Zmanda Brings Open Source Backup to the Cloud

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Let’s face it, in these tough economic times, what could play better than a low-cost backup offering based on open source technologies?

That’s what Zmanda is hoping as it rolls out new cloud and enterprise data backup and recovery offerings.

The company this week unveiled Zmanda Cloud Backup, an online backup and disaster recovery offering for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Exchange and SQL Server based on Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Simple Storage Service (S3), and Amanda Enterprise Version 3.0, the latest version of the company’s data protection software based on the open source Amanda project.

With 50 percent sequential growth from the third to the fourth quarter, Zmanda’s message is already catching on, said CEO Chander Kant. “Our message of low-cost and flexibility is definitely jiving with IT managers,” he said.

Taneja Group analyst Eric Burgener said Zmanda “has probably 80 percent of the functionality of a full-blown enterprise backup product” like Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) NetBackup or EMC (NYSE: EMC) NetWorker, “but is available for roughly 30 percent of the price.”

It lacks support for advanced features like integrated bare metal restore, serverless backup on a SAN, associating multiple backup masters with a single backup catalog and tape vaulting, but Burgener said small businesses “often don’t require all that advanced functionality. Particularly in tough economic times, Zmanda’s value proposition becomes even more attractive relative to proprietary commercial offerings for the right size of customer.”

Zmanda has scalability limits, Burgener said, “which is why they don’t play in the large enterprise.” There is a single master backup server associated with each backup catalog, “which means that realistically it can scale to support hundreds of systems, but not thousands,” he said, while enterprise-class products like NetBackup, NetWorker or IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Tivoli Storage Manager “can manage multiple backup masters from a centralized management point all around a single backup catalog.”

Burgener said Zmanda’s “standout technical feature is their scheduler, which is unique in the industry.” Users give it a couple of parameters like how often they want a particular file backed up, and the scheduler determines how to perform the backup in a way that limits resource demands while adapting dynamically to changing environments. “Particularly for SMEs looking for ease of use, this is a huge advantage,” he said.

Zmanda’s use of open protocols and formats is another advantage, Burgener said, limiting support and maintenance issues and making data restoration easier.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse said Zmanda’s UNIX and Linux support “makes it stand out,” but she added that it still needs support for popular hypervisors such as VMware (NYSE: VMW), Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS) Xen.

“Zmanda’s approach may be less conventional,” Whitehouse said. “Performing backup might be slightly different from typical practices,” including spreading out full backups across the week to optimize performance instead of doing a full backup once a week.

“I think Zmanda’s goal is to challenge the status quo, which is backup solutions based on proprietary formats and proprietary clouds,” she said. “Zmanda is offering a lot of flexibility and providing a lower-cost alternative.”

New features in Amanda Enterprise 3.0 include live backup agents for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007, PostgreSQL and EnterpriseDB’s Postgres Plus product family. The product also offers support for disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) and disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C) backup operations, while Sun (NASDAQ: JAVA) users get new ZFS file system support. Windows users get encryption for remote backup and recovery operations, and the Zmanda Management Console allows automatic discovery of tape libraries and management of multiple tape drives within one tape library.

Amanda Enterprise 3.0 is in beta and will be generally available soon through Zmanda’s online store, with prices starting at $100 per client and $300 per application agent.

Targeting the Cloud

Zmanda Cloud Backup (ZCB) is a GUI-based backup solution that allows Windows users to automate their backup and recovery process, and files are stored in native Windows format so users can access and reuse files even without ZCB. Data can be encrypted or compressed before transfer for greater security and bandwidth optimization. Pricing consists of a one-time $50 charge for each Windows server protected and an additional charge of 20 cents per gigabyte a month for storage used and data transferred.

Kant said that “Amazon S3 provides raw storage. We provide management of that storage as a backup destination. … Also, note that Amazon S3 is accessible via an API. Our software develops on top of that API, and links up your on-premises data with your backup pool stored on S3.”

The company plans to add other service providers to its new cloud offering, including Microsoft’s Storage Cloud.

Whitehouse said ZCB can cost significantly less than proprietary storage-as-a-service solutions, but she added, “Organizations will have to vet solutions and vendors based on their requirements. It’s not always just about cost.”

Burgener said Zmanda lets users back up to local disk and a cloud target simultaneously, giving small businesses an easy disaster recovery and continuity strategy, but as cloud options become more common, he said purchasing decisions will be made more on the merits of the backup software.

Data de-duplicationhas been a popular feature for users hoping to save money by backing up less data. Zmanda offers target-level dedupe through integration with Data Domain (NASDAQ: DDUP), and the company plans source-level de-duplication in the next few months.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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