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Quest vRanger gets physical with backups, restores

Quest vRanger 6 to offer virtual machine backup and physical backup in one product.

Quest Software Inc.'s vRanger, a pioneering product for virtual machine backup, will soon be able to perform physical backups.

Quest, which is due to become part of Dell by the end of the year, will add the ability to back up physical Windows machines to vRanger 6 when it is released. The company says it will be available by the end of 2012.

Quest vRanger began protecting virtual servers when it launched in 2006 as esxRanger. Quest's vRanger and later Veeam Software's Veeam Backup & Replication gained solid followings by addressing virtual server data protection, which was largely ignored by the larger backup vendors until the past few years. But most organizations want one tool to back up virtual and physical servers, so Quest is moving to keep vRanger customers from switching virtual backups to their physical backup vendor.

"When vRanger came to market, there was no good way to back up virtual machines," said Sheldon D'Paiva, Quest product manager for vRanger. "The product was born of necessity."

Now that virtual backups aren't as much of a problem anymore, D'Paiva said customers want more from the company's backup app.

"Customers still have physical tools, so today they still need two backup tools," he said. "Now we're giving them a single product to back up virtual and physical machines."

Quest's vRanger employs a direct-to-target architecture to protect virtual servers, and vRanger 6 will include that same architecture for physical servers. Direct-to-target sends data directly from servers to the backup target, eliminating the need for a media server. For virtual backups, vRanger accomplishes this with virtual appliances on the machines it protects. vRanger 6 will require agents on physical servers, but D'Paiva said all agents can be pushed to the servers from a central vRanger server to make them easier to install.

"We didn't just do what's been done with legacy backup solutions," he said. "They have a media manager server and all data streams to a central point, and then to the media. We've avoided that. Data goes directly from the physical server to the target repository."

Quest's vRanger 6 will offer resource management, cataloging and active block mapping for physical servers.

Resource management lets administrators dial performance up or down for specific resources to improve performance. For instance, it can control the number of tasks that run on a specific server or repository, or it can allow for more streaming backups from a server using flash.

Native backup cataloging lets customers use keyword and wild card searches to find files, and perform one-click restores. Active block mapping means vRanger will only read and write active blocks, and remove unallocated blocks. D'Paiva claims this can reduce storage space by one-third and increases the speed of backup. After active blocks are mapped, customers can deduplicate data through a third-party dedupe product (vRanger does not natively dedupe) for further reduction.

Quest's vRanger 6 will be priced at $300 per server for physical machines and $769 per CPU for virtual machine licenses. The product is due to be generally available in the fourth quarter.

Arun Taneja, president of the Taneja Group, said the move by established backup vendors Symantec, EMC, IBM and CommVault to add virtual machine backup will remove the need to use two backup applications. But he said there is still time for Quest vRanger to capitalize on its virtual machine protection prowess.

"All the legacy backup players have been working for at least two years on something that would effectively protect hypervisors," he said. "But I don't think they're there yet, and there's still a window of opportunity for vRanger."

Quest acquired physical backup vendor BakBone last year, and has been working on a common interface that lets customers manage vRanger and BakBone's NetVault applications together. D'Paiva said Quest sees the NetVault XA (Extended Architecture) as an enterprise product while vRanger 6 is for SMBs.

If there is confusion about the strategy of having an interface to manage physical or virtual servers and a backup app that does both, it will be Dell's job to sort it out. Dell announced its intention to acquire Quest Software for $2.4 billion last month, and Dell executives say they expect to close the deal within a few months.

Taneja said Dell must also determine how to position vRanger and the AppAssure SMB backup product that Dell also acquired this year.

"I'm not sure Dell wants to carry that many backup products, so it has some rationalization work to do over the long run," he said. "Rationalizing AppAssure, vRanger and NetVault will be a non-trivial task."

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