Channel Embracing Virtualization Trend

VARs find success providing backup and recovery solutions to protect virtual environments

The vast and growing market for virtual servers has created ample opportunities for VARs to craft a variety of backup solutions to protect virtual environments, according ito ndustry insiders.

Server virtualization has greatly increased the amount of data and files that would normally be kept on a server, said Tom Dugan, director of technical services for Recovery Networks, a Philadelphia-based solution provider that specializes in backup and recovery services. “The virtualization phenomenon has created a tremendous backup market for solution providers."

Virtualized storage and backup needs are growing as the number of physical servers decrease, Dugan added. “A company with 20 physical servers last year might have 15 this year, but those servers might be running 50 or more virtual servers.”

Research firm IDC estimates that 1.7 million physical servers will be shipped in 2010 specifically to run virtual machines, a threefold increase over shipments in 2005. The worldwide market for x86 virtualization solutions has been growing rapidly since 2003 when it stood at $205 million, according to IDC. It projects the market will be worth around $1.8 billion by 2010.

While most of the backup action clearly revolves around the virtual server technology of market-leader VMware, no single backup technology yet dominates the market, said Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, a market research firm based in Boston.

“There are a variety of technologies that address the biggest challenge for virtual machine (VM) users, ensuring that mission-critical environments remain highly available,” she said.

The substantial increase in virtualized server environments is driving user demand for backup solutions to deal with the intricacies of backing up a physical server that may have as many as 128 virtual machines to protect, said Eran Farajun, executive vice president, Asigra Inc., Toronto. Asigra’s Televaulting technology does not require the installation of a client or agent.

Televaulting is the only backup application that allows any-to-any data backup and restore in VMware environments, said Dugan. “It gives users the ability to back up from a server from one vendor and restore the data to hardware from a different vendor.”

Dugan said televaulting can also backup live virtual machines and allow incremental backups of VMware environments.

Whitehouse noted that backup techniques that perform incremental file-level backups face some obstacles in a virtual server environment. “This method of backup increases the size of the backup, the time it takes to perform the backup, and the storage required."

The very nature of the client/server architecture used by most backup solutions can create problems, said Dugan. For example, if multiple VMs on the same host CPU are scheduled for backup within the same window of time, it’s likely that the backup process could overwhelm the CPU.

Agentless backup solutions do not encounter this limitation, making them more VMware-friendly than those that use agents, said Farajun. "Customers want all the bells and whistles for virtualized server protection they have come to rely on for physical server protection such as de-duplication, CDP, file-level recovery and enterprise-wide management,” said Farajun. “Our agentless approach provides server protection without putting unnecessary strain on the server."

However, installing an agent in an OS is more familiar to backup administrators and, therefore, the easiest way to provide backup protection for a virtual machine, said Whitehouse.

The agentless approach works fine in smaller environments, but it lacks the speed and robustness needed for enterprises accounts, said Matt Cavanagh, co-owner, Flytrap Technologies, a solution provider in Tolland, Conn. Flytrap uses Asigra and other technologies, notably EqualLogic, a provider of iSCSI storage solutions for IP SAN environments.

TAGS: services,server,virtualization,VMware,Storage



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