VRanger's new virtual server backup to target physical hosts

Quest wants to make vRanger a one-stop shop for physical and virtual server backup, starting with its 5.x updates.

Quest Software Inc. says its recent acquisition of BakBone Software will make its vRanger virtualization backup tool a “one-stop shop” for protecting virtual and physical hosts.

Quest’s recent moves to integrate replication functionality and add a traditional backup catalog into vRanger Pro 5.0 are the first steps in that strategy, the company said. Quest also pushed out the FlashRestore feature, which was originally slated for the 5.0 release, till 2012.

Quest’s priority is to make the vRanger product line more competitive not only with virtualization-centric vendors like Veeam Software Inc. but also with traditional backup players such as Symantec Corp. with its NetBackup and Backup Exec, said John Maxwell, vice president of data protection product management for Quest. “Based on our development research, we decided to focus on other important features and functionality for vRanger version 5. … Therefore, other enhancements, such as FlashRestore, will be slated for version 6 in 2012.”

Like other experts and users, Maxwell predicts that tools for physical and virtual backup, currently still caught in separate worlds, will converge soon, probably within the next 18 months. For its part, Quest will issue two more vRanger 5.x releases this year, and when vRanger 6.0 ships next year, it will include BakBone’s continuous data protection, software-based data deduplication and support for physical servers and tape, Maxwell said.

Enterprise features on an SMB budget
Beta testers of vRanger Pro 5.0 say the idea of one tool that can protect physical and virtual servers appeals to them, especially at vRanger price points.

In midsized and large shops, traditional backup tools have already made inroads in virtualized environments, said Harrison Schofill, the director of IT at a technology consulting firm based in the Southeast U.S. and a vRanger 5.0 beta tester. “From an enterprise standpoint, [something like] CommVault makes perfect sense. It comes down to cost, really.”

Schofill said that if the price were right, BakBone’s data deduplication is an attractive feature in vRanger. “Dedupe is pretty expensive, especially for SMBs [small and medium-sized companies]. A lot of us just can’t afford this type of technology.”

Quest is right to focus on broadening its support for mixed environments, said Lauren Whitehouse, data protection analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. “While serving a niche server virtualization audience has been good for Quest, the bigger game afoot is to win market share for a mainstream customer: one with both virtual and physical system backup needs,” she said.

This may be true, but Quest has bigger fish to fry, according to an East Coast Quest channel partner. “For the vast majority of my clients, vRanger fell off the map, either when they were acquired [by Quest] or when they fell behind in features. … Many of our customers have switched to competing solutions, mostly Veeam or solutions from companies like Asigra.”

To that end, Quest’s Maxwell says vRanger wants to “leapfrog” virtualization-focused competitors by preparing for physical and virtual backup convergence. But it has lost at least some ground in virtualization-centric competition with Veeam by delaying its FlashRestore feature’s release until version 6.0. Quest and Veeam already had a public spat over the similar features in their respective products that offer instantaneous recovery of virtual machines from a backup image, but Veeam’s version of this feature, dubbed vPower, is already on the market.

Beta testers go for replication and ESXi integration
In the meantime, vRanger 5.0 beta testers say they are gung-ho about its new host-based replication feature. Previously, Quest offered replication with a separate vReplicator product. Now, it has folded vReplicator into vRanger under one license key, management console and deployment process, upping the price of vRanger to $699 from $499. Quest will keep a standalone vReplicator tool available through this year for $299, but that will probably disappear with the next major version, Maxwell said.

Beta testers say the integration of vReplicator is especially appealing. “Replication wasn’t as simple before,” said Andrew Gahm, a systems and security engineer at South Jersey Healthcare, and a vRanger user. “Now I can go in and do pretty much the same steps [as setting up a backup], but instead of saying, ‘I want to back up once a day’, I can say ‘OK, I want to do replication every half-hour.’ It’s really simple to do, and it works.”

For Schofill, the replication integration in to vRanger 5.0 means that vReplicator now supports VMware ESXi, not just ESX. “We recently converted all of our VMW [VMware] hosts to ESXi, which, unknown to me, vReplicator didn’t support.”

VRanger 5.0 also supports Network File System and file-level restore for Linux machines. The new Pro edition also allows restores to Fibre Channel storage area networks and supports AES-256 replication encryption. A backup catalog, which is a basic element of most traditional physical tools, has also been added and will be a big part of supporting physical backup for vRanger, while also enabling quicker restores for virtual machines, according to Maxwell.

This is also the first release in which vRanger is being offered as a Linux-based virtual appliance. But users will have to wait for vRanger 6.0 for a virtual appliance that supports the entire feature set, including replication.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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