In-Depth

8 New VMware Tools for Windows Shops

As VMware plays a greater role in datacenter and cloud infrastructure, partners augment with heterogeneous management and protection tools.

The message from VMware Inc. these days is clear -- it plans an ever-bigger role in knitting together datacenter infrastructure and offering key platforms to build and manage clouds.

Enterprises deploying infrastructure from key players such as Cisco Systems Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft, Oracle Corp. and Red Hat Inc. have long relied on third-party tools. Nowadays VMware customers also rely on third-party tools to monitor, troubleshoot, protect, and deploy virtual and cloud environments.

In advance of the annual VMworld conference in Las Vegas (Aug. 27-30), some key VMware partners readied updates to their tools to take advantage of the growing sophistication of the company's virtualization and cloud platforms. Eight tools providers briefed Redmond on their VMware plans prior to the conference. Here, in alphabetical order, is a roundup of what those partners shared with Redmond.

Acronis vmProtect Opens New Windows
Acronis International GmbH is upgrading its vmProtect software to provide backup and recovery of VMware virtual environments. The newest version, vmProtect 8, is in beta now and due for release next month. It will support the forthcoming releases of Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, and will sport tighter integration with the VMware vCenter management console.

The company last year added vmProtect to its portfolio of data-protection software for those preferring a backup and recovery solution that only uses virtual environments as a storage target. While the Acronis Advanced Backup and Recovery (ABR) data-protection software also supports virtual and cloud environments, that software was originally designed for physical platforms, says Seth Goodling, virtualization practice manager at Acronis.

"We saw a need to create a product that was dedicated to VMware," Goodling explains. "Using the storage APIs that VMware provides, we built a product to compete in that virtual backup market space. The idea was to create a light, fast and efficient product that was easy to install and easy to use, and have it third-party tested."

By emphasizing virtual environments only, Goodling explains that Acronis can offer a backup solution with limited overhead, which he says provides better performance than ABR in a similar virtual-only architecture. Goodling emphasizes the lightweight aspect of the tool, which consists of a 200MB install.

"This is a standalone product that only works with virtual infrastructure and only works with VMware. It's a completely separate product," he says, noting customers can't tie it with ABR.

Also new in vmProtect 8 is support for multidestination staging, which automatically copies backups to an alternate target either locally or to the cloud. Furthermore, Acronis is adding incremental restore, which enables a user to copy only blocks of data that have changed when restoring a backup over an original VM.

Acronis this month is also releasing a new version of ABR. Version 11.5 adds file-level recovery from disk images stored on tape, physical-to-virtual migration for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization servers and faster incremental backups for VMware vSphere VMs. ABR 11.5 also gains support for all versions of Microsoft Exchange Server. It's optimized for short backup windows, allowing admins to recover content from a single e-mail via the ABR management console. After the first backup is made, only changed data is subsequently backed up.

Dell Puts Its Stamp on AppAssure
When Michael Dell appointed former CA Technologies CEO and longtime IBM software chief John Swainson as president of the newly formed software group at Dell Inc. at the beginning of the year, the first move Swainson made was to acquire AppAssure. Founded in 2006, AppAssure has emerged as a leading player in the field of backup replication and recovery software for virtual and cloud environments.

"We wanted to really build and get a footprint into that space as customers are looking to change their existing data-protection solutions," says Eric Endebrock, director of marketing for the Dell AppAssure group. Dell plans to incorporate AppAssure technology throughout its storage and software portfolio, he adds.

The company's flagship data-protection software, AppAssure Backup and Replication, can run or resume a VM or physical machine directly from a backup without waiting for a complete restore, adds senior product marketing manager Marc Mombourquette, who came over to Dell from AppAssure. The software is designed to verify and ensure reliability of recovered data and offers what the company calls Universal Recovery, which supports cross-platform restores to any VM or server.

In its most recent release, version 5, AppAssure added its new TrueScale architecture designed to utilize multi-core hardware that companies are deploying to address growing amounts of data. This new architecture is also designed to offer "near-instant" recovery time and recovery point objectives. Version 5 also now includes Global Deduplication, which the company estimates will require 80 percent less storage by utilizing its compression and algorithms for ensuring unchanged data is not backed up.

"We're able to do snapshot backups as quickly as every five minutes," Mombourquette says. "If you've got a critical system you can't afford to lose any data. We're pretty close to near-CDP [continuous data protection]."

Mombourquette emphasizes the improved performance in the new release, which allows backup admins to create up to 288 snapshots per day. "In a fraction of a second, your changed blocks get moved over to the AppAssure core, which does a lot of the heavy lifting with no real visible impact on your production server," he explains.

EMC Previews Analytics Tool for VNX
EMC Corp. may be the corporate parent of VMware, but despite the profits from virtualization, the storage giant still believes it makes good business sense to position itself as the Switzerland of storage management. That's why the company's forthcoming VNX storage system will be the first in its portfolio of hardware to let admins analyze the performance of any major VM.

