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Move Your VirtualWisdom Backups into Your Backed-Up Space

Backup, BAT, How to, Scheduler No Comments »

VirtualWisdom has an easy backup system: quite simple to configure for backups as easily as any scheduled event: as frequently as daily, at any time, and with multiple schedules possible, re-using the same configuration for each. The issue of a new filename every time — chosen by VirtualWisdom to avoid overwriting a good backup with one that might run into some exception and be incomplete — often causes a new backup file each week to be present, and no simple method of aging-out old backups.

The Post-Backup Script in the Backup Service Configuration runs after every backup, if activated: it simply executes a script with a few parameters. This allows the VirtualWisdom Administrator a certain flexibility in writing any manner of script that can run as the VirtualWisdom process to accomplish the automated moving around of backup files — or, logically, any task, even unrelated to the backup.

As defined by the underlying database vendor, our database files need to remain untouched by backup and antivirus processes which tend to lock the files for long periods. Any locked data file tends to block database writes, slowing throughput, and risking corruption of the data. This requirement also means that backups are typically outside of corporate backup tools and policies; the risk of a backup not being preserved in a catastrophic filesystem exception is clearly significant. Even though VirtualWisdom only handles measurements and data about the data, it does not handle data itself, and does not form a critical path in data I/O, loss of VirtualWisdom is loss of measurement and analysis tools which may be critical to resolve storage issues. Clearly we want the backup for VirtualWisdom to be safely archived.

In this article, I’d like to share one example of how successful backups can be moved into the filesystems covered by corporate backup policies, replacing past backups to avoid ever-increasing disk usage. My content here on the Virtual Instruments SAN Best Practices blog tends to be of a technical “how-to” nature; we hope this article may help define a customer’s backup config, giving safety to the data so that focus can return to the performance and availability of the SAN.

Overview

The basic backup process is a sequence such as:

  1. lock the database (database becomes read-only)
  2. quickly duplicate all database files
  3. unlock the database and let processing continue
  4. aggregate the backup files into a single file, optionally compressing

The feature we want to exploit to improve this process is the optional “Execute the following command upon completion” entry on a Backup Service Configuration to move the backup file to where it should be. In most cases, “where it should be” is a disk covered by corporate backup processes with sufficient space to hold the backup, compressed, accounting for organic growth (database backup grows as number of monitored ports, VMs, ESXs, and ITLs increase over time).

For our example, that is the “X” drive. Bear in mind that the backup script runs as the VirtualWisdom process, which runs as a service hence has no access to network drives. In our example, the “X” drive might even be a SAN LUN: even though we recommend that the disk not be on a SAN LUN due to the risk of being affected by the performance problems and exceptions that VirtualWisdom is trying to help users track and resolve, the backup may be on a SAN LUN because delays in the archived backup do not directly affect performance of the VirtualWisdom platform.

Example Backup Service Configuration

Typically, your backup schedule would look like the following: (except that my work server is small, so I have disabled mine by unchecking the checkbox beside the scheduled time)

Typical Backup Service Config without Post-backup script

… with a Backup Service Configuration such as:

Typical Backup Service Config without Post-backup script

Improved Backup Service Configuration

Instead of merely doing the backup, we can use the “post-backup script” to do the work for us. The “Post-Backup Script” is the name I’ve started using for the script that gets listed in the box for “Execute the following command upon completion”. An example script may be as simple as the following:

Example Post-Backup Script

As we can see, when the second parameter given to the script (“%2“) is a 1, then the filename given as the first parameter (“%1“) is moved to the consistent filename X:BackupsVirtualWisdomBackup.zip. The X: drive would be within normal backup policy, so routine backups would protect the database archive.

This batch file is run by entering it as a “post-backup script” as follows. NOTE: where possible, use a full pathname to ensure the script is found, and it’s the correct script.

Example Backup Service Confg with a post-backup script

As we can see in this Backup Service Configuration, we have enabled the “Execute the following command upon completion” checkbox, and listed our script as the script to run. The two parameters are selectable with the “Insert” box, or may be directly typed free-form.

When the script runs after a backup is complete, the $BACKUP_STATUS$ is replaced by a 1 or a 0 depending whether the backup was successful — and as noted above, if this value is “1″, the working file is moved; otherwise, it’s untouched. Perhaps an enhancement might be to raise an alert that the backup failed (VirtualWisdom logs backup failures in the Portal log, but makes no other indication), or to delete or move aside a failed backup as well for analysis and fault-resolution.

When the backup is complete, and a new backup file is created named after the time that the backup started: backup - yyyy-mm-dd-hh-MM.zip, where yyyy is the year, mm is the month (zero-padded), dd is the day (zero-padded), HH is the hour (24-hour time), MM is the minutes (zero-padded) — yes, this is intentionally very close to ISO8601 that is the basis for RFC3339, HTML5, and XML date format. With a new pseudo-random always-incrementing filename, new backups will never overwrite previous backups, but they are difficult to track down. The $BACKUP_FILE$ token is replaced by this filename, allowing the post-backup script to work with the correct filename every time.

Of course, in order to summarize the underlying behaviour, we do change the name of the schedule itself, but it’s not critical:

Backup Configuration with post-backup script

In most articles, we include complete examples, but the development and explanation of this relatively simple example is a complete example. Of course, changes will have to be made for each individual unique environment. Most backups do not run to the C: drive because there would not be sufficient space; rather, most configurations have a D: drive or E: drive for data, and that drive is used as a working drive during backups.

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