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Managing your labs with Veeam Backup and Replication

October 19, 2012

I’m in the process of building a test lab for VMware Site Recovery Manager. I thought I would make a quick post about how I use Veeam Backup and Replication to manage my lab environments.  Veeam backup and replication is free for home use if you are a VCP (see here).

All of the labs I build need Windows servers. My weapon of choice at the moment is of course Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition. This OS forms the basis for most of my labs weather I am looking at VMware products or other things like Exchange, SharePoint etc.

To be able to use the labs over a period of time I find a Technet subscription is a must. This allows me to run activated, licensed servers so I am not running against the clock to finish off my lab before “trial” software expires. If I am creating a test lab purely for Microsoft products, it also gives me the option of archiving the lab off using Veeam in-case I want to go back to it at a later point (more on this later).

Now at this point it would be easy for me to bash Microsoft over the Technet service. Over the years they have restricted the number of licences you get for each product (see here) so that now you only get three licences per product. Three servers isn’t going to build you much of a lab for any product as far as I am concerned. But at least Microsoft offer the Technet service, most vendors offer you nothing other than a 30 or 60 day free trial (yes VMware and Citrix I am talking about YOU).

Three licences isn’t a show stopper as you are allowed multiple activations. Of course, you are violating the terms of your Technet subscription by running more than three servers at once; but as far as I am concerned rules are meant to be broken and nobody is going to get hurt doing this.

So here is how I run more than three servers at a time for my labs…

1. Build yourself one or two ESXi servers.

2. Create two Windows 2008 R2 server on one of the hosts. Patch them (if you wish – I always do) and install VMware tools.

3. On the first Windows server activate it and then install Veeam Backup and Replication. Connect it into your ESXi servers.

4. On the second Windows server, once patched and VMware tools has been installed sysprep the server.

5. Use Veeam to copy the machine so you have seven copies of the server to make eight servers in total.

6. Boot up the machines ONE AT A TIME. When each machine has booted name the server, activate the server and then set a static IP on the server as required. Shut down the server and then proceed to the next one, only start up the next server when the first server has been shut down.

7. When all servers have been activated and configured you should have eight servers in a powered off state.  Now use Veeam to backup these eight servers. This is now your base lab you can use in the future to form the basis of future lab projects.

8. Now you are ready to configure your first lab. Before powering on any machines isolate them off on a separate vSwitch so they cannot connect to your home network and the Internet (otherwise those activations will drop off).

9. Install your lab as required.  Lets say you put in Exchange server. Create your DC’s, maybe a couple of sites and your Exchange servers. When complete use Veeam again to backup the entire lab as a new backup job. You have now archived your lab so can blow away your original VM’s to start over and lab something else.

So in my lab I have an ML110 G4 with two 60GB SSDs and a ML110 G5 with two 120GB SSDs and two 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor drives. Here are some key points on my setup:

1. My Veeam VM has a 50GB thin provisioned OS drive and a 200GB thin provisioned drive for backups. I keep the VM located on one of my VelociRaptor drives (though I can move it to one of the 120GB SSDs if required at the moment as it is still small enough to fit on one).

2. Each of my Windows servers has a 50GB thin provisioned OS drive. When building out I located them all on the same 120GB SSD drive (each server takes up about 11.5GB in a vanilla state).

3. A Veeam backup of 8 Windows servers takes about an hour and the total backup size is just 6.54GB. Veeam ignores blank space in VM’s, swap files and also de-duplicates as it goes.

I hope you find this post useful. If you have any good tips on managing your test lab please do let me know.  I am always interested to hear how other people approach this.

All the best.


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