CBT DRIVER WITH Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows 2.1

Change Block Tracking comes to physical & IAAS Veeam Backups

With the big improvements and new capabilities delivered in Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 3 there are some interesting capabilities and features related specifically to the Veeam Agent for Windows 2.1 Server Edition. We now get the ability to manage the Veeam Agent centrally from within VBR 9.5 UP3 console or PowerShell. This includes deploying the new Change Block Tracking (CBT) driver for Windows Server (not Linux).

This CBT driver is optional and works like you have come to expect from Veeam VBR when backing up Hyper-V virtual machines pre-Windows Server 2016. Windows Server 2016 now has its own CBT capabilities that Veeam VBR 9.5 leveraged. The big thing here is that you now get CBT capabilities for physical or virtual in guest workloads (that includes IAAS people!) with Veeam Agent for Windows 2.1 Server Edition.

Deploying the Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows 2.1 CBT Driver

The Veeam Agent for Windows 2.1 ships with an optional, signed change block tracking filter driver for Windows servers. That agent is included in your VBR 9.5 Update 3 download or you can choose to download an update that does not have the CBT driver included. That’s up to you. I just upgraded my lab and production environment with the agent included as I might have a use for them. If not now, then later and at least my environment is ready for that.

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When you have installed VAW 2.1 you can navigate to C:\Program Files\Veeam\Endpoint Backup\CBTDriver and find the driver files there for the supported Windows Server OS versions under their respective folders.

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As you can see in the screenshot above we have CBT drivers for any version of Windows Server back to Windows Server 2008 R2. If you are running anything older we really need to talk about your environment in 2018. I mean it.

Note that right clicking the .inf file for your version of Windows Server and selecting Install is the most manual way of installing the CBT driver. You’ll need to reboot the host.

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Normally you’ll either integrate the deployment and updating of the CBT driver into the VBR 9.5 Update 3 console or you’ll deploy and update the CBT driver manually.

Install / uninstall the CBT driver via Veeam Backup & Replication Console

You can add servers individually or as part of a protection group (Active Directory based). Whatever option you chose you’ll have the option of managing them via the agent manually or via VBR server. Once you have done that you can deploy and update the optional CBT driver for supported Windows Server versions via the individual servers or the protection groups.

Individual Server

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Once the agent is installed you’ll can optionally install the CBT driver. When that’s you can also uninstall the CBIT driver and the agent form the VBR Console.

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Protection Group

You can add servers to protect via VAW 2.1 individually, via active directory (domain, organizational unit, container, computer, cluster or a group) or a CSV file with server names /IP-addresses. That’s another subject actually but you get the gist of what a protection group is.

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Checking the CBT driver version

You can always check the CBT driver version via the details of a server added to the physical or cloud infrastructure.

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Install / uninstall the CBT driver via the standalone Veeam Agent for Windows

My workstation at home isn’t managed by a Veeam Backup & Replication v9.5 Update 3 server. It’s a standalone system. But it does run Windows Server 2016. Now, even while such a standalone system can send its backups to Veeam Repository, I don’t do that at home. The target is a local disk in disk bay that I can easily swap out every week. I just rotate through a couple of recuperated larger HDDs for this purpose and this also allows me to take a backup copy off site. The Veeam Agent for Windows configuration for my home office workstation is done locally, including the installation of the CBT driver. Doing so is easy. Under settings in the we now have a 3rd entry VAW 2.1 that’s there to install the CBT driver if we want to.

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When you click install it will be done before you can even blink. It will prompt you the restart the computer to finish installing the driver. Do so. If not, the next backup will complain about failing over to MFT analysis based incremental backups as you can’t use the installed CBT driver yet.

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When using the new VAW 2.1 CBT drivers for windows changes get tracked a VCT file. These can be seen under C:\ProgramData\Veeam\EndpointData\CtStore\VctStore.

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Ready to Go

I’ll compare the results of backing up my main workhorse with and without the CBT driver installed. Veeam indicates the use case is for servers with a lot of data churn and that’s where you should use them. The idea is that you don’t need to deal with updating the drivers when the benefits are not there. That’s fair enough I’d say but I’m going to experiment a little with them anyway to see what difference I can notice without resorting to a microscope.