The VNX Storage Analytics Suite, announced in May at the company's annual EMC World conference, initially will leverage the analytics of VMware vCenter Operations Manager, which EMC is integrating with its own storage intelligence software. It's geared toward helping IT pros proactively identify performance or capacity bottlenecks in their VNX storage environments, says Jonathan Siegal, senior director of product marketing for the EMC Unified Storage Division.

"It helps storage admins maintain service levels by quickly and practically identifying potential performance issues in their VMware environments," Siegal says. "They can leverage the heat maps and visualization capabilities of the datacenter operations technology. We're essentially applying that to the storage domain."

As for that Switzerland part, Siegal says while perhaps more than 90 percent of EMC customers run their storage in VMware environments, many of them are running Microsoft-server-based mission-critical applications such as SQL Server and, in some cases, Exchange Server. The analytics suite can drill into performance issues on those systems as well.

But what about Hyper-V? "With the advent of Windows Server 2012, we think Hyper-V adoption will take off. And with that, the analytics tools we're providing in the VMware domain will now be made available to administrators in the Hyper-V world," Siegal explains, though he declines to say when that support will be added.

At VMworld, the company announced its early-access program for the VNX Storage Analytics Suite, targeted at VMware vCenter operations customers. Asked if EMC would offer the analytics capabilities for its other storage hardware lines -- including Atmos, Isilon and Symmetrix -- Siegal says that's the long-term plan.

A New Direction for vRanger
From the beginning, the Quest Software Inc. vRanger backup and recovery software -- which the company added to its portfolio with the 2008 acquisition of Vizioncore -- has run solely on VMware bare-metal servers.

But when the newly announced vRanger 6.0 ships this fall, it will offer physical server backup restore by running on Microsoft Windows Server, including support for Volume Shadow Copy Service snapshot backups, which Quest says will ensure file system and application consistency.

"This product from inception until now has been singularly focused on VMware," says Greg Davoll, Quest senior director of data protection product marketing. "Given that virtual machines run on physical machines and VMware runs on Windows-based servers in most cases, customers would like to see vRanger grow into the Windows backup space. It allows us to branch out from a specialized market into the bigger market of Windows backup, so we can now offer VMware backup combined with Windows backup."

In addition to physical server backup and restore, vRanger 6.0 will add resource management; cataloging to enable discovery of files using keyword and wildcard search; and Active Block Mapping for physical servers, meaning only those blocks that have been updated are backed up to improve performance and storage utilization. The company has also improved the virtual appliance wizard to support static IP and is including French and German language localization.

While Quest has been around for 15 years, it will become part of Dell this quarter. Does that mean vRanger will be added to the AppAssure group of data-protection products? Or will Dell run Quest separately? Company officials say that will be announced upon closing of the $2.4 billion deal.

Virtualization Manager Branches Out
When it comes to managing VMware environments, SolarWinds Inc. became a key player in two short years. Back in January 2011, SolarWinds decided to declare war on VM sprawl when it acquired Hyper9, the developer of Virtualization Manager. At last year's VMworld show, SolarWinds came out with the latest version of Virtualization Manager, which added a real-time dashboard that lets administrators detect pending bottlenecks while keeping VM sprawl under control. It does so by discovering rogue VMs, including those that are too bloated with data or processes.

The dashboard provides a global view of an enterprise's virtual infrastructure, which helps IT pros reallocate resources. In addition to optimizing the virtual infrastructure, Virtualization Manager aims to optimize capacity and keep hardware and software licensing costs in check.

At this year's VMworld, SolarWinds said it had planned to take a lower profile, emphasizing a bundling deal with Acronis, in which the supplier of data-protection software will package Virtualization Manager with its vmProtect product. But there's probably another reason SolarWinds decided to stay under the radar at this year's VMworld. In April, the company announced that Virtualization Manager also now supports the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor.

Sanjay Castelino, VP and market leader at SolarWinds, says with the pending release of Windows Server 2012 and the new Hyper-V 3, the time was right to evolve Virtualization Manager into a multi-hypervisor product. "It looks like [Hyper-V] will be a serious contender as a second hypervisor," Castelino says. "A lot of customers will, at a minimum, try it out and decide if it's a viable alternative for them."

Castelino says he anticipates that, when the dust settles, Hyper-V will pick up share. "The previous versions were lacking, but Hyper-V 3 adds a lot of features and takes some great leaps forward," he says. "I suspect they'll pick up more market share because of that."

V-Ray Lets Backup Exec Target VMs
Backup Exec from Symantec Corp. is one of the oldest and most widely used backup and recovery tools for Windows-based systems. At last year's VMworld, Symantec introduced a new technology called V-Ray, which lets backup and virtualization administrators recover data in VMware VMs.

