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vSphere Data Protection brings Avamar dedupe, possible conflicts

VMware uses EMC Avamar to bring dedupe and file restores to its new vSphere Data Protection (VDP) SMB backup product.

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware will use EMC's Avamar backup software as the engine for its new vSphere Data Protection (VDP) utility, giving EMC a route into the SMB backup market while prompting VMware's other backup partners to wonder about its vendor neutrality.

VMware is licensing Avamar for VDP, which is built into vSphere 5.1 and replaces the limited VMware Data Recovery (VDR) backup utility. The biggest improvements VDP offers over VDR are the ability to perform inline data deduplication and deliver file-level restores. VMware customers can install VDP appliances in 500 GB, 1 terabyte (TB) or 2 TB configurations, with Avamar's deduplication expanding the amount of data it can protect.

Avamar's replication is missing from vSphere Data Protection. The other major difference between Avamar and VDP is scale: The full Avamar product supports an unlimited number of virtual machines (VMs) and up to 124 TB, while VDP supports 100 VMs and has a 2 TB limit.

BJ Jenkins, president of EMC's backup and recovery systems division, said the OEM deal will help bring Avamar into the SMB market and could lead customers to upgrade as they outgrow the 2 TB limit.

"We'll continue to build out features and functions in VDP," he said. "This can provide a seeding for customers who will grow into the full Avamar product."

Jenkins said replication might be offered as a paid feature for vSphere Data Protection down the road.

Is VMware getting too tight with EMC?

The OEM deal raises eyebrows in the industry because of worries about VMware's neutrality toward its parent company. EMC owns most of VMware, but has pledged to maintain good relations with all of VMware's server and storage partners. That neutrality was under a microscope at VMworld 2012 as former EMC chief operating officer Pat Gelsinger takes over as VMware CEO, and his predecessor Paul Maritz joins the EMC board.

Perhaps that is why VMware Senior Technical Marketing Manager Jeff Hunter downplayed Avamar's role in VDP Monday during a VMworld technical session on the new virtual backup product.

"Is it Avamar? Sort of. Kind of," Hunter told a packed session. "We co-developed VDP with EMC and some Avamar code is in there. But this is a VMware product, and totally different than Avamar."

He added that VMware is "fully committed" to the vSphere Storage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) program that lets backup vendors write to vSphere APIs.

But EMC's Jenkins made it clear that Avamar is driving vSphere Data Protection. "The core of it is Avamar," he said. "It's the Avamar engine built to look like VMware. It's a traditional OEM deal."

Representatives of several competing backup vendors say the move made them wonder about VMware's commitment to stay neutral, but denied having free VDP inside vSphere 5.1 would hurt their business. And Microsoft Hyper-V is becoming more of an option for smaller organizations.

"Clearly, this raises the question of whether VMware's hypervisor support is going to stay vendor-neutral," said Amit Walia, vice president of product management for Mountain View, Calif.-based backup software market leader Symantec Corp. "But the world is going to be different. To be candid, Microsoft is coming on like blockbusters with Hyper-V in Microsoft Windows Server 2012. We'll give customers a choice across multiple platforms."

Walia said Symantec's Backup Exec SMB product offers customers virtual and physical backup while vSphere Data Protection is only for virtual machines. Symantec also sells Backup Exec on an appliance with dedupe and a backup target integrated. "If you want to expand VDP or Avamar to a full platform, you need [EMC]'s Legato or Data Domain; a lot of point products," he said.

Jeff Echols, senior director of product marketing at Oceanport, N.J.-based CommVault, said he was not surprised by the news. He also said the 2 TB limit in VDP will restrict it from competing with CommVault's Simpana backup application.

"People have been predicting this for a while," he said. "They're trying to seed the SMB market, but we're selling a different product. We're doing a lot of enterprise deals with VMware, and those customers aren't interested in 2 TB."

Rick Vanover, product strategy specialist at Columbus, Ohio-based virtual backup vendor Veeam Software, said his company will compete with VDP by developing new features for its Backup & Replication application. "It's a big ecosystem out there, and we're not concerned about it," he said. "We've got a lot of new things coming, and this pushes us to innovate."

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