If we conclude that having the CBT driver installed is not worth while for our workstation we can easily uninstall it again via the control panel, under settings, where we now see the option to uninstall it. Easy enough.

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However, as it can track changes in NTFS as well as ReFS and FAT partitions it might be wise to use it for those servers that have one or more of such volumes, even when for NFTS volumes the speed difference isn’t that significant. Normally the bigger the data churn delta the bigger the benefits of the CBT driver will be.

Veeam Availability Suite 9.5 Update 3 Released

Veeam Availability Suite 9.5 Update 3 was released just in time to put under the X-Mas tree of you IT staff. It’s a major release and they’ve gone above and beyond what’’ you’d expect from an update. Also read this post to see all the goodness it offers. It’s clear Veeam has the intent to become the backup provider for even more environments whether these are physical, virtual or containers and whether these are on-premises or in private, hybrid or public clouds. Read up on some details in this blog post by Rick Vanover on the Veeam web site.

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As a Veeam Vanguard I did not waste time and downloaded the updates to test the deployment in the lab and that went fine. From there it went to the proving grounds (real life hardware & labs) before deploying it in production. All of these deployments went super smooth.

I’m happy to report Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 and Veeam One 9.5 Update 3 is running very well in production and I have not seen any issues yet. In case you’re wondering or nervous about it the SAN deployments with Off Host Proxies didn’t miss a beat. That’s the quality and smooth experience of Veeam that we have come to rely on. I’m still impressed, even after many updates, with how smooth it goes and how streamlined the update process is.

Two more things. You only have a few days left to enter for a chance to win a fully paid trip to a VeeamON 2018 Event in your region. So act now if you’d like to attend for free. You have 2 days left!

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It’s also still possible to nominate your self or some one else for the Veeam Vanguard program. Don’t delay! You have until December 29th!

Veeam Vanguard Program

 

That’s it. Time for some down time for the end of year & new year festivities.

Frustrations about host level backups of Hyper-V guest clusters with Windows Server 2016

Introduction

With Windows Server 2016 came the hope and promise of improved backups for Hyper-V environments. And indeed Microsoft delivered on that and has given us faster, more scalable and more reliable backups. With VHD sets also came the promise of host based backups for guest clusters.

The problem is that this promise or, as it is perhaps better to be mild and careful, that expectation has not been met. Decent, robust host based backups of guest clusters in Windows Server 2016 are still not a reality. For me this means it blocked a few scenarios and we’re working on alternatives. This is a missed opportunity I think for MSFT to excel at virtualization.

The problem

Doing host based backup of guest clusters with VHD Set disks is supported in Windows Server 2016 under certain conditions.

At RTM it became clear that CSV inside the guest cluster was not supported.

You need a healthy cluster with all disks one line

These requirements are reflected in Errors discovered during backup of VHDS in guest clusters

Error code: ‘32768’. Failed to create checkpoint on collection ‘Hyper-V Collection’

Reason: We failed to query the cluster service inside the Guest VM. Check that cluster feature is installed and running.

Error code: ‘32770’. Active-active access is not supported for the shared VHDX in VM group

Reason: The VHD Set disk is used as a Cluster Shared Volume. This cannot be checkpointed

Error code: ‘32775’. More than one VM claimed to be the owner of shared VHDX in VM group ‘Hyper-V Collection’

Reason: Actually we test if the VHDS is used by exactly one owner. So having 0 owner also creates this error. The reason was that the shared drive was offline in the guest cluster

Unfortunately, this is not the only problems people are facing. Quite often the backup software doesn’t support backing up VHD Sets or when it does they fail. Some of those failings like being unable to checkpoint the VHD Set have been addressed via Windows Updates. But there are others issues.

Let’s look at the two most common ones.

Issue 1

You can make one backup an all subsequent backups fail. This is due to the avhdx files being in used and locked. This means that as long as the cluster is up and running the recovery checkpoint chain keeps growing. This can be “cleaned” or merged but only by taking down the cluster.

At the first backup live seems good.

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The recovery checkpoint as a collection is indeed working.

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All attempts at another backup fail.

