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CommVault, Arkeia sharpen focus on virtual server backup

CommVault's Simpana 8 adds granular guest virtual machine restores and block-level data deduplication; Arkeia's backup server is now available as a virtual appliance.

CommVault Systems Inc. rolled out Simpana 8 today, adding block-level data deduplication for disk and tape and improved management of virtual machine backups.

Along with the long-awaited block-level dedupe, Simpana 8 introduces a single client for VMware ESX server and Microsoft's Hyper-V, which can be deployed at the host level rather than requiring a client on each guest.

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Another backup vendor, Arkeia Software, also launched version 8 of its Network Backup today with a greater emphasis on virtual machine data protection.

Simpana adds block-level deduplication for disk and tape

Simpana 7 introduced file-level single instancing, but customers have called for block-level data deduplication in the backup application. Simpana 8 introduces global deduplication based at the Simpana host, so the deduplication can cut down on the amount of data written to disk and sent over the network. Simpana 8's dedupe works similarly to EMC Corp.'s Avamar and Symantec Corp.'s PureDisk.

The global deduplication with Simpana 8 also extends to tape, making it the first product of its kind to allow for writes to physical tape libraries without requiring reinflation of deduplicated data. "That's very appealing," said Paul Spotts, system engineer for Geisinger Health, a network of hospitals and clinics in central Pennsylvania. "We added a VTL [virtual tape library] because we were running out of capacity in our physical tape libraries, but we lease the VTL, so we're only allowed to grow so much per quarter."

A new feature called SnapBackup in Simpana 8 adds new integration with storage arrays so that array-based snapshots can be managed according to Simpana policies and through Simpana's catalog. "It's basically consolidating in the backup catalog all the different backup copies a user can recover from," Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse said. "So users don't have to try and track down the most recent copy from different sources."

Simpana 8 also adds the ability to incorporate workstations into the central backup policy, similar to products like IBM Corp.'s CDP for Files, which automatically send changes to a central backup server when a desktop or laptop logs on to a company network. "The only thing that bothers me about that feature is that it doesn't include local journaling," Whitehouse said. "So if you make versions of a file while you're not connected to the network, you don't have a local version history." This is a feature that CDP for Files offers, Whitehouse said.

Like other backup products for VMware, Simpana 8 integrates with VMware's Consolidated Backup (VCB) API to allow virtual machine backups from a proxy server. The client and management interface for both VMware and Hyper-V hosts is the same, and VMware images can be restored to Hyper-V hosts and vice versa. Simpana 8 will also include an autodiscovery feature to add new virtual machines in the environment automatically to backup policies.

Arkeia offers virtual appliance

With Network Backup 8, Arkeia is making its backup server available in virtual appliance format. Arkeia's recently appointed CEO Bill Evans said customers in large virtualized environments often have spare capacity on existing physical servers. A virtual appliance eliminates the need to be bound to the SuperMicro hardware Arkeia uses for its EdgeFort physical appliances, and virtual machines are easier to move for disaster recovery or deploy quickly for load balancing than traditional software.

Arkeia's virtual appliance bundle consists of the software, a Linux operating system and agents for granular restore of particular applications including ESX. Generally, the hypervisor layer makes performance slower on virtual servers than on physical servers, but if users want to boost performance, they can scale the servers horizontally by adding more virtual appliances to the same physical machine, Evans said.

"We've been asking for a virtual appliance," said Danny Malouin, director of operations for iFuzion Hosting Corp., an ISP and hosting service provider in Montreal. "Our larger clients might want to operate their own backup, and this allows us to deploy backup servers on a per client basis. Having separate virtual appliances for each customer will also help security and role-based access at our data center. It will make our job a lot easier."

CommVault, Arkeia still missing features

Network Backup cannot do object-level restores directly from virtual machine images yet, a capability Symantec Corp. added with NetBackup 6.5.2 last year. "Most [backup] solutions I've used in the past have required agents," Malouin said. "I'm used to it now." Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf also pointed out that CommVault's Hyper-V backup doesn't yet include Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) transportable snapshots for Hyper-V. This would allow VSS snapshots to be initiated from another host. "It would be the true equivalent of VCB for VMware," Wolf said. So far, EMC Corp. has added this capability with version 7.5 of its Networker backup software, released last fall.


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