Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Waiting Game - Virtual Server 2005 R2 and ShadowProtect

I think Mr. Gates is smiling about that Fossal watch. I could have really used it to track the hideous amount of time that it takes to restore ShadowProtect images to virtual disks mounted in virtual machines under Virtual Server 2005 R2.

Mark Crall inspired me to try this. His presentation where he restored a Windows 2003 server ShadowProtect image stored on a flash drive to a virtual machine over a wireless link has now become the stuff of legends. Well, we all know that legends are made from people that were foolish enough to do things that everyone else was too smart to do, and they succeeded! So, I had to take my hand at it. Unfortunately, I used Virtual Server instead of Virtual PC. My bad :(
I have just replaced my server with a new box and used the Swing Migration method to move my AD over. As stated in another post, it took some time, but I finally got a good result. No fault of Jeff Middleton; just preexisting issues that had to be cleared up.
So, I say to myself, "Self, lets virtualize the old server so that we can refer to it in the future!" You tend to use "we" in such conversations. I am very cautious and always want to be able to "dial back" to a previous point in time.
I re-setup the old server and made fresh ShadowProtect images of the system and data partitions, and set them aside. Then I decided to use the old server to actually create the virtual machine and drive. I loaded Virtual Server 2005 R2. Hey, why not? If Virtual PC is good, Virtual Server should perform even better! I gave the new virtual machine a name and created a static virtual drive for it. After creating 2 partitions and formatting them, I booted the virtual machine with ShadowProtect IT Edition 3.0. Since I had the virtual machine and the ShadowProtect images on the same USB drive and since Virtual Server cannot directly give a virtual machine access to a usb drive, I had to create a share for the partition containing the images and let the host share it with the virtual machine.

Do you get all that? Not a wireless network like Mark, but a images on a usb drive being accessed going through 2 virtual network adapters to be restored to a virtual hard drive located on the same usb drive. Well, I was not sure it would work and, sure enough, it gave me the devil for 3 days. The restore of 30 gigs of data to the system partition on the virtual hard drive lasted 14 HOURS before failing. The time indicated to completion climbed to 2 DAYS PLUS! 3 Hours was what I would have expected. 2 DAYS PLUS? Crips!

What was happening here? A problem with the virtual network adapters? Was this just TOO weird for VS 205 R2 to handle?

I was not to be deterred! So, change up on the setup. I placed the images on another drive on another machine on the network. Started the restore again except this time I was not accessing the images on the same drive as the virtual hard drive I was restoring to. Though shorter (1 DAY PLUS), the restore time was ridiculous.
I mentioned to Mark Crall that I was having this weird super elongated restore to a virtual hard drive. A discussion in sued. That is when I learned that he had never done his test with Virtual Server, only Virtual PC. What the Heck! I'll try it with Virtual PC. I installed Virtual PC 2007. Setup and restored the images from a network drive.


It worked. And within the original time frame I expected! Just over 3 hours to restore both partitions ( one 30 gig and one 40 gig).

So... why the drastic difference in performance for this situation? Who knows! I just know that, if I am doing demos, I better use Virtual PC.