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Shutting down all cluster VMs and starting them up again does merge the recovery checkpoints.

Issue 2

You can make backups, successfully but the recovery checkpoints never get merged. clip_image007

This sounds “better” but it isn’t. There is no way to merge the checkpoint. Manually merging the checkpoints of a VHD Set is bad voodoo.

Both situations get you into problems and I have found no solution so far. At the time or writing I’m back at the “never ending” recovery checkpoint chain situation. But that can change back to the 1st issue I guess. Sigh.

I have found no solution so far

For now I have been unable to solve these problem. There is no fix or even a workaround. The only to get out if this stale mate is to shut down every node of the guest clusters and then restart them all. Just a restart of the guest nodes of the cluster doesn’t do the trick of releasing the checkpoints files and merging them. While this allows you to take one backup successfully again, the problem returns immediately. For you reference that was my issue with the October 2017 CU (KB)

The other scenario we run into is that the backups do work but the recovery checkpoints never ever merge. Not even when you shut down the all the guest VM cluster nodes and start them. With frequent backup that turns into a disaster of a never ending chain of recovery checkpoints. This is actually the situation I was in again after the November 2017 updates on both guests & hosts (KB4049065: Update for Windows Server 2016 for x64-based Systems and KB4048953: 2017-11 Cumulative Update for Windows Server 2016 for x64-based Systems).

To me this situation is blocking the use of guest clustering with VHD Sets where a backup is required. For many reasons we do not wish to go the route of iSCSI or vFC to the guest. That doesn’t cut it for us.

Conclusion

Host level backups of guest clusters in Windows Server 2016 are still a no go. This despite the good hopes we had with VHD Sets to address this limitation and which we were eagerly awaiting. For many of us this is a show stopper for the successful virtualization guest clusters. Every month we try again and we’re not getting anywhere. Hence the frustration and the disappointment.

More than 1 year after Windows Server 2016 RTM we still cannot do consistent host level backup a Hyper-V guest cluster, not even those without CSV, but also not those with standard clustered disks. Trust me on the fact that many of us have given this feedback to Microsoft. They know and I suggest you keep voicing your concerns to them in order to keep it on their radar screen and higher on the priority list. You can do this by opening support calls and by asking for it on user voice. Please Microsoft, we need these workloads to be first class citizens. I’m clearly not the only unhappy camper out there as noticeable in various support forums: Cannot create checkpoint when shared vhdset (.vhds) is used by VM – ‘not part of a checkpoint collection’ error and Backing up a Windows Failover Cluster with Shared vhdx?

Veeam Vanguard nominations are now open for 2018!

Just a quick blog post on the Veeam Vanguard program. The nominations for 2018 are open! That means that if you know people who would make a Veeam Vanguard you can nominate them. You can even nominate yourself, that’s perfectly fine. It’s not frowned upon, but it also doesn’t change anything in terms of evaluation for the program.

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Rick blogged on this yesterday on the Veeam blog in “Veeam Vanguard nominations are now open for 2018!” and gave some more insight of what the program is, tries to achieve and does. He also discusses the selection. The key take-away is that you cannot study for this and that it is not some kind of certification or such. Some of the current Vanguards were quoted on how they look at the program and one thing is constant in that. The fact that the people in these programs are contributors to the global tech community and it’s about sharing and helping others getting the best out of their environment and their investment in Veeam. It also helps Veeam as they get a very communicative group of people to give them feedback on their offerings, both products and services. It’s just one more tool that helps them get things right of fix thing when they got it wrong. Likewise understanding Veeam and their products better for us helps us make better decisions on design, implementation and operation of them.

You can have a look at the current lineup of Veeam Vanguards over here.

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You’ll find a short video on the program on that page as well. So go meet the Vanguards and find their blog, their communities and follow @VeeamVanguard and the hash tag #VeeamVanguard to see what’s going on.

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So, people, this is the moment if you want to nominate someone or yourself to join the Veeam Vanguards in 2018. You have time until December 29th 2017 to do so. I have always felt honored to be selected and have found memories of the events I was able to go to and I to this day I’m happy to be active in the Veeam Vanguard ecosystem. It’s a fine group of professionals in a program of a great company.