Server Virtualization Drives Storage Networking Sales

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Server Virtualizationis obviously great business for virtualization software vendors, but the surprise is that it’s been even better business for data storage vendors, as organizations are spending tons of money to store and back up all their virtual machines.

Server virtualization is the key technology that will shape the future of the data storage industry, according to a recent report on the storage networking market written by Jason Ader and Dmitry Netis, analysts at investment firm William Blair & Co.

“As servers become centralized and virtualized in mainframe-like grids, storage needs to become more distributed and networked,” Ader and Netis wrote. For every $1 spent on server virtualization projects, customers spend roughly $2 to $3 on storage, they estimated.

The big challenge for organizations is figuring out how best to back up the operating systems, applications and data they virtualize as environments grow in size and importance.

Vendors confronting the challenge include NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), Veeam, Venyu and Virsto Software.

There are more virtual machines (VMs) — and more mission-critical VMs — to back up, said Anton Gostev, senior product manager at Veeam, a developer of software for managing VMware vSphere 4 and Virtual Infrastructure 3.

“At the same time, there are fewer host resources and available backup windows,” said Gostev. “As a result, speed, efficiency, reliability and scalability of backups are more important than ever.”

VMware Backup Product Offloads Processing

Many organizations are finding that the backup tool they used in the test lab or with a handful of VMs is no longer adequate as they scale. What they need is an enterprise-strength solution that offloads processing from production hosts. This is VMware’s (NYSE: VMW) recommended approach and is especially important if data is compressed, deduplicated, or otherwise manipulated during the backup process.

Veeam’s main solution to the virtualized storage challenge is Veeam Backup and Replication. The vendor said its solution leverages the latest features of VMware, including changed block tracking and thin provisioning, to ensure that backups complete on time. It also leverages Veeam technology, such as FastSCP, SmartDedupe and synthetic full backups, to further reduce backup time, network traffic and storage consumption.

But Veeam does more than accommodate the virtual environment, said Gostev. Veeam leverages that environment to enhance disaster recovery and provide what it calls virtualization-powered data protection.

With virtualization, users can back up an entire VM without taking it offline and restore it on any server, said Gostev.

“At a minimum, a backup tool should provide this kind of image-level backup,” said Gostev. “However, many traditional backup tools don’t, or they require users to install agents or create special backups in order to recover individual files and folders.”

Gostev said Veeam Backup and Replication provides image-level backup, file-level recovery, and more. For example, it includes built-in replication so users can replicate any VM to a standby host, either on-site (for high availability) or off-site (for disaster recovery).

Since the VM replica doesn’t have to be powered on and the standby can host many VMs, this is a cost-effective way to improve recovery time and recovery point objectives (RTOs and RPOs), said Gostev.

Virtual Server Backup in the Cloud

Another enterprise-strength solution for backing up virtualized servers comes from Venyu, a provider of protection, recovery, and availability services.

Given the increasing demand in the virtualization market and the issues that businesses have to consider when it comes to protecting and storing their data, the big question is whether the data will be available when they need it, said Venyu CEO Scott Thompson.

“The issue of availability is critical when you consider the revenue, productivity and brand reputation lost for every minute of downtime,” said Thompson.

Venyu’s AmeriVault remote online backup and virtual disaster recovery (VDR) solution gives companies daily, hassle-free offsite storage and the confidence that their data is available when they need it, said Thompson.

Thompson said Venyu’s AmeriVault Backup and VDR services have a number of advantages:

  • Hands-free: Venyu does remote backups that run automatically.
  • WAN efficient: Data deduplication, compression and block-level differencing reduce WAN bandwidth requirements while shrinking backup windows.
  • Secure: Backups are digitally signed and encrypted for secure WAN transmission.
  • Tape-free: Venyu eliminates the cost and complexity associated with legacy tape-based data protection methods.
  • Recovery Focused: Venyu’s virtual server infrastructure can provide automated out-of-region recovery of application servers (physical or virtual) following an outage or disaster. Data can also be restored online, from a local vault, or via portable appliance (MobileVault).

Hypervisor-based Storage

An innovative approach to server virtualization and storage issues comes from Virsto, which recently introduced what it claims is “the first and only hypervisor-based storage solution.”

Initially supporting Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, Virsto One is architected to be storage- and hypervisor-agnostic to allow users to virtualize storage-intensive workloads and to maximize the consolidation of server and storage hardware.

Most data storage technologies deployed with virtual servers today were designed for physical servers — and thus do not work optimally for a virtual data center, Virtso says.

Virtualization exposes new challenges for storage, creating a barrier to the full virtualization of data centers. These challenges include VM sprawl, which can consume 30 percent more storage than physical servers, storage performance problems that can reduce server I/O throughput by up to 80 percent, and increased storage management complexity and cost.

Virsto One claims to reduce the complexity of storage for virtual servers by:

  • Reducing storage sprawl: Cutting VM image space consumption by 90 percent through high-performance, thin-provisioned, VM-optimized snapshots and clones.
  • Simplifying storage management: Enabling simple, automatic thin VM storage provisioning, instantaneous clone creation and off-host snapshot backup.
  • Increasing storage performance: Providing VM-optimized flow control to eliminate the I/O blender, potentially doubling I/O performance and ensuring high-performance yet space-efficient storage.
  • Eliminating excessive storage costs: Decreasing storage costs by reducing the number of terabytes and disk spindles required for VM application support, enabling use of low-cost commodity storage hardware, and reducing the operating expense of VM storage management.

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