A few months ago, DCIG released their Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer’s Guide. Although some were critical of the process and results of this guide, I appreciate the effort involved in pulling together the data. Personally, I would rather have a single source for data, even if I didn’t agree with the recommendations!
Now I have been asked to write an article for TechTarget on the very same subject: How to select a virtual server backup product. I’d like to request input for this piece, and hope we can work together to produce a useful list of recommendations. Note that this isn’t a buyer’s guide like the DCIG effort: There will be no exhaustive lists of functions and features here. Instead, I’m writing about the options available in a more general sense.
I came away from the Tech Field Day presentations by Veeam, Symantec, and others impressed by the creativity of virtual server backup approaches. Clearly, these aren’t the same old backup products! W. Curtis Preston quipped that a hypervisor sometimes seems like a little datacenter in a box, and that changes everything. Every action taken impacts the operation of the whole system, but the virtualization layer also adds new flexibility.
Virtual Server Backup Features
What would you look for in a virtual server backup product? Here’s my initial concept:
- Supported environments – What dependencies do the products have?
- Do they require integration features like VCP or VADP? We should definitely talk more about the integration features offered by the hypervisor!
- Some products support only virtual environments, while others work on traditional machines as well. And what about non-VMware support?
- Advantages and disadvantages – Applications designed for virtual environments certainly offer many advantages, but what about the drawbacks?
- How important is it to use a single unified product across both virtual and non-virtual environments, as many traditional backup vendors suggest?
- Is the whole “full-machine vs. file-level” argument worth having?
- Application integration – To what extent to they extend above the OS and hypervisor?
- I’d like to talk about integration with common virtualized applications, but which are most prevalent?
- We should talk about crash-consistent backup, too, especially when it comes to virtual machines.
- Then there’s management integration: What options are there for automated deployment and setup? And what metrics and reports are important?
- Advanced features – These new products have some pretty impressive features!
- Is deduplication a critical need in the backup app?
- We should also talk about non-scheduled approaches like continuous data protection (CDP)
- There are also alternative backup targets, like snapshots, disk/VTL, and the cloud
- I’m also curious about throttling/QoS features
- Other areas
- What about supportability of virtual machine backups – are there issues with companies not allowing advanced backup features to be used?
- Do the “new guard” of virtual server backup companies offer any unique support and integration options?
I’d like to identify a few key features to look for in particular. What are the most-important elements for a virtual server backup product, as opposed to a traditional offering?
Finally, what about non-VMware environments. I know a bit about Microsoft DPM, having been at the introduction of that product, but what offerings are there for Hyper-V or Xen environments? How do they differ from VMware-focused products?
I welcome the input of end-users, analysts and consultants, and the product vendors themselves. I want to come up with a good guide to selecting these products, and I think an open discussion is a good way to make that happen. Who knows, it might even be a worthwhile companion to the information in the DCIG guide!
I’m not sure how the final article will be released, but I believe it will be offered as a free download on BitPipe.com. Regardless, the discussion and commentary here will remain free, open, and available. Thank you!
I’ve already had some excellent feedback from Twitter. Thanks!
- @Stu suggested I read What’s Next in VMware Backup
- @ChrisDearden says “what about talking about how to get the data out of the backup system – ie to offsite / archive etc” and “I’m not sure if trap is the word I would use. no more than all the tape based providers use the same format ;)(“
- @WGoderis says “what about scalability , what if you need to back up hundreds or thousands of vms”