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Q&A: Interview with Quantum Talking Virtualization and Cloud Backup with vmPRO

Quantum recently announced enhancements to its Quantum vmPRO software which brings open standard data protection and archive capabilities to virtualized environments.  To find out more, VMblog interviewed Casey Burns, Product Marketing Manager at Quantum.  Casey talked about the Quantum enterprise solution for backup and archive for virtualized environments, how it works, its benefits, what makes it stand out over the competition, and more.

VMblog:  What is the latest update around what Quantum is doing in the virtualization world?

Casey Burns:  Quantum entered into the virtualization data protection space about two years ago with the purchase of Pancetera Software, and quickly introduced vmPRO to the market.  Since then, vmPRO has amassed a pretty good following, and picked up additional momentum with the introduction of vmPRO Standard Edition - a full-featured, no time restraint, free version of vmPRO. 

vmPRO has evolved as a product, but its focus remains protecting data in native format, allowing customers to easily browse, search and restore VMs and individual files without requiring a backup application, and enabling them to use their choice of backup medium: disk, tape and cloud. 

VMblog:  Why is it important to improve performance and workload efficiency in virtual environments? How is Quantum helping to do this?

Burns:  Before virtualization technologies, users typically taxed their physical servers at maybe 15-20% utilization, but now by adding virtual machines they are taxing their servers upwards of 85%.  This shift has caused servers, particularly during backup processes, to become very inefficient, so higher performance and efficiency for backup applications in the virtual world is a must. 

Quantum vmPRO provides a patented data reduction technology that reduces network utilization and storage footprint, and reduces or eliminates disk I/O on the virtual server.  vmPRO works directly with the FAT of the file system inside the VM, eliminating data no longer needed by the file system (log files, paging, swap files, etc).  Since this data is not sent by the VM, the VMs can get back to work faster doing their primary business role and not spending time doing backups. 

We have thousands of customers and on average we see 60% reduction in data sent by the VM, all before Change Block Tracking or data deduplication.  This is a tremendous amount of data reduction and something we are really proud of as a technology.  We have also seen a dramatic improvement in performance with the latest vmPRO 3.1 - in some cases up to 900% improvement compared to the prior version.  We have accomplished this by using HotAdd, and by delivering up to four backup jobs through a single vmPRO appliance, and by laying out the file stream to provide more synergy with deduplication appliances.

VMblog:  Could you elaborate on how vmPRO is different from traditional backup applications designed for virtual environments?

Burns:  We acquired Pancetera mainly for the data reduction technology, but what also inspired the transaction was the ability to protect virtual data, and more importantly, protect virtual data in native format.  This is completely different from any other backup application on the market today.  All other backup applications, either traditional or virtualization specialty apps, protect data in a proprietary format.  We found this approach to be very "old school", limiting a customer's flexibility with their data.  The only access to data protected by other backup applications is through that backup application alone.  This locks a customer into that platform and could limit their backup and DR choices in the future (whatever shiny and new backup medium emerges beyond today's choices).  With vmPRO, protecting data in native format provides so much more flexibility, and is the key driver in our value proposition for providing customers with speed and simplicity, business continuity, workload efficiency, investment protection and open standards backup and archive.

VMblog:  Specifically, could you clarify vmPRO's offerings?

Burns:   Absolutely.

