How to: Setup a server for R1Soft CDP backup?

We at Mellowhost has been utilizing R1Soft CDP backup for last 8 years. R1Soft has been a great backup tool even though the tool is immensely resource hoggy. At different times we had gone through different situations to handle our backup servers efficiently. After all the hiccups with backup nodes, we ended up efficiently configuring 3 backup servers of 3 different configuration

  1. backup1 = It contains 12TB file system on a RAID 0 array. It copies data to a BTRFS compressed drive once a week to keep the data safe if RAID 0 dies. This server uses RAID 0 for faster drive verification and block scanning by r1soft. This server hosts servers that requires frequent backing up and can sustain a loss of a week data (Less important data). As the server performs really fast due to being RAID 0, we can run multiple r1soft threads at a time including disk safe verification and block scans.
  2. backup2 = It contains 30TB file system in RAID 6 hardware array. This is used for hosting our VPS backups. This server is a seriously large one to keep backups of our enterprise VPS clients.
  3. backup3 = It contains 16TB file system in RAID 10 hardware array. This server is hosted in a East Coast American Location. It is our off network backup server and keeps backups for East Coast servers too.

One of the key factor in designing a backup server is the size and the location. Need to keep in mind that CDP 3 takes more space than CDP 2 for unknown reason while still being a differential backup solution, not just an incremental. Location of the server matters due to the network speed. If you are hosting your server a lot far than the server network, it may take longer time to complete the initial storage. Due to the latency it may fails to perform as fast like 1Gbps even if both network supports it. Just for an example, if you are backing up your data at 1MBps speed, it would take 12.13 days to complete backup of 1TB data [ Calculation: (((1024 x 1024) / 60) / 60) / 24 = 12.13 days ]. A 100Mbps port can give you speed upto 10MBps, while you can have 50MBps+ speed if you are using a 1Gbps network roughly. So why does the speed matter? If you are backing up your initial data in 13 days, that doesn’t mean it will be the same all the time. Your second backup would take much less amount of time as it only needs to upload the differential backups. That is true! But the problem will come when you require to do a bare metal restore. If your server requires a disaster recovery, you would then need 13 days to restore your server to the original state. Your customers won’t sit down for 13 days! While creating backup, it is important to think about disaster recovery too. How fast are you going to be able to restore the backup is an important concern while designing your disaster recovery solution.

I always recommend users to choose a 1Gbps network with a latency below 2ms if you want to have a good disaster recovery solution. This can guarantee a faster bare metal restore when needed.

The second key factor while creating the R1soft backup server would be to choose the RAID. If you are thinking to create r1soft backup on a non-raided solution, I think you should drop off your idea. RAID isn’t necessarily always use to keep your data safe, it can also be used for performance. Keeping a RAID 0 or striping in general is must for a R1Soft server. Otherwise, every couple of times, you are going to see a lot of stalled processes doing ‘disk safe verification’ ‘block scan’ etc etc and not able to keep the backup up to date or canceling processes due to duplicate backup process (Old one taking too long to complete). It is better not to choose RAID 5. I particularly didn’t try RAID 5, but I have used RAID – Z on ZFS file system, which was seriously slow for my work around. I switched the server later on to RAID 0 and BTRFS compression to keep a weekly backup which tremendously improved the R1Soft performance. We at later time, worked to create more backup servers with hardware RAID WB cache and battery backed unit to give us more performance benefit while creating and restoring backups. These servers have been performing tremendously well with R1Soft. They can also be called good disaster recovery node.

Last, I recommend you to understand that backup isn’t just keeping a copy of your data of your online existence. It is important to design a disaster recovery solution instead of just creating backups. If you are simply into creating backups, you probably don’t need R1Soft or any high end servers instead simple Rsync would work fine. But to create ‘Disaster Recovery’ solution, you need high level planning, good hardwares and good cost estimation. If you are leaving behind in any, you will probably fail to create a good disaster recovery solution that actually ‘works’.

How to: Find IOPS usage in a Linux Server

Question: How to find iops usage of a linux server?

Answer: Use iostat. Iostat is a tool comes with the ‘sysstat’ package. If you type iostat on your CentOS/Redhat server and it says the command not found, you can install sysstat to avail the iostat command.

yum install -y sysstat

An example iostat usage case could as simple as following:

iostat -x 1

-x tells iostat to give extended statistics which is required to find read/write iops individually. And the 1 tells iostat to repeat the command every 1s.

An example output would be like the following:

If you look at the output, the colum r/s would say the read iops and the colum w/s would say write iops. If you are using simple ‘iostat 1’ then the column tps should show the total iops of the disk in use.

If you are using a spinning disk, and if you are getting anything around 150-200 cumulatively, you are probably hitting the iops limit. With raid, the number would change according to your raid choice. Although, the number can increase in case of using Writeback SSD Cache, Hardware RAID Cache or Pure SSD disks. Most important benefit of using SSD is not essentially the amount of throughput it gives in a practical environment instead the amount of IOPS it can sustain is phenomenal.

Backing up LVM Cache Volume?

I have been trying to explore what options do we have to use SSD Cache with a HDD driven servers to create faster writes. There are both software and hardware solutions. Hardware solution comes to CacheCade which isn’t really costly at all (roughly costs 250$ extra per license), though I was interested to explore all the software solution that are currently available in the market.

There are bcache, flashcache & lvm cache, that are mostly used in production servers. I firstly discarded bcache because it requires you to format the disk with bcache, that triggers the less flexibility check for a module. I tried flashcache before, and don’t want to go with it in a production server any longer as the module is discontinued (It still works, don’t get me wrong). All it seems, lvm cache is the only one which is stable and going to improve over days.

LVM Cache does work great. With the smq lvm cache policy, writeback cachemode & deadline scheduler, you can reach 220MBps write speed with Intel SSD in RAID 1, which is normally available in a RAID 1 Intel SSD. You can double the speed by putting a RAID 10 SSD array to back the cache. Although, after all the test was done, I realized that lvm cache doesn’t support snapshot unfortunately. At least not yet, at the time I am writing the blog. Without the snapshot facility, the performance benchmark actually goes in vain.

Snapshots of cache type volume vg0/newvz is not supported.

Hardware solutions are always useful as the backend setup goes transparent to the OS, which allows us to use our own tool without worrying about the caching setup. Cachecade is probably the only available solution right now with all facilities for SSD cache in production servers.

How much data does Mellowhost have in their Backup?

It should be pretty known if you are a Mellowhost customer that we backup our servers on daily basis. We are currently using R1Soft CDP for each of our servers. All the backup servers are offsite, that means they are not hosted in the same server you are using with Mellowhost and not even in Softlayer network. Continue reading “How much data does Mellowhost have in their Backup?”

48 restless hours!

RAID is not a backup solution, it is proved again! I was planning to write my experience of 48 hours from July 22 7:17 to July 24 7:23 GMT -5, couldn’t really manage to get some time. All the users who were in the Hemonto server should be aware about the recent issue we faced with our RAID. This post is just to elaborate how did we handle the situation.

Continue reading “48 restless hours!”