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School District Optimizes Virtual Machine Archiving

Server virtualization separates operating systems and applications from the physical hardware, letting organizations consolidate infrastructure and pool application and communications resources. Organizations of all sizes are adopting virtualization to reduce the number physical servers they need. The El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE), located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Placerville, Calif., has been leveraging virtualization for several years to support 70 scho

Server virtualization separates operating systems and applications from the physical hardware, letting organizations consolidate infrastructure and pool application and communications resources. Organizations of all sizes are adopting virtualization to reduce the number physical servers they need. The El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE), located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Placerville, Calif., has been leveraging virtualization for several years to support 70 schools.

The El Dorado office isn't alone. Virtualization continues to capture the interest of many organizations, and IDC forecasts that the virtual machine software (VMS) market will rise from over $1.5 billion in 2009 to nearly $2.7 billion by 2014, representing a compound annual growth rate of 11.7 percent. IDC also points out that as adoption of server virtualization expands, so does the need for more storage to support these virtualized environments. Organizations will need to focus on data and system protection, and they will need to back up the state of the virtual machine host, the virtual machines themselves, and the data associated with virtual machines, IDC says. Still, traditional backups aren't optimal.

Implementing the virtualized machines (VMs), which consist of 12 VMware vSphere servers running on HP blade servers, wasn't the challenge for EDCOE, but finding a good solution to backup its virtualized environment was. So the school system turned to Pancetera, a start-up that offers a virtual appliance that serves as a single access point for backup and restore by aggregating all the VMs within an organization.

The education office runs Windows 2003, 2008, Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux guests, and its production environment has been fully virtualized for a little more than 18 months. "We run SQL databases, Microsoft Exchange, student information systems, Sharepoint and Web services on our VMware cluster," says Logan Lemming EDCOE's director of IT. "Backing up an infrastructure that resides inside VMware's file system is very difficult, because a standard backup system can't read the file system," he says.

The available options to perform standard backup weren't appealing. VMware offers its VMware Virtual Backup, but Lemming says that and other similar tools "are unwieldy and difficult-to-configure." Another option was to use backup agents loaded into each of the virtual machines, but Lemming says that was cost-prohibitive.

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