Backup Exec 3600 Exemplifies What a ‘Plug-n-Play’ Backup Solution for SMB Environments Should Look Like

The idea that a company – any company – can just “plug-in” a backup solution into their virtual environment and expect it to work sounds far-fetched to any IT administrator accustomed to setting up and configuring backup software.  But as more companies move from measuring their IT administrators by how effectively they setup new software to how effectively they manage their virtual machines (VMs), backup solutions by necessity are shifting to ‘plug-n-play.’ As that transition occurs, Symantec’s Backup Exec 3600 exemplifies what enterprises should expect from this emerging class of ‘plug-n-play’ backup solutions.

It probably shocked many observers of the IT industry when Symantec announced early this year it was going to start making its software solutions available on a hardware appliance. But as I wrote a few months ago when discussing why this is necessary, IT administrators are being asked to manage more and more VMs. As a result they have less time to do the work associated with setting up and installing applications like backup software.

But just because backup software is available as a hardware appliance does not necessarily mean that it is ‘plug-n-play’ in enterprise environments. There are a whole host of other factors that IT administrators must consider before they can conclude that it will work in their environments. For example, they typically manage environments that are:

  • Both physical and virtual. As such, any ‘plug-n-play’ backup solution they deploy must account for both.
  • Becoming increasing virtual. Despite today’s mix of physical and virtual, the trend is definitely toward a fully virtualized environment especially among SMBs. Gartner predicts that by 2012 75% of SMBs will be fully virtualized. As such, these IT administrators want to manage their backup software from the same console where they manage the rest of their infrastructure, the VMware vCenter Server.
  • Growing. The ease of creating new VMs tends to result in VM sprawl. As such they need backup software with favorable licensing terms and that can deduplicate the backup data of these VMs.
  • Intolerant of application downtime and backup failures. There is a term that describes backup and recovery success rates that hover in the 60 – 80% range: failure. IT administrators have to assume and possess the confidence that both backups and recoveries will succeed  in a time frame that meets the requirements of the business.

This is what the Backup Exec 3600 delivers for today’s virtual environments. Since the 3600 includes Backup Exec 2010, support for both physical and virtual environments is included by default.

In recent years Backup Exec has also put increasing attention on integration with VMware environments. As such, the 3600 now includes a plug-in so it can be managed from the VMware vCenter Server.

This plug-in resides directly on the vCenter Server and creates a tab that says “Backup Exec.” That tab displays what systems are protected, unprotected, supports the creation of backup policies and permits deeper dives into what backup jobs are running and their current completion status.

The Backup Exec 3600 also includes a new “recovery ready” feature that was announced today and which can also be administered using Backup Exec’s vCenter plugin. Now from the vCenter console, IT administrators can test the recoverability of specific virtual machines and validate the “recovery readiness” of a specific VM.

As the 3600 backs up all VMs to its internal disk, this gives IT administrators a high level of confidence that backups are completing successfully. It also makes it possible for them to recover any VM that the IT administrator selects on the 3600 and simulate an application recovery since the Backup Exec 3600 now includes Symantec’s ApplicationHA software. In this way IT administrators can be confident that the application residing on the backed up VM is recoverable and, if for some reason it is not, initiate another backup of the VM so a recoverable copy does exist.

Finally, to address those virtual environments where growth is prone to occurring at a more rapid and unpredictable pace, the 3600 offers all of Backup Exec’s features – be it deduplication at either the client or media server level, agents for whatever virtual server OS (VMware vSphere or Microsoft HyperV) or physical server OS they are using or any of the other software features that Backup Exec offers.

So in this respect, the 3600 provides IT administrators the assurance that whatever they have to backup, they don’t need to first check to see if they own the license to back it up. Rather the only question they have to ask themselves is, “Do they want the 3600 SKU with 1 year of support or 3 years?

Virtual environments are putting unprecedented demands on the time of IT administrators which is requiring them to deploy solutions that enable them to more effectively and efficiently manage more VMs. But not just any solution will do because while the transition to a fully virtualized environment is occurring, it is not yet complete and may never completely happen.

It is these IT shops that need solutions like the Backup Exec 3600. It gives them the confidence that they can protect both their physical and virtual environments, is well on its way to being fully integrated with VMware so they can manage it and provides them the assurance that whatever backup or recovery feature they might need or additional VM they might have to back up, all they have to do is implement it.

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