I previously posted a survey highlighting the different methods of protecting VMware environments. The responses suggested that host-based backup is the predominant approach. The least popular choice was “Dedicated VMware backup application (Veeam, Vizioncore, etc..)”. These solutions exclusively protect virtual environments and they remind me of continuous data protection (CDP) technologies from the past.
Three years ago, CDP was hot. It was a major industry buzzword and several companies were founded focusing exclusively on technologies that claimed to enable CDP functionality. CDP enabled instantaneous backup, recovery and roll-back of critical data and some predicted that it would replace traditional data protection. CDP upstarts made voluminous statements about the technology and the future, but they had miniscule installed bases particularly when compared to the traditional backup application vendors. The challenge for the CDP providers was convincing end users to replace or augment existing backup infrastructures. This was a challenge since end users had substantial investments in backup software, hardware and knowledge. Although CDP provided customer value, it was only practical as a complementary solution to traditional backup and CDP functionality should have been embedded in existing backup applications. As a result, most dedicated CDP companies were either bought or went away, and we now see backup ISVs including CDP functionality.
The dedicated VMware backup market is analogous to CDP. The vendors are selling solutions that only protect virtualized servers. The applications are effective, but enterprises have a range of computing assets and this approach forces them to maintain separate backup infrastructures for physical and virtual environments. Does this approach make economic and business sense? In the short term perhaps, but in the long-term the answer is no. Companies are looking for ways to improve IT efficiency and flexibility. Forcing separate data protection silos conflicts with this goal.
The other point to consider is that traditional backup ISVs are rapidly improving their virtualization support. Clearly the trend towards virtualization is real and these large ISVs recognize that enhanced support for virtual servers is a critical competitive differentiator. The recent release of the vStorage APIs for Data Protection was an important milestone which enhanced VMware’s native backup functionality. It leveled the playing field by providing universal access to the same feature set, and was rapidly adopted by the large backup ISVs. The dedicated VMware backup providers adopted these technologies too, but the new technology weakened their competitive position.
Dedicated VMware data protection applications face a difficult path. Like the CDP solutions before them, they are competing with large backup ISVs that have substantial installed bases and more corporate resources. At the same time, the traditional backup companies are devoting substantial resources to enhancing their existing platforms to provide improved VMware protection. Today’s dedicated VMware only backup application providers must find radical new methods to innovate or risk disaggregation just like the CDP companies before them.
9/9/2010 update - I just posted another blog entry on this topic clarifying my thoughts.