a couple of minutes or less to prepare the package along with a mini PostgreSQL database were all the configuration data will be stored. In addition, also a nice web interface with Apache Web Sever. The software also provides plenty of command line options too. Again with root account or equivalent:
- systemctl enable httpd – to start the Web Server service
- service httpd status – to check the Web Server service
- /etc/rc.d/init.d/quadstorvtl status – to check the VTL daemon
And the next one to check the QUADstor VTL daemon.
Final step before proceeding is to disable the firewall or make sure the communication inbound to 3260 is open:
- systemctl stop firewalld
- systemctl status firewalld
QUADstor VTL configuration
The rest of the configuration follows the steps directly from the Web interface. The main VTL console is accessible at the default IP address where QUADstor application is running.
the console is organised in different areas and provides plenty of options also available via command line. Which is pretty handy also considering the SSH access to the Linux machine. The Physical Storage Location shows by default the first disk (where the operating system is installed) and any additional storage. The screenshot below shows the status of a second disk (vmdk) added to the Linux VM. This secondary disk will host the emulated VTLs. It is worth noting each VTL is created with an initial size of 8MB. So like Thin provisioning there is no really the need to preallocate all the space. Which is great for testing and for homelab too.
The Storage Pools as the name is suggesting is a logical grouping of several disks put together. The interesting thing is, it does offer W.O.R.M. (Write Once Read Many), De-Duplication including metadata and Replication capabilities among others that are specific to Tapes. This of course offers greater flexibility with Tape Backup jobs as the size grows and still it possible to increment the available capability in the Storage Pool. QUADstor is already shipping with a default Storage Pool and allows to create many more based on requirements.
The Virtual Libraries section shows the emulated VTLs and Cartridges or better the vCartiridges! In this sample a VTL based on the SpectraLogic T-Series Library.
Creating a VTL as a target of a Tape Backup job is very easy. The QUADstor allows to emulate VTL based on
Depending on the emulated library cover up to the LTO8 Tape Drive type.
After the creation of the emulated VTL, the console also allow to edit some of the settings and also and modify the properties of the vCartridges. Interestingly enough when the Veeam Backup software load/unload/export the tapes these actions are reflected in this console as well.
As soon as the VTL library and vCartridges configuration is done, now it is a matter of moving to the machine that Veeam will use as “jump host” to get to the tape libraries. From a Veeam perspective this is what is called the Tape Server. This Windows machine can use either iSCSI or FC connectivity to the VTL library. First step is to start the Microsoft iSCSI service and launch the Microsoft iSCSI initiator. This initiator will then connect to the iSCSI Targets on the Linux CentOS vm where the QUADstor software is running. By default iSCSI uses Network Port 3260. Of course this can be configured both sides (Initiator and Target) and can also leverage authentication (with username and password, one and two ways) by mean of the CHAP protocol (Challenge Authentication Protocol).
When the connection to the iSCSI Target is successful it will automatically show the auto-loader device and the number of Tape Drives as configured in the QUADstor VTL software.
Taking a quick look Windows Device Manager it is now populated with the relative entries. For well know and legacy devices, Windows already provides the drivers. Alternatively these can be downloaded and installed directly form the Vendor provider. With regard to the Medium Changer, Veeam works with both Vendor drivers as well as with Microsoft drivers thanks to the universal Microsoft Tape Format (MTF) compatibility. For direct attached devices, Fiber Channel (FC), SCSI and SAS are all supported.
Veeam TAPE Server
Now that the QUADstor VTL is up and running next step is to configure the Veeam Backup. First step is to add a Veeam Tape Server, which essentially is the “jump host” to get to the Tape libraries. Everything is wizard driven and also in this case the screenshots show a running configuration. From the Veeam console > Tape Infrastructure> Add tape Server.
A new wizard will now start. All needs to be done is to specify the IP Address or Hostname for the desired “jump host” Tape Server. DNS forward and reverse resolution is highly recommended. So making sure DNS entries are correct is important.
As per every Veeam infrastructure component it is possible to create network profiles and manage the bandwidth, throttling and encryption between Veeam components even without modifying any other configuration in the company network.
The review section shows which components are installed. The Tape Server requires the Transport and Tape Proxy. These will be automatically installed from the wizard.
And finally a summary showing the end result. From here it is also possible to automatically start the Tape Inventory from the Libraries. These will also populate the views in the Veeam console.
A final result is now visible here. Once the first inventory scan is completed, all the Tapes are placed in the “Unrecognized” Media Pool. Such cartridges can now be moved as desired to the “Free” Media Pool or even move them to specific Pools. For example Pool of Tapes dedicated to Full and Incremental Backups, File Backups, GFS Backups and even W.O.R.M. storage. In this example 5 vCartridges have been provisioned by QUADstor VTL. Each one has been assigned to a Media Pool, leaving an extra one free to use. As soon as Tape Backup jobs execute, the Veeam console will also show the status, allocation, Media Set labeling and more.
Veeam Tape Backup Configuration
At this point it is just a matter of creating a Veeam Tape Backup job and use the QUADstor VTL as a target storage. By starting the usual wizard to create a tape backup job first details are the name and description. For example create a job that is copying to Tape, backup of Nutanix AHV VMs.
In the next screen, the selection of the specific AHV backups to copy. Very useful is the total size of the backup objects which is dynamically calculated.
For each Tape Backup job Veeam allows also to separate the targets between Media Pool for just Full Backups and/or Incremental too.
When the Archive checkbox is activated the wizard extends the option to copy the Incremental Backup files into a separate Media Pool. Suffice to say each Media Pool can also have separate settings Retention, Parallel Processing Encryption and more.
Another interesting setting is in the Media automation and the ability eject and/or export the tape for additional security especially against ransomware when the tape is not “physically” loaded, or VTL in this case.
Veeam Tape Backup Job
How does a Veeam Tape Backup job looks like? The screenshot below shows the execution of sample backup jobs now also copied to the VTL tapes. In particular a Primary Backup to protect Nutanix AHV VMs and also Solaris machine by mean of the latest Veeam agent for Solaris. And a Backup Copy job to Tape which is helping to achieve the 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies of the data, on 2 different media, 1 of which is offline or off-site.
Tape technology keeps evolving and still provides the opportunity to lower costs in the long term. Especially considering the latest LTO formats and the new ones coming. For such IT Organizations who made a significant investment in this technology they now have the flexibility to mix physical Tape and Virtual Tape Libraries together in a simple pane of glass. VTL offers greater flexibility and reduced costs. Which can be the first “Tape choice” before copying data to physical Tapes on the other side of a slow connection to a DR location. The Veeam Tape Server in fact, holds the Transport Service as part of the Veeam Data Mover Service (VDMS). This services automatically detects and de-duplicates similar data blocks on the target side and writes the result to the backup file.