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Physical, virtual backup still mostly a two-headed beast

We received a couple of reminders this week about how important backing up virtual machines is in an organization’s data protection strategy.

First, virtual server backup specialist Veeam released Backup & Replication 6. That in itself wasn’t a huge development. Veeam revealed full details of the product back in August, and said it would be shipping by end of year. It even leaked the most important detail – support of Microsoft Hyper-V – six months ago.

The most interesting part of the launch was the reaction it brought from backup king Symantec. Symantec sent an e-mail reminding that it too does virtual backup (through its X-ray technology) and claimed “point products are complicating data protection.” Symantec released a statement saying “In the backup world, two is not better than one. Using disparate point products to backup virtual and physical environments adds complexity and increases management costs … Organizations should look for solutions that unite virtual and physical environments, as well as integrate deduplication, to achieve the greatest ROI.”

Sean Regan, Symantec’s e-Discovery product marking manager, posted a blog extolling Symantec’s ability to protect virtual machines.

In other words, why bother with products such as Veeam and Quest Software’s v-Ranger for virtual machines when Symantec NetBackup and Backup Exec combine virtual and physical backup? But the established backup vendors opened the door for the point products by ignoring virtual backup for too long. Symantec didn’t really get serious about virtual backup until the last year or so.

Randy Dover, IT officer for Cornerstone Community Bank in Chattanooga, Tenn., began using Quest vRanger for virtual server backup last year although his bank had Symantec’s Backup Exec for physical servers. Dover said he would have had to put agents on his virtual machines with Backup Exec and it would have cost considerable more than adding vRanger.

“Before that, we were not backing up virtual machines as far as VMDK files,” he said. “If something happened to a VM, we would have to rebuild it from scratch. That’s not a good scenario, but basically that’s where we were.”

Dover said vRanger has cut replication time and restores for his 31 virtual machines considerably. And he doesn’t mind doing separate backups for virtual and physical servers.

“Using two different products doesn’t concern us as much,” he said. “We generally look for the best performance option instead of having fewer products to manage.”

Quest took a step towards integrating virtual and physical backup last year when it acquired BakBone, adding BakBone’s NetVault physical backup platform to vRanger.

Walter Angerer, Quest’s general manager of data protection, said the vendor plans to deliver a single management console for virtual and physical backups. He said Quest would integrate BakBone’s NetVault platform with vRanger as much as possible. It has already ported NetVault dedupe onto vRanger and is working on doing the same with NetVault’s continuous data protection (CDP).

“We are looking forward to an integrated solution for for virtual, physical and cloud backup,” Angerer said. “I’m not sure if either one will go away, but we will create a new management layer. The plan is to have a single pane of glass for all of our capabilities.”

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