Virtualization Disaster Avoidance & Backup: Year in Review

The Virtualization Disaster Avoidance & Backup space has changed fairly significantly within the last year. These changes are cumulative but have a great impact on the virtualization ecosystem. I include Disaster Avoidance in this review as there have been some great strides made in this arena that could impact the entire environment. Disaster Avoidance technologies were demonstrated at EMC World 2010 as well as at other conferences throughout the year. The impact was quite huge, but there are technological hurdles involved with its deployment within any organization.

Virtualization Backup vendors have pushed the envelope once more targeting fast backup and fast recovery of data as well as ensuring that the backups actually work. Here is a list of this years improvements in this space.

  • Veeam announced their Sure Backup product, which provides an automated test of backups made with the Veeam backup tools. This answers the question of how often do organizations actually test their backups. With Sure Backup (and a little judicious scripting) you can test your backups before they are locked away within a safe.
  • EMC announced VPLEX which allows you to synchronously share data across at most 100KM (60 miles).  For those who can afford the technology and have the tools to create a stretch layer-2 network, VPLEX provides unprecedented Disaster Avoidance. VPLEX was used in conjunction with a vTeleport demo which migrated 500 VMs from one datacenter to one 60 miles away in less than 10 minutes. All I can say is that everyone was impressed.
  • PhD Virtual was funded by Citrix and produced a version of their tools for Citrix XenServer as well as VMware vSphere. In fact, this funding required significant changes in PhD Virtual’s staff.
  • Pancetera entered the Virtualization Backup community by providing a glue layer that allows traditional backup tools to see into the virtual environment without the need for specialized agents or for these traditional tools to make any changes. Pancetera’s approach is to present data as disks to these traditional and often expensive backup tools.
  • Symantec delivered NetBackup 7 which includes vStorage API support. There is now one tool that can go from the virtual environment direct to tape.
  • Veeam, CA ARCServer, and others have also targeted Hyper-V as part of their solutions.
  • Veeam at VMworld also demonstrated their latest tool to allow for near CDP capabilities for backup as well as restoration. Using their technology you can access files from backups at any time.
  • Active Block Tracking (ABT) (knowledge of the filesystem blocks not just the changed blocks), first put forth by Vizioncore (now Quest) is gaining ground in other products such as Pancetera and Veeam.
  • VMware SRM has had major improvements as well with support by more vendors.

I see a split in technologies this year, with some companies concentrating on one aspect or another of the virtualization backup, disaster recovery, and avoidance space.

  • Veeam has fast backup by making use of Active Block Tracking and Change Block Tracking, but they have put most of their new technologies into play to ensure your backups are restorable and that recovery of individual files is simple and easy to do.
  • PhD Virtual is pushing the source and target deduplication technologies
  • Quest vRangerPro is all about fast backups.
  • Symantec is providing a single tool to get data from the virtual environment quickly to tape or other backup media.
  • Pancetera provides needed integration with legacy tools.
  • Hyper-V and Citrix Xen tools have grown over the last year.

The key components of any backup implementation are ways to QUICKLY backup terabytes of data within the backup window of the organization. In this source deduplication of single VMs and across VMs, Active Block Tracking, Change Block Tracking, and any other way to reduce the overall data transmitted over the wire is extremely important.  But just as important is the continual testing of backups to ensure that the data restores and runs. A key component of Availability in a disaster situation.

In 2009, the industry, started to see great changes in the speed of backups. These changes continued into 2010. However, Veeam is leading the pack in the area of automated and continual backup restoration testing. This is a required part of any disaster recovery/avoidance document. Now there is a tool that can do that for us. I have also found that many companies this year have moved from backing up directly to tape to a disk to disk to disk to removable media model of backups, which is needed for automated continuous backup restoration testing.

Disk is cheap, I see more companies moving to a Disk to Disk to Disk to removable media model this year, with the virtualization backup community following through with even more interesting backup and recovery tools and techniques. The key is managing all the data from a central console. Perhaps someone will integrate backup and recovery into the cloud portals being used and developed. Can I order my backup and recovery methods,  set backup windows, continuous testing mechanism, etc. from the vCloud Director or other portals? Will virtualization backup enter the IT as a Server space of Cloud Computing?

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