In addition, V-Ray lets admins view and manage backup issues from vCenter. Symantec added V-Ray as an update to Backup Exec 2010, and it's now available in the company's NetBackup server-protection software as well. The company also more recently added V-Ray to its new Backup Exec 2012 and its Backup Exec 3600 appliances, as well as its NetBackup 5220 appliances. Adding to its VMware Ready certification, V-Ray now supports Hyper-V VMs.

V-Ray lets virtualization administrators also manage backup and recovery, explains Sean Regan, director of product marketing for the Symantec Information Management Group. "The VM administrators don't care about backup -- they care about virtualization," Regan says. "If we can give them a tool that lets them simplify backup, they tend to be pretty receptive to it."

The new Backup Exec 2012 -- in addition to sporting a new console, which the company says simplifies the management of backup and recovery of both physical servers and VMs for disaster recovery purposes -- can convert physical backups to VMs (both VMware and Hyper-V), enabling instant recovery if a server fails.

Backup Exec 2012 also has new restore wizards that prompt admins through the process of restoring an entire server, specific files, select folders, volumes and application data. Also new in the release is a feature called Virtual Machine Auto Recovery for VMware, which the company says provides high availability (HA) for virtual apps. The Backup Exec Management Plug-in 2.0 for VMware, when linked to Symantec ApplicationHA 6.0, lets Backup Exec automatically restore a failed VM to recover lost app services -- but only after the ApplicationHA tool has gone through other steps to remediate a failure, the company says.

Veeam Protects SANs and Exchange
Some may be reluctant to virtualize Microsoft Exchange Server in VMware environments, even though Microsoft supports it through its Server Virtualization Validation Program. Nevertheless, a growing number of organizations are doing so, particularly midsize shops with just a small number of servers. Now Veeam Software is looking to ease one of the biggest fears of virtualizing Exchange Servers: the concern that protecting mailboxes could become more complex.

Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange, now in beta, is a free add-on to Veeam Backup & Replication. It works directly with Exchange VM backups, including those that are compressed and deduplicated, as well as incremental backups. Rather than provisioning storage, Exchange or storage administrators can point Veeam Explorer to an Exchange Server and specific restore points. Once it presents the mailbox stores, admins can browse and search them, and move data accordingly.

It's designed for e-discovery with an Advanced Find feature to track down specific information; item-level recovery to retrieve inadvertently deleted or corrupted messages and calendar items; and a mailbox archive to move an entire PST file.

In addition to the Exchange add-on, Veeam is now offering a free compression utility called VeeamZIP, which the company describes as an ad hoc backup tool that IT pros can use for operational, archival or portability purposes. It's an added feature to the free Veeam FastSCP backup tool, which also gains file-level recovery and a file manager designed to simplify management of VMs and host files. Another function called Quick Migration for VMware lets IT pros migrate a running VM to any host or data store, whether or not the organization uses clusters or shared storage.

Coming next month in Veeam Backup & Recovery 6.5 is Veeam Explorer for SAN Snapshots, which will allow customers with the new HP StoreVirtual VSA software (based on HP LeftHand Virtual SAN Appliance technology) to protect the SAN. "The idea is, if you look at backup for recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives, SAN-based snapshots are really, really good," says Doug Hazelman, Veeam vice president of product strategy and chief evangelist. "If all your snapshots are on your SAN and you lose your SAN, then you've lost everything."

Vision's Double-Take to the Cloud
Vision Solutions plans to release a version of its Double-Take data-protection software for VMware-based clouds. The company's Double-Take VMware vCloud Director Protection software, set for release in December, is built on an out-of-band model that doesn't use agents or require access to vApps.

It offers host-level protection based on VMware vStorage APIs. As a result, Double-Take VMware vCloud Director Protection replicates an entire ESX hypervisor from one virtual host to another. It integrates with vCloud Director, providing protection and failover of vApps and the metadata that defines the relationships between different VMs (as there's no native data-protection scheme for vApps built-in by VMware).

The concept VMware has with vApps is that many of the more complex applications are comprised of multiple servers that are dependent on one another. For example, an application might be dependent on an app server, a database and a Web server. If they fail, they must be recovered with those interdependencies in mind, explains Doug Piper, vice president of product strategy at Vision Solutions.

"Historically, most people from a recovery perspective haven't necessarily understood that these things all go together and the database server has to come up before the app server can come up and work," Piper says. "In the context of a vApp, that's defined through vCloud Director."

The software restores the vApp settings and data associated with the application, and administrators can recover apps and data to different points in time previously determined by users. It also enables automated failover for various failures such as inadvertent deletions of files, corrupt metadata, failure of the network or a storage component, or some other form of outage.

Piper says the software is suited for small installations and scalable to public cloud implementations.

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