Virtualization news briefs: Backup, backup and more backup

Backup -- the IT chore everyone loves to hate -- was the subject of many a virtualization announcement this week, with news from VMware, EMC, Symantec and Vizioncore, to name a few.

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Backup heavies pledge support for VMware Consolidated Backup

Big names in the backup software space, including Symantec (Veritas), EMC (Legato), IBM, CommVault, CA and Vizioncore, all promised this week to support VMware's Consolidated Backup, a feature of VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) that allows backup to be offloaded from the ESX Server.

VMware Inc. announced Consolidated Backup this June as part of the VI3 release. It allows users to take a snapshot of a virtual machine (VM) and mount it on a separate server. The backup software's media server backs up the snapshot of the VM rather than the VM itself, avoiding any resource drain on the ESX host.

"With a traditional machine, you can usually assume you have extra capacity and processing cycles to achieve your backup window," Patrick Lin, VMware director of product management told Storage magazine this summer. "When you start consolidating applications on ESX, the idea of extra resources doing nothing that can be applied to backup becomes problematic."

Virtualization exacerbates backup pains, Avamar says

If you move to a virtual environment and are doing traditional weekly full/daily incremental backups, prepare for your backups to get worse, not better, said Jedidiah Yueh, founder of Avamar Technologies Inc. The company makes disk-based backup software called Axion.

"VMware's dirty little secret is that when it comes to protecting the system, it makes the problem much, much worse," Yueh said.

A weekly full/daily incremental backup scheme will move about 200% of the total data on the system, Yueh said. In a consolidated virtual environment, which can easily host 10 servers on a host, traditional backup can be a serious drain on CPU, memory and network resources, he said.

Avamar Axion, in contrast, backs up just a fraction of the data, thanks to data reduction and single instancing technology that only copies new blocks. According to Yueh, Avamar's approach results in an average 90% reduction in CPU, memory and disk usage. Axion stores backup images as virtual full snapshots, and the user does not need to apply incrementals to the full backup to do a restore. Furthermore, images can be mounted directly over the network.

This week, Avamar announced that Axion can now also back up system state for a Windows client. Axion backs up at the VMware host or guest level; guest-level backup provides a file-level view of data and better data deduplication rates. Pricing is per protected terabyte, plus about $100/client for the Axion agent.

Backup software holding up ESX 3.0 upgrades

Backup software vendor Atempo Inc., based in Palo Alto, Calif., responded to user demand for ESX 3.0 support in the latest revision of its Time Navigator backup software package.

Time Navigator has supported ESX 2.5.x since its last release, said Marylise Tauzia, director of product marketing for the French firm, but this summer, she started receiving calls from customers asking when they would support 3.0.

"Customers are actively moving to 3.0," Tauzia said. "We needed to support it so they could move forward."

Time Navigator allows users to backup up the entire ESX Server or just individual virtual machines, which is the more prevalent approach. Pricing is based on a per ESX Server license.

Tauzia estimates that about 15% of Atempo's customers are currently running virtualization software from VMware and said that demand has increased dramatically in the past year. Tauzia said that she has started to receive requests for Microsoft Virtual Server support as well, but not Xen.

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