As organizations virtualize more of their infrastructure, many face the question, “Use separate physical and virtual backup software products to protect these respective environments or consolidate on one backup platform?” Adding to the difficulty in making this decision is that virtualization-only backup software tends to release new features very quickly to keep up with user demands while having no roadmap to take on the protection of physical environments. Today, I continue my interview with Quest Software’s Senior VP of Data Protection Walter Angerer, as we discuss the long term viability of virtualization only backup software.
Jerome: Within the broader server virtualization market, VMware backup clearly is the focus of most backup software products today, and with vRanger, Quest Software was at the front end of protecting that environment. Can you talk a little about what drove the creation of this market, its growth, and whether or not virtualization-only backup software can survive long term, and under what circumstances?
Walter: As an end-user, when you’re dealing with a virtual environment, you have to ask much different questions about backup.
- Can I afford to load a backup agent on each one of the guest operating systems?
- Can I afford the overhead on each host?
- Do I have time to maintain the agents on each host?
- How do I easily detect and then protect new virtual machines (VMS) as they are created?
As we’ve discussed, there is so much change and agility in virtual environments that legacy physical backup software products have traditionally not been capable of keeping up. That’s created an opportunity for products like Quest vRanger, which offer a completely different approach to backup, one designed specifically for the virtualized environment.
For instance, vRanger was well ahead of other leading backup software solutions in addressing the need to dynamically discover VMs. That VM-centric approach has enabled vRanger to gain the type of market traction it now has, with more than 40,000 customers across the globe.
One of the unique aspects of the VMware backup market is the behavior of end users. Usually, when a new operating system or application comes out, there is a time delay of about 3 to 6 months, sometimes even a year, before those new backup capabilities are taken advantage of by backup software and fully utilized by end users.
But in virtualized environments, we see a different type of behavior. As soon as new capabilities come out, users are very fast to adopt them. So we’ve made it a priority at Quest to ensure that we are agile when it comes to responding to these user demands, and that’s why we’re constantly introducing new features into products like vRanger and NetVault Backup in order to continually enrich the VMware backup experience.
As it pertains to the limitations of traditional backup solutions in VMware environments, more of today’s legacy backup software applications are now providing some level of virtualization support, with some even becoming solely targeted at virtualized environments, and VMware vSphere is regularly offering new capabilities in order to help users overcome some of the limitations of physical backup.
Even with this evolution taking place, we’re still seeing significant interest from the market in virtualization-specific backup solutions like vRanger. Customers still see virtualization-only backup products as the best way to preserve their agility, so that they can quickly move to the latest version of VMware while getting the functionality they need to protect the critical applications in their virtualized environment.
Now, the question many are asking is whether or not today’s leading virtualization-specific backup tools can survive in the long run? I believe the answer is yes, but I believe they’re going to have to evolve in order to do so.
Specifically, I believe customers will want – and need – their virtual backup and recovery tools to also provide at least some level of physical backup support as well. By no means will they want – or need – a litany of full-featured physical backup capabilities such that it would make managing and upgrading the product more complex, but they will want that ability to deploy best-of-breed virtual backup solutions that can also provide coverage for their physical environments as well.
At the end of the day, the challenge for all backup software products, regardless of environment, is to be nimble and agile enough to deliver the new capabilities users want, as quickly as they want them.
Jerome: So it sounds like you expect the market for virtualization-only backup will continue to grow, while the need for the protection of physical servers will continue to persist for the foreseeable future?
Walter: We believe the need for physical server protection isn’t going away. Not anytime soon, and maybe not ever. Especially when you’re talking about enterprise organizations, I don’t see them reaching a point where their environment is 100% virtualized any time soon.
I think of it as similar to the discussion around tape. People have been saying for the last 8 to 10 years that tape is dead, and clearly, it’s still around, and it’s still viable. So we’re not buying into the notion that physical backup is dead, or will be any time soon.
What I do anticipate happening is that as organizations continue to virtualize their production environments, virtual backup software will become more sophisticated, while at the same time physical backup software will actually become less sophisticated.
When we talk about customer needs, you often hear people talking about physical or virtual, when they really should be talking about physical and virtual.
In Part I of this interview series Walter and I discuss how backup is changing and examine the quantum leaps forward that have occurred in how backup and recovery are done.
In Part II of this interview series, Walter and I will explore how backup software needs to evolve to address new requirements to manage recovery as well as the new challenges that Big Data is placing on data protection and recovery.
In Part III of this interview series, we look at how backup software is evolving in light of the new challenges that server virtualization creates, in order to become smarter, more agile and do a lot more than backup.
In Part V of this interview series, Quest Software lays out its future plans for vRanger and NetVault Backup.