Storage

EMC, IBM update virtual machine backup software

EMC, IBM, and others are strengthening their ability to back up virtual machines. Initial versions focus on database servers. More will be needed down the road.

Image: iStockphoto.com/Zerbor

Major storage players EMC and IBM are giving customers a better way to back up virtual machines, but that's just one step toward simplifying the ever-increasing complexity of corporate IT shops.

EMC, a sister company of VMware via parent Dell Technologies, is adding Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle database support to its Data Protection Suite for Applications product. IBM is launching a new product, Spectrum Protect Plus, also for backing up virtual machines, whether they're VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V flavors.

Both announcements are part of this week's VMworld conference in Las Vegas.

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Officials from both companies cited the same context: Virtualization administrators have different needs than traditional storage-and-backup managers, so there should also be software designed with them in mind.

Traditional backup software is centralized, involves long-term retention plans, and is tightly controlled. Conversely, "People [working] in virtualization are valuing a different environment with a quicker deployment," IBM storage marketing official Doug O'Flaherty explained.

Spectrum Protect Plus is a separate product from the traditional Spectrum Protect, not an add-on or a more comprehensive version, O'Flaherty noted. It may be more useful to think of it as Spectrum Protect VM. The software is agentless, unlike a traditional backup program which uses its own server. That has the side benefit of helping administrators discover orphan virtual machines, he added.

IBM will release the pricing in the next 30-60 days, O'Flaherty said.

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EMC's Matt Waxman, vice president of product management for data protection, agreed with O'Flaherty and added that a downside of traditional backup servers is their thirst for network bandwidth—data comes in from other servers and then goes out to storage hardware—and it's data that seems to constantly grow despite widespread techniques such as deduplication.

EMC is addressing this with a snapshot-and-replication approach running alongside its Data Domain Boost application, Waxman said. Pricing is not yet announced for Data Protection Suite for Applications update. Microsoft versions ship in the third quarter, followed by Oracle in the fourth quarter, Waxman said.

In addition to the new Microsoft and Oracle support, EMC in future upgrades will look to add support for IBM's DB2 database and cloud data sources, he said. There will also be a system for smaller environments, Waxman said. "We're at the tip of the spear here. It's around mission-critical environments," he said.

EMC officials also said its XtremIO X2 flash array is now generally available, and that additional storage news is expected this week.

Storage analyst Jason Buffington, of Enterprise Strategy Group, said it's important for customers to understand that neither traditional nor virtualization-centric backup approaches are better than the other—they're just different.

"Just because they've provided a user interface that builds around ease-of-use and is scenario-centric should not be presumed that they have lost some of the functionality of secret sauce in the plumbing," he said. However, "More and more we do see that data protection behavior is driven by systems management. This week and these two companies are not the first to pivot to it."

The backup application updates are largely possible because of VMware's own VADP—VMware API for Data Protection—which debuted a couple of years ago, along with Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), Buffington explained. "It takes a couple of years for it to bake and mature, and it takes the big backup vendors a while to embrace it," he noted.

Commvault and Veritas have similar applications, Buffington said. EMC's differentiation is focused on scalability and speed, while IBM's is ease-of-use, he said.

Looking forward, "The bigger question that I think we'll see in 2018 is how many different clouds, public and private, will your IT services be delivered from," he continued. "A single data center model is very quickly fragmenting."

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About Evan Koblentz

Evan Koblentz began covering enterprise IT news during the dot-com boom times of the late 1990s. He recently published a book, "Abacus to smartphone: The evolution of mobile and portable computers". He is director of Vintage Computer Federation, a 50...

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