So I just finished up VMworld in San Francisco week before last, and I was amazed at how many different products were out there to enhance customers’ virtual infrastructures, whether their data centers were on premise or “in the cloud”. There were many monitoring and reporting products, partner companies looking to relieve the burden for customers to manage their virtual projects, and of course many products that provide backup and recovery capabilities for critical virtual machines. I think there were 4 or 5 that claimed they were “#1 in VM backups”. I haven’t seen so much confusion on who’s number 1 since college football introduced the BCS!
What was clear was that the companies touting “#1” were all point product solutions specifically for VM backup and recovery. These solutions solely focus on the virtual machines themselves, with a little integration to VMware’s management tools. What these products don’t do is protect anything physical. In fact, they will tell you that to protect the actual machines their product is installed on, or the physical infrastructure that houses your virtual environment, “you need something like Backup Exec or NetBackup.” Because the easiest way to limit complexity and overhead in the enterprise is to have TWO backup and recovery solutions in your environment, right?!?!? I’m pretty sure that if one product can provide award winning protection for both physical and virtual production environments, and one can protect virtual machines best suited in labs and test environments, the smart business move would be to lose the niche product. I’m sure on the surface, purchasing x amount of licenses of the point product looks great for the budget vs. x amount of licenses for the “legacy” solution, but you can’t effectively pitch the value of how much savings there is in building just half a bridge rather than a whole one.
To add to that point, while I was manning our VMworld booth, I couldn’t tell you how many discussions I had with customers and partners around tape backups. Yes, I said tape. As much as we all wish it could go away, SLA’s and compliancy for offsite/DR will keep tape a relevant part of the comprehensive backup solution discussion for a long time. I couldn’t help but notice that some of these “#1” vendors had no backup to tape support, but silly me…of course they couldn’t!! Tapes are physical. Once again, only that “legacy” product could come through with that kind of functionality. Again, you’re probably talking about 90+% of enterprise production environments that need this and other physical features in their solution!
The other popular discussion around the booth was deduplication. Everybody wants deduplication! It’s almost a commodity now, but it only adds value if it’s efficient and effective. All data in a customer’s environment that is protected by their backup solution should be visible for dedupe. It shouldn’t only see physical, only see virtual, or even worse…only dedupe per defined backup set. Where’s the automation and effectiveness in that?? What’s the simple goal for having deduplication? To save on storage costs. Sure there’s bandwidth benefits and quicker SLA’s for backup times and windows, but let’s be honest, we really want to save on buying more disk space. Any limited visibility to your data anywhere in your environment starts to negatively impact your deduplication rates. This is the inherent problem that point features present to users. The solution is once again to bring in a 2nd vendor to cover up for their lack of production class functionality. It felt good being able to explain that to customers and see them truly understand what we have to offer, and what the differentiating aspects of a point product and an enterprise solution are.
I really had a great time talking with so many IT professionals from CISO’s to backup admins, VM newbies to V-Experts…all wanting to know more about how we not only protect virtual environments, but how we do a better job than our competition. It was rewarding to help them step back and see the forest through the trees. Dedupe, physical and tape backups are just a few of the obvious advantages Symantec offers. There are so many more enterprise features we offer customers. In the end, they all want to save their company money, have the most effective solution and adhere to corporate policies and compliancy. They just needed a little guidance and education to get them to see the value of what a Symantec solution can do. It lowers your CapEx and OpEx, but allows your data center to still transform and meet the ever so challenging SLA’s for data protection without compromising features and performance. Those are the benefits any enterprise really needs from their backup and recovery solution.