Overall VMworld 2009 displayed a coming of age; an ecosystem maturity for all vendors, this was evident to all within the category of business continuity and disaster recovery, specifically the many forms of backup creation. Veeam, Vizioncore, and PhD Virtual all showed their latest released products as well as demoing future products that will integrate with VMware vSphere at a much deeper levels than previously available, a’la the VMware vStorage API. All vendors talked about expanding their product support into both Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. This space has become so important that even the traditional backup vendors such as Symantec (BackupExec)and HP (DataProtector) are getting into the act. This demostrates a market matruity in the ecosystem not seen at last years VMworld.
The frontrunners (Veeam, Vizioncore, and PhD Virtual) integrate into VMware ESX at many different levels in order to create their respective backups. We have seen these tools use the VI SDK to communicate with VMware vCenter Server as well as ESX minimally to find the names of any virtual machine. We have also seen these tools hook into VMware Consolidated Backup, as well as introduce their own mechanisms for getting the data from the VMware ESX management appliance. These same vendors are now making use of snapshot data and on the fly data deduplication to reduce the amount of data that travels over the network during a backup. Soon products will be released that tie into the VMware vStorage and vDDK APIs to grab data at even lower levels.
Symantec and HP are relative newcomers to the virtualization backup space, as previously they relied upon VMware, Veeam, Vizioncore, or PhD Virtual tools to get obtain a full disk backup data out of the virualization hosts. These newcomers are subsequently bringing a wealth of experience and product features that cover backup management, lifecycle and direct access to tape. These new tools, shown at VMworld, provide a direct from virtualization host to tape backup capability which the frontrunners do not have at this time.
Now lets not forget the other players within this space that were showing at VMworld. Companies such as Asigra and Data Gardens are also worth watching. Asigra have moved their existing technology into a virtual appliance, while Data Gardens replication and backup tools integrate as an iSCSI block storage device and integrates with the virtualization host to maintain active state within VMware vSphere however it currently does not support any other hypervisor vendors.
The current frontrunners (Veeam, Vizioncore, and PhD Virtual) are mature and well integrated virtualization products, with even deeper integration within the VMware ecosystem planned. Yet they still maintain their own pane of glass management separate from the main VMware management tool, VMware vCenter. These vendors are also starting to look into the other hypervisors so their existing interfaces will be a benefit to them going forward.
The traditional backup tools have mature non-virtualization products, features, and management stacks, but they lack the understanding of the virtualization layer. They are integrating their products into VMware vCenter using plugins that may utilize the vStorage APIs to backup a VM from the virtualization host straight to a tape device.
This next year will be an interesting time in the virtualization backup space. Will the traditional tools compete in this space? I think they will, they have a very large following in the Backup space, there will be no need to learn a new interface and backup strategy. The VM Guest (virtual disk) backup will be seen as just another source. Will they become the frontrunners? That is the real question, the existing frontrunners Veeam, Vizioncore, and PhD Virtual will need to continue to innovate and push the envelope of virtualization integration while maintaining an eye on the relative newcomers that have been doing backup for years.