DISCLAIMER: Don’t even think about trying this in a production enterprise environment or you will get laughed out of the building. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! This is meant for test labs and small businesses.
With that said, if you’re running ESXi 4.0 at home or at a small business and want image level backups at a pricepoint (i.e. FREE), then this is how you do it. You used to be able to use products from 3rd parties with ESXi 3.5 such as Veeam Backup that would allow you to do image based backups but once ESXi 4.0 (vSphere) came out, VMware decided they wanted to charge small and medium size business for advanced features. Previously this was an untapped market for VMware but now they want a piece of the pie. So they went to these 3rd parties that were offering image level backup solutions for ESXi 3.5 and said not to support it anymore with ESXi 4.0. Here is a press release from Veeam regarding this here:
As a longtime Premier Technology Alliance Partner and supporter of VMware’s product strategy, Veeam Software takes great pride in creating innovative software products that enhance the customer value of VMware ESX, ESXi, and ESXi Free. One such example is support for the free edition of VMware ESXi in Veeam Backup and Replication.
Recently, VMware requested that Veeam Software discontinue support for ESXi Free in Veeam Backup and Replication in order to comply with VMware’s updated licensing policy. In light of VMware’s request, and our close technical partnership, Veeam Backup and Replication will no longer support ESXi Free. We will still continue to offer support for ESXi Free to existing Veeam customers who purchased Backup & Replication prior to version 3.1.
For small or branch office environments, Veeam advises its new customers to buy VMware vSphere Essentials and the Veeam Essentials bundle (announced today). This combination costs exactly the same amount of money as purchasing 6 sockets of Veeam Backup at regular list price for use with free ESXi, but it is actually better, because with Veeam Essentials at its special discounted price, customers also get Veeam Monitor and Veeam Reporter.
1. ESXi 4.0 (still free) = basic features and an entry into virtualization for small companies or test labs
2. vSphere Essentials ($995) = all the above plus advanced features aimed at small business
3. vSphere Essentials Plus ($2,995) = all the above but for more processors plus more features such as VCB
Here’s a nice product matrix that explains all the differences:
I’m can’t be too mad at VMware about this. They make a great product and want to tackle a new market. It’s a smart business move for them. Especially with MS Hyper-V trying to tackle this same market. Veeam was very innovative in coming up with a great backup solution but I understand they want to maintain a good relationship with VMware and don’t want to step on their toes.
But for those that miss the old days of setting up a quick and easy DR solution for an ESXi host, how can we get the old functionality we were used to back without having to shell out thousands for VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) or Essentials Plus? In comes GhettoVCB, an ongoing project on the VMware Community forums:
GhettoVCB is a free alternative for backing up guest images on ESXi 3.5 and ESXi 4.0. I have to warn you though, it does take some work to get it working properly. If you don’t want the hassle, I encourage you to buy VCB or Essentials Plus which is definitely worth it and of course comes with support from VMware. GhettoVCB is a great project and does work but again as I said in the disclaimer at the top of this post, I wouldn’t advise using it in a production environment. It’s great to play with in a test lab or at a small company though. If you like playing with things, you will enjoy setting it up.