VMware server backup becomes easier

Cost per virtual servers could be a limiting factor

Companies running virtual servers will soon find them easier to back up as the list of software vendors supporting VMware Inc. grows. The cost to backup, however, could vary significantly, depending on whether vendors charge a fee based on virtual or physical servers.

VMware in Palo Alto, Calif., announced in June its VMware Consolidated Backup software, which is included as part of its VMware Infrastructure Enterprise software offering. Now, major backup vendors such as CA Inc., CommVault Systems Inc., EMC Corp., IBM and Symantec Corp. have announced support for the software, which means users can take advantage of the VMware backup tool through the backup products they're accustomed to using.

VMware Consolidated Backup works through a stand-alone server that backs up the virtual machines by mounting virtual disks while the virtual machines continue to run, said Karthik Rau, senior director of infrastructure products and solutions at VMware.

David Caporaso, manager of technical services at printer and copier maker Ricoh Corp. in West Caldwell, N.J., said he has been testing CommVault's VMware version of its Galaxy backup software for about a month. The company has a VMware GSX Server environment, which it is migrating to ESX Server with two Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL580 servers with four processors and 24GB of memory that it uses for testing and development, he said.

Before the CommVault support for the VMware Consolidated Backup software, backups at Ricoh were performed over the console interface, which put a heavy load on the processor and network interface card on the host system, Caporaso said. Consequently, the organization would typically shut down the virtual machines before doing the backups, meaning backups could only be performed after hours, he said.

Caporaso hopes that in the future CommVault will also be able to perform replication, which will let him make copies of data use for disaster recovery purposes, he said.

The Enabling Technologies division of credit reporting agency Equifax Inc. in Atlanta is testing Version 6.5 of Symantec's NetBackup software, which supports VMware Consolidated Backup, said Jase McCarty, senior systems engineer for hosted services. The organization currently has about 300 virtual machines spread across six servers, but it can only back up a limited amount of the data inside each machine, he said. Once the new software is implemented, which is expected to happen by the end of Q1 next year, the division will be able to back up more data, he said.

The Enabling Technologies division is migrating off Symantec Backup Exec, and between the new NetBackup and VMware Consolidated Backup support, the organization expects a 75% reduction in backup time, McCarty said. Last year,  while the Equifax division was performing a disaster recovery test, it took eight hours to bring up the various clients, which McCarty thinks would take only two hours with the new systems.

CommVault's software is shipping now, said David West, vice president of marketing at the Oceanport, N.J., company.  The CommVault software costs $500 per virtual machine.

  • Symantec was not able to say when its VMware Consolidated Backup support would be available or how much it would cost, but McCarty said he believes his company needs to pay for each virtual machine.

  • Islandia, N.Y.-based CA said its BrightStor ARCserve Backup r11.5, which will ship later this month for $775 per physical server regardless of the number of virtual servers, supports VMware Consolidated Backup.

  • EMC's NetWorker Version 7.3 also supports the VMware, and it does not require the purchase of additional client licenses, according to the company.

  • Sanrad Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., said its family of IP SAN products supports VMware Consolidated Backup, and is priced at $12,000 to $70,000 for up to 50 ESX servers.

  • IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager 5.3 supports the functionality for $345 per processor.

Users looking at products priced per virtual server will need to decide whether the extra costs, – which could add up for some organizations that have 10 or more, – is worth the effort saved, said Greg Schulz, an analyst at research firm StorageIO in Stillwater, Minn. But for smaller organizations, "that could be a very inexpensive insurance policy," he said.

Schulz also noted that CommVault was much more forthcoming with information about its support and product than were other vendors announcing support of VMware, and he wondered whether that meant CommVault was providing more functionality than other vendors. West said the company was looking at the announcement as an opportunity to displace other backup vendors, which is otherwise difficult to do.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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