Online Backup to Windows Azure Using System Center 2012 SP1 – Data Protection Manager

I blogged about Windows Azure Online Backup in March of this year.  What was announced then was a way to get an offsite backup of files and folders (only) into Windows Azure directly from Windows Server 2012 (including the Essentials edition).

The online backup market is pretty crowded and competitive.  You need to offer something that is different, and preferably, integrated with the customer already has for onsite backups so that the customer does not have to manage 2 backup systems.

Being a cloud service, Windows Azure Online Backup (WAOB) is something that can be tweaked and extended relatively rapidly.  And Microsoft has extended it.  WAOB will support protecting backup data from SysCtr 2012 SP1 DPM to the cloud.

With the System Center 2012 SP1 release, the Data Protection Manager (DPM) component enables cloud-based backup of datacenter server data to Windows Azure storage.  System Center 2012 SP1 administrators use the downloadable Windows Azure Online Backup agent to leverage their existing protection, recovery and monitoring workflows to seamlessly integrate cloud-based backups alongside their disk/tape based backups. DPM’s short term, local backup continues to offer quicker disk–based point recoveries when business demands it, while the Windows Azure backup provides the peace of mind & reduction in TCO that comes with offsite backups. In addition to files and folders, DPM also enables Virtual Machine backups to be stored in the cloud.

What this means is that you can:

  • Continue to reap the rewards of your investment in DPM for on-premises backups to disk and/or tape
  • Extend this functionality to back up to the cloud from the storage pools in DPM

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With WAOB you will be able to:

… transparently recover files, folders and VMs from the cloud

There will be block level incremental backups to reduce the length of backup jobs and reduce the amount of data transfer.  Data is compressed and encrypted before it leaves your network.  And critically important for you to note:

The encryption passphrase is in your control only.  Once the data is encrypted, it stays that way in storage in Microsoft.  They have no way to decrypt your data without your passphrase.  So choose a good one, and document/store is somewhere safe, e.g. with a lawyer or in a deposit box.

There is throttling for bandwidth control.  You can verify data integrity in the cloud without restoring it (but test restores are a good thing).  You can also configure retention policies – you balance regulatory requirements, business needs, and online storage costs.

To go with this, the Windows Azure Online Backup portal has been launched (last week).  You can sign up for a free preview with 300 GB of storage space.

It’s still beta so we don’t know:

  • Pricing
  • RTM date
  • How it will be sold, e.g. via partner channel which is critically important (see Office 365).

Meet Windows Azure Event Notes

I am live blogging so refresh for updates.  I’m not interested in the coder stuff so I’m only recording what’s of interest to me as an IT Pro.

VMs

He creates a persistent Windows VM where you can install anything you want that runs on Windows.  Then he creates a Ubuntu VM from a Mac, choosing the distro from a library.  The web console looks quite attractive and simple.

He can RDP into the Windows VM and SSH into the Linux VM.  You can mix PaaS and IaaS on Azure to create a service.

You can integrate with existing systems in your own data centre or another service provider via the new VPN capability.  When you create a network … you specify your own address space and it doesn’t clash with other tenants’ address spaces.  THIS IS NETWORK VIRTUALISATION from WS2012.  Creating the VPN looks easy … specify your local VPN and it’ll produce a script for you to run o your local endpoint.  Nice!  Give the person who thought of that a nice bonus.

VM Portability: VMs are using VHD.  You can upload a VM from your data centre to Azure without export/import.  You can also download a VHD to local without export/import.  This means you don’t have lock-in.  You can move to local private cloud or to other service providers.  Big plus over PaaS.

The VM persistent storage is triple replicated.  There are always two backup copies that can auto startup/connect if you get a bad disk.  Replication to another data centre (e.g. Dublin to Amsterdam) is available for geo fault tolerance.

Websites Hosting 

You can build and deploy websites using things like FTP or TFS.  It’s a shared multi tenant environment that can scale out to dedicated instances.  A web site is quickly created.  A web site connections profile is saved, allowing easy connection of Visual Studio.  Publish the project and a new website is uploaded, using the same type of persistent Azure storage as VMs.  A republish just uploads the changed files.  There is real near time metrics of the site via monitoring.  You can customise this monitoring.  That was .NET.  Then he switches over to a Mac with a different run time platform, NodeJS or something.

Without writing code, he creates a site from templates: WordPress, etc are in there.  MySQL is supported on the backend.  Free MySQL instance with every Azure instance.  The template does all the setup/deployment work for you – you just have the final wizard to configure/secure it.

If the blog scales?  By default it’s in a multitenant instance.  You can fire up more processes in this instance.  You can also scale out to get reserved instances – basically dedicated VMs under the Azure hood.  Azure does all the load balancing stuff for you.  Nice way to transition from ultra basic to BIG.

I’ve just checked out the Web hosting plan.  Yes, you get 10 free web sites.  But that does not cover SQL Server space or network bandwidth – additional cost.  When I plugged in some numbers, my current 10 site hosting plan by a local company with excellent support is 1/3 cheaper.  I guess Azure will be good if you’re planning on scaling out your website.

And it went all dev after that.  That’s all folks.

Hyper-V Cross-Premises Cloud with OpenStack in the Pipes

Cloud.com is working with Microsoft to integrated Hyper-V into their OpenStack project. 

“OpenStack is a collection of open source technology products delivering a scalable, secure, standards-based cloud computing software solution. OpenStack is currently developing two interrelated technologies: OpenStack Compute and OpenStack Object Storage. OpenStack Compute is the internal fabric of the cloud creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers and OpenStack Object Storage is software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of commodity servers to store terabytes or even petabytes of data”.

My guess is that we’re seeing an implementation of OVF, the Open Virtualization Format.  This provides for a portable package containing a virtual machine and its metadata.  This means we move one step closer to interoperable clouds – the subject of a presentation I did 2 days ago at Eurocloud Ireland.

Microsoft calls this sort of this a cross-premises cloud.  That means your private cloud (Hyper-V with SCVMM and SCVMM SSP 2.0) can integrate with Azure “virtual machine hosting” (Bob Muglia @PDC09) and other public clouds.

Think about it … an app developer likes “the cloud” because they don’t want to care about the infrastructure.  They just consume as required.  But they still need to care about which cloud they use.  In the near future, they’ll just work in “the clouds”, just using whatever cloud is cheapest and, hopefully (pending licensing and hosting company cooperating) be able to move VMs or application components between clouds as they see fit.  We may even see the emergence of cloud computing brokers just like we have insurance brokers now.  You just pay them to find you the cheapest and most suitable service and they do the moving on a day-by-day or month-by-month basis.  That’ll probably need some sort of white/black list for service providers that you set up.

BTW, this is my first post with Windows Live Writer 2011.  It’s got the ribbon interface and is very like Office/Windows 7.

MS Merged Windows Server & Azure Divisions

Microsoft has announced that the Windows Server and Tools division will merge with Azure online services.  This means that future developments can be integrated.  We’ve already heard that VMM v.Next will allow you to migrate VM’s from your Hyper-V private could up to Azure.  And with bolt-ons we know that we can integrate an internal Active Directory with things like Exchange Hosted Services and BPOS.  It looks to me like MS will make this a more seamless approach, probably leveraging Active Directory Certificate Services.

Interesting times ahead!

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