Live backups with VMWare ESXi, and no vSphere

To make live backups of a guest on an ESXi host’s SSH UNIX shell, you need to utilize the fact that when a snapshot of a VMDK file gets made, the original VMDK file turns so called read-only. Releasing the locks that would otherwise withhold vmkfstools from creating a clone.

This means that if you make a snapshot that you can use vmkfstools of the non-snapshot VMDK files from which the snapshot was made.

Let’s get started scripting this.


First get the VmId:

VMID=`vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms | grep $GUEST | cut -d " " -f -1`

Create a poor man’s backup snapshot on $GUEST:

vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.create $VMID backup poor-mans-backup 0 0

Create the clones of the non-snapshot VMDK files (the one without numbers after $DISK)

mkdir -p $DST
for DISK in $DISKS; do
   vmkfstools -i $SRC/$DISK.vmdk $DST/$DISK.vmdk -d sesparse

Now remove the snapshots from $GUEST:

vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.removeall $VMID

Now, copy the VMX file:

cp $SRC/$GUEST.vmx $DST/$GUEST.vmx

Alternatively you can use ghettoVCB which is a little program that does the same thing.