Azure Backup Server v2 in Windows Server 2016

Azure Backup Server is a solution available on the market since October 2015 and in the spring of this year has been released the second version of the product, named Azure Backup Server v2 (MABS v2), that supports installation on Windows Server 2016. Actually Azure Backup Server has inherited the same capabilities of System Center Data Protection Manager, with the substantial difference that does not support backup to tape. Using Azure Backup Server v2 implemented on Windows Server 2016 allows the use of Modern Backup Storage that guarantees, thanks to the new technologies introduced in Windows Server 2016, to improve the performance of backups, to reduce the occupation of storage and to increase the resilience and safety with regard to the protection of virtual machines. This article describes how to implement Azure Backup Server v2 and contains the instructions to follow to take advantage of the benefits through native integration with Windows Server 2016.

Installation requirements

Deploy Azure Backup Server v2 (MABS v2) can be performed on a standalone physical server , on a virtual machine in VMWare or Hyper-V or on a virtual machine hosted on Azure.

The operating system can be Windows Server 2012 R2, but it is recommended Windows Server 2016 in order to benefit from the advantages of Modern Backup Storage. The machine must be joined to an Active Directory domain and should have the ability to access in Internet to Microsoft Azure even if you decide not to send the protected data to the cloud.

Regarding hardware specs Microsoft recommends the following.

Processor
Minimum: 1 GHz, dual-core CPU.
Recommended: 2.33 GHz, Quad-core CPU.

RAM
Minimum: 4 GB.
Recommended: 8 GB.

Disk space
Software installation: recommended about 8-10 GB.
Storage Pools: 1.5 times the data you wish to protect.
Scratch Location: at least the 5% of the total space of the protected data in the cloud.

With regard to the software requirements you must install Microsoft .Net 3.5 SP1, Microsoft .Net 4.6 and Hyper-V Powershell modules.

Finally you need to create on its own subscription Azure a Recovery Service Vault, which will be associated with the Azure Backup Server. The setup of Azure Backup Server will require the Vault credentials which can be downloaded by accessing the properties from the Azure Portal:

Figure 1 – Backup Download Credentials

 

Installation procedure

The download of the installation setup of Azure Backup Server v2 can be started directly by accessing this Microsoft page. After the download of different files you need to run the executable MicrosoftAzureBackupServerInstaller.exe to extract installer binaries in a single folder. Inside the chosen folder, you can run the Setup.exe file to start the installation process later documented.

Figure 2 – Select Install Microsoft Azure Backup Server

Figure 3 – Welcome page

Figure 4 – Check the prerequisites

azure backup server requires the presence of a microsoft sql server instance to host the related database. If you do not have an existing instance to use (required at least SQL Server 2014 SP1) the setup installs SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1 (recommended by Microsoft). In this scenario you do not require the acquisition of a license for SQL Server as long as the instance is for the exclusive use of MABS v2.

Figure 5 - Choice relative to the SQL Server that hosts the DBs of MABS v2 anf check of the requirements

If you have not installed the Hyper-V Powershell module the setup will install it, but you will need to stop the installation setup to restart the system.

Figure 6 – Requirements not met and restart required for Hyper-V Powershell module installation

Figure 7 – Requirements met

Figure 8 – Choice of installation path

The setup of MABS v2 creates the account MICROSOFT$DPM$Acct local to the machine that will run SQL Server and SQL Server Agent services and the account DPMR$Servername used for the generation of reports.

Figure 9 – Choice of password for the MICROSOFT$DPM$Acct and DPMR$Servername

Figure 10 – Choice of deploying updates to MABS v2 via Windows Update

Figure 11 - Summary concerning the installation choices

At this point starts the setup of Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) Agent required to connect to the Recovery Service Vault in Microsoft Azure.

Figure 12 - Configuration of the proxy server if required for access to public services in Microsoft Azure

Figure 13 – Verification of the presence of the necessary requirements and installation of MARS

After installing the MARS, starts the registration process of the Azure Backup Server to the Azure Recovery Service Vault that requires the Backup Vault credentials (recoverable following the step documented in Figure 1) and the passphrase required to perform the encryption of stored data. You should save this key in a safe place as it is necessary during recovery operations and can not be recovered in any way by Microsoft staff.

Figure 14 -Choose Backup Vault Credentials

Figure 15 – Passphrase for encryption of backups

After completing these steps, you must wait the end of the installation process.

Figure 16 - MABS v2 installation completed successfully

Before proceeding with the configuration of MABS v2 it is recommended to apply the latest update available for Microsoft Azure Backup Server v2 which you can be downloaded from the Microsoft support site.

At this point, it is necessary to configure the SQL Server instance just installed according to their own needs, and it is recommended to apply thelatest Cumulative Update available for SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1.

 

Features provided by the integration between MABS v2 and Windows Server 2016

Azure Backup Server v2 is natively integrates with the new technologies available in Windows Server 2016 so you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Efficiency major in backups operations: using the technologies Refs Block Cloning, VHDX and Deduplication you can get a reduction of storage needed to protect data and improve performance in the execution of backup. The configuration of the Modern Backup Storage can be done by following the steps documented in official documentation, which although relating to DPM 2016 is identical for Azure Backup Server v2. Very interesting also the functionality Workload-Aware Storage that allows you to select which volumes use depending on the type of workloads are protected, having thus the opportunity to choose more efficient storage and dedicate it to more frequent backup tasks for which it is good to have high performance.
  • Reliability elevated in Hyper-V virtual machine protection, thanks to the integration with technology Resilient Change Tracking (RCT) can natively track changes made to VMs compared to backups, without the need to add filter drivers. This reduces the time-consuming tasks to perform consistency checks.
  • Safety: ability to backup and restore Shielded VMs.

 

Costs of the solution

As regards the cost of the solution is good to specify that it is obviously necessary to contemplate the license of the machine's operating system on which you are installing MABS v2. An interesting aspect is that in order to implement Azure Backup Server is not require any licence concerning System Center, but you must have an Azure subscription . In the cost of the solution you should consider a fee for each protected instance and any storage occupied in Microsoft Azure. For more details on the cost of the solution, please consult the Official Microsoft page on the Pricing.

 

Conclusions

Azure Backup Server v2, with its approach cloud-first and through the integration with certain features in Windows Server 2016 , is a complete and functional solution for the protection of different workloads. For those using the first release of Azure Backup Server you can upgrade to MABS v2 keeping all the settings. The advice is still to implement MABS v2 on Windows Server 2016 so that you have a solution that allows you to perform backups with speeds up to 3 times and to reduce up to 50% storage utilization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *