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3. VMware APIs for storage

The VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection, successor to the much maligned VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB), have had the backup world buzzing since their release in 2009. "VCB was kind of a mess," said Lauren Whitehouse, a senior analyst at ESG. "[VMware] built the hypervisor without thinking about the implication of I/O-intensive applications like backup, and VCB was like a tumor on the hypervisor. It was an afterthought."

"VCB was fairly limited," said Venu Aravamudan, senior director of server product marketing at VMware. "The traditional approach of putting agents in each virtual machine just didn't work and VCB was kind of a stop-gap measure to provide some backup functionality."

The vStorage APIs for Data Protection, however, aren't a standalone product like VCB. Instead, the APIs allow third-party backup applications to directly interface with the VMkernel without the need for scripts or agents. The APIs provide a sort of baseline, and then it's in the hands of each backup vendor to develop functionality around that. With these APIs, VMware essentially stepped aside and let the backup software vendors do what they do best -- develop backup products.

"As soon as they started doing VCB and having all of the crazy issues with the vendor partner community, they [VMware] went down the road of trying to build out the APIs," ESG's Whitehouse said. "It was really to make it easier

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for themselves, easier for their vendors and to drive adoption of their platform. It was a critical problem for them to solve and APIs are the best way to do it."

According to VMware's Aravamudan, while his firm worked closely with third-party software partners in developing the APIs, VMware isn't involved in testing or certifying the third-party products. "There was a ton of joint work leading up to the actual release of vSphere," he said. "However, there's not an actual class of certification for these types of products. Because it's a very clearly defined API set, there are no third-party products that sit in the hypervisor kernel."

Vendor integration, so far, varies. Not surprisingly, backup products designed specifically for virtualized servers were the first to jump on the bandwagon, and others have yet to fully integrate the APIs. "We saw day-one support from CA, Veeam and [Quest], and TSM still hasn't integrated all of the features of the APIs," ESG's Whitehouse said. "I think once users see the increased efficiency that's possible with the APIs, they'll push their vendors to get there."

In addition to the vStorage APIs for Data Protection, vSphere includes vStorage APIs for Array Integration, Multipathing and Site Recovery Manager (SRM). The vStorage APIs for Array Integration improve vSphere efficiency by allowing the storage array to perform tasks such as snapshot and replication. The vStorage APIs for Multipathing allow for array-based multi-pathing, which improves storage I/O throughput. The vStorage APIs for Site Recovery Manager integrate SRM with array-based replication for SAN and NAS. This allows SRM to access and control the array-based replication it relies on.

This was first published in December 2010

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