Use online image backup for large filesystems if server memory is an issue


It is often required to take image backups if the regular flat file backups are taking longer times. File systems that contain millions of files cause a number of problems for TSM when taking normal incremental backups. Below are some of the common issues when taking incremental backup of millions of files.
  • Every backup of every file requires an entry in the TSM database, so one filespace can easily account for 20% or more of the database capacity. Apart from the obvious space overhead, this also affects the time required to run tape reclamation and expire inventory.
  • Backups and Restores take a long time, not so much because of the amount of data involved, but because of the amount of activity required at the TSM database to handle all those files.
  • Backups of millions of files require a lot of client memory and backups can fail due to memory shortages. While memory efficient backup techniques can help here, even they can fail if a file space contains too many files.
So if eliminate these situations, we can use image backups to take backup of millions of files instead of using traditional incremental backups.

TSM Image Backups Overview

An image backup will copy any filespace as a single object, no matter how many files it contains. The advantages are that backups and restores of the filespace are fast, and you just get one entry in the database. The disadvantage is that you cannot restore individual files, just the whole filespace. There are two scenarios where image backups can assist with problem filespaces.

Also Read: Different types of Image Backups

  • Recovery can be speeded up by taking a weekly image backup and normal daily incrementals. Recovery involves restoring the image, then 'rolling forward' with the incrementals by restoring with the -fromdate option.
  • Image is perfect for those cases where you need to take a backup of a filespace, but the chances are you will never need to restore a file. An example would be to take a tax year end copy of a filespace, just in case the Inland Revenue comes calling.

There are 2 kinds of image backups, static image and online image.

Static image requires exclusive use of a filespace, so it puts a lock on it at the start of the backup so no-one else can access it, and releases the lock at the end of the backup. This is pretty much unrealistic for any kind of production data, unless you can arrange a total outage while you run your backup.

Online Image backups use snapshot technology. There's lots of ways to take snapshots, using either hardware or software, but the simplest answer seemed to be to use Microsoft's VSS (volume shadow services) if it is enabled. This is software based copy-on-write technology that uses temporary space in the existing filespace. you can find more information on VSS here, and hardware snapshots here.

Configuring Online Image Backups using TSM BA Client

Online Image Backup configuration requires three steps.

  • Configure TSM for VSS Snapshot Support and Open File support at the client. The easiest way is to use the TSM GUI wizard, select Utilities, then Setup Wizard and you should see the configuration options. This is a very easy, next-next-next process.
  • Next you need some changes to your dsm.opt file, add the following lines - which assumes you are going to use VSS snapshot and you want an image backup of your E: drive. 
Snapshotproviderimage VSS 
Snapshotproviderfs VSS 
Domain.image E:
  • Next, define an image backup schedule on your TSM server, where the action is IMAGEBACKUP, rather than the standard INCR and associate your client node with it. Once the backup is completed, you should see the o/p like below. Notice that it is showing objects inspected and backed up as 1.
Backup Image Function Invoked.
31-01-2012 16:30:10 Image backup of volume '\\z0b1dqte2\e$'
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Volume -->322,118,383,104 \\z0b1dqte2\e$ [Sent]
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Image Backup processing of '\\z0b1qte2\e$' finished without fail
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Total number of objects inspected: 1
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Total number of bytes inspected: 299.99 GB
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Total number of objects backed up: 1
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Elapsed processing time: 00:24:39
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Total number of bytes transferred: 61.63 GB
31-01-2012 16:54:49 Scheduled event 'IMAGE-TEST' completed successfully.

Image Restore

An image restore from either a static or online image backup requires exclusive use of an empty file space. This should not be an issue if you are rebuilding a server, but if the unlikely happens and you just need to retrieve a couple of files from an old backup, then you need to get some temporary disk space allocated and you have to restore the whole image, or in other words, the whole filespace. Note that even though the backup above just copied 61.63GB, a restore needs the full 300GB.

Also Read: Different types of Incremental Backups

Once the restore completes you can see the full filespace with all it's original files, so it would be easy to copy over any that were required.  So this process could work well for large file spaces.




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