  • Native File Backup:  Protecting data in native format is certainly unique to vmPRO and provides so much flexibility for our customers, particularly around the ease of being able to browse, search and recover data.  Also, we are not locking the data into an application.  As IT personnel look into ITaaS and getting the most of their data, if the data is completely locked up in a single format, this application and the data can quickly become a boat anchor and inhibit IT shops from moving in the right direction.
  • Speed & Simplicity: With data residing in native format, customers can quickly and easily browse, search and restore VMs and files, without a backup application.  Since the files are sitting in native format, they can easily be dragged and dropped (or copy and paste) back into the environment, all without the need to even power on the VM to find the file or deploy a virtual helper to deliver this capability.  Going back to efficiency, this is truly an efficient process and requires minimal resources as there is no translation needing to happen to get the data back.  Think about being able to run data integrity checks by just copying and pasting the file into the work environment, pretty quick, easy and painless.  This can also be done with VMs, again regardless of the backup medium.  This can all be done without the backup application even present.  We have some great videos on our website that demonstrate this capability.
  • Business Continuity: This native format protection methodology can be extended into DR or business continuity.  With the VMs and their data sitting in a DR site, the data can be quickly brought back into the primary site or customers can quickly and easily boot VMs from the remote location no matter the medium (yes, even tape if you wanted to).  The backup application is not even necessary at this location as the data is resident in native format.  Simply using vCenter or the VMware console, point the datastore and the new path and you are off and running.  A lot of our competitors in this space will clearly state not to boot VMs from dedupe devices as this is too resource intensive.  Why?  Because their data is in proprietary format and takes a lot resources to un-package and translate this data back for the hypervisor or the file type requested.  Restoring or booting VMs from the remote site can all be done without the backup application present.  Think about now having a DR solution without needing to buy a whole host of additional backup server hardware or licenses from the backup application provider, this will dramatically reduce your management overhead and overall cost associated with DR. 
  • Workload Efficiency:  Quantum's patented data reduction technology is designed specifically to reduce network load, storage footprint, but most importantly reduce the disk I/O on the VMs getting them back to work faster than any other backup application on the market today. 
  • Investment Protection:  When we talk about investment protection with our customers we discuss how using native format will not lock them into a specific platform or backup medium, but we also talk about how vmPRO is deployed that provides investment protection for them.  vmPRO is a virtual appliance, complete OVF template that is designed with virtualization in mind so it is an integral part of virtual infrastructure.  Since it is a virtual appliance, there is no need to stand up a physical Windows box and spend time deploying and maintaining a physical server. This is also key from a scalability perspective.  As a customer's environment changes with capacity, performance requirements change as well.  vmPRO can easily deploy more virtual appliances to spread the work load or protect a specific pool of VMs or host(s).  So investment protection for us is about working with an existing infrastructure -- from deployment as a virtual appliance to using existing backup mediums to using whatever new backup mediums are deployed down the road.  This really leads into the idea around Open Standards data protection and archive.
  • Open Standard:  With vmPRO protecting data in native format, the data is always available no matter the backup medium, and all vmPRO needs is a NAS target to protect data.  This means any data protection scheme that includes a NAS interface can be used with vmPRO to easily and simply deliver open standards based data protection and archive of VMs and their associated data.

VMblog:  How does vmPRO stand up against the big names in this space?

Burns:  Quantum vmPRO has been very purposeful in appealing to the virtualized data protection space, and compares quite well to the "big names."  Key advantages such as native format data protection and the ability to deploy vmPRO as a virtual appliance provide the flexibility and integration with the hypervisor that customers are looking for. Patented data reduction technology allows those VMs to get back to work faster as well.  We are seeing strong momentum over the last few months with vmPRO, which is also driving sales and opportunities for our DXi and cloud-based offerings.  These technologies combine for a unique and compelling story: delivering complete data protection for physical and virtual environments, with dedupe appliances, cloud offerings and even tape.

VMblog:  I understand the newest release of vmPRO includes backup and archive to disk and LTFS tape. Why now? What are customers saying?

Burns:  We are really excited to bring this functionality to market.  Up to this release, we were always asked by customers if we can protect virtual data to tape. The answer was "Yes - through a third party backup application."  Now we have a direct avenue to get virtualized data to tape.  As the leader in tape based backup, it was a natural decision for us to support tape with vmPRO.  Using an open standard for tape with LTFS is a really cool story.  Since the data on the tape is in native format using vmPRO, being able to browse this data like a file system with LTFS and restore files or whole VMs from tape is extremely painless.  Again, no one else has this capability.  Customers are genuinely excited about this.  The LTFS technology is really efficient and provides a cost effective archive solution for not only virtualized data, but data of any type.  Imagine being able to just drag and drop a 2TB file to tape and use your existing tape assets for archive and keeping all this data in native format for easy access whenever from wherever.  Really fantastic stuff.

VMblog:  How do you see virtualized data protection fitting into customer cloud BasS and DRaaS strategies?

Burns:  Obviously virtualized data protection is a good fit for cloud-based backup and DR.  Quantum announced its own cloud services back in April of 2012 and have seen tremendous success with this offering.  Backup, and to a larger extent DR, can provide customers with an opportunity to "test" the waters of cloud-based services before jumping into the model with their primary business applications.  The main platform for Q-Cloud consists of vmPRO and our DXi V-Series of virtual deduplication appliances.  When we announced vmPRO 3.1, we also announced DXi V4000 - the big brother to the already popular DXi V1000 - which has up to 24TB blockpool.  If we use conservative numbers of 15:1 dedupe ratio, customers can store up to 360TB in a single virtual instance of DXi V4000.

VMblog:  What's next for Quantum?  What can you share with the direction of where Quantum is headed in the virtualization or cloud market?

Burns:  We are going to continue to be aggressive and evolutionary in the marketplace with vmPRO.  As for future capabilities, we will continue to gain tighter integration with VMware in some of their cloud based initiatives, work closer with public cloud providers and also deliver Hyper-V support.

###

Once again, a special thank you to Casey Burns, Product Marketing Manager with Quantum, for taking time out to speak with VMblog.

Published Thursday, June 27, 2013 7:01 AM by David Marshall
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