Today’s defining characteristics of enterprise backup software are not whether they support VMware backups or use VMware’s APIs for Data Protection (VADP). Those features should be a given. The new hallmarks of enterprise backup software are how well they manage physical and virtual environments from a single console and accelerate and simplify virtual machine (VM) restores. It is these enhancements that users will find natively included with CommVault® Simpana® 9.
Even two or three years ago it was unusual to find enterprise backup software solutions providing extensive support for VMware environments. Yes, you could install their agents on individual VMs and run client backups in the traditional sense, but, even then, many began to see this approach was flawed.
The ability of VMware-only backup software products to leverage VMware VADP and do transparent backup and recovery of VMware VMs became their distinguishing feature and led to heightened interest in these products. But as organizations of all sizes look to consolidate physical and virtual backups using a single product, this VMware-only backup functionality is turning into an Achilles Heel.
- Consolidates and centralizes the management of the backup and recovery of both physical and virtual environments. VMware-only backup solutions are for the most part blind to the physical servers that exist in organizations today and will persist for some time to come. Further, as more VMs host production applications, the responsibilities as to who should protect these VMs are shifting in one of two directions.
Using the existing central backup team to do both virtual and physical backup is one direction that organizations potentially take. However this team is looking to use one tool where possible to do both types of backups.
The other possibility is that as organizations consolidate backup, server and storage administrators, these individuals now need to take on both physical and virtual backups. Here again, they are likely to prefer using all-in-one backup solution as opposed to disparate application specific backup tools.
In this respect, CommVault Simpana has a decided edge over purpose-built VM backup tools as it protects physical environments. Further, it has even leapfrogged many of these purpose-built VM backup tools in its ability to protect VMs as evidenced by its #1 ranking in DCIG’s most recent Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer’s Guide.
- Extends recovery capabilities to VMware administrators with vCenter Server plug-in. SP4 includes a vCenter Server plug-in so VMware administrators can do a self-service restore of a VM directly from the vCenter Server console as the screen shot below illustrates. This minimizes or eliminates the need for VMware administrators to go through the regular process of contacting the help desk or backup team to do a restore which helps to bring recovery times down to a couple of minutes.
The granularity of the recovery is at the discretion of the VMware administrator. It may be a more holistic recovery when the admin recovers the entire VMDK file. Alternatively the admin may drill down into the VM itself and recover a specific file. By default, CommVault enables both though backup admins can disable the ability to do granular file recoveries within VMs if they so desire.
- Leverages CommVault’s deep security integration with AD for role based recoveries. Enabling VMware administrators to do recoveries is desirable only inasmuch as organizations can control who can perform the recoveries of specific VMs and their data. To ensure VMware administrators can only recover VMs which they are authorized to see, CommVault’s vCenter Server plug-in ties back into an organization’s active directory (AD) or LDAP implementation.
This feature ensures VMware admins can only see the VMs and the data within these VMs that they are authorized to access. Further, they cannot even see other VMs that they do not have permission to restore.
The beauty of this approach is each VMware admin’s restore permissions are taken directly from a company’s existing security policies within AD so there is not additional setup or configuration required to put this functionality into place.
The edge that VMware-only backup software products once had over enterprise backup software products has eroded and may now even be completely gone. Instead what we see emerging is a widening gulf between enterprise backup software products and the VMware-only backup software products that sought to replace them.
As products like CommVault Simpana bridge the physical-virtual backup and recovery management gap while also expediting, simplifying and securing VM recoveries, the arguments for using separate backup products for physical and virtual environments are dissipating. If anything, the arguments for using CommVault Simpana 9 to manage both physical and virtual backup and recovery become more compelling with each major and minor release that CommVault puts out.