This week is the big VMworld show in San Francisco. EMC pulls out all the stops for this event; Chad's blog has an excellent roundup of all the EMC VMworld activities.
But there are a handful of big announcements planned that got my attention.
The first really isn't an EMC announcement -- it's a new VMware product based on EMC's Avamar technology.
And definitely worthy of a quick blog post.
In smaller infrastructure environments, there's an evergreen appeal for integrated functionality -- products that simply work together right out of the box, so to speak. This was true decades ago when minicomputers were king (AS/400 et. al.). It's true when you go shopping for legacy operating system environments (e.g Windows). It's also true when you're looking for physical infrastructure (e.g. VSPEX).
So the fact that VMware would want to offer advanced data protection functionality that's well-integrated with vSphere shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
The Details - What You Need To Know
Avamar's data protection technology involves a small dedupe client that runs on the host or desktop. As it scans, it's looking for changed blocks. If the signature for that block has ever been seen before by Avamar, it's not backed up redundantly, making Avamar an inline dedupe approach using mostly host resources.
As a result, backups tend to be amazingly fast and efficient (including backups of remote devices) since you're sending an absolute minimum of data over the wire. As an example, I've been using Avamar on my legacy EMC desktop for a while -- I never really know when it's running.
What you might not know was that Avamar was conceived to work in VMware environments from the start. When EMC acquired the company back in 2006, they already had a robust offering for ESX 3.x, and had made good progress in running their backend servers entirely in virtual containers -- long before it became the cool thing to do.
Put differently: the technology wasn't adapted to virtualization; it was designed for virtualization.
Although vSphere Data Protection (VDP for short) is based on Avamar technology, it is *not* identical to the Avamar product. VDP is sold and supported by VMware -- it's a packaged virtual-machine solution that addresses very specific data protection needs in the VMware marketplace -- nothing more, nothing less.
The specifications for VDP are spot-on for their use case. There's a limit of 100 VMs supported in the initial version -- more than enough for most modest environments. The back-end deduped datastore (hosted in VMs, natch!) is limited to 2TB. Again, quite reasonable. There's no remote replication for additional off-site data protection. And, today, it's an image-level backup product.
By comparison, the full Avamar product from EMC does much more: unlimited number of VMs, up to 124TB in a single storage pool, all sorts of replication for additional protection, guest-level and application-aware backup and recovery, integration with Data Domain and a rather lengthy suite of other EMC data protection products, desktop/laptop backup, extended retention to VTL/tape, etc. etc.
Almost no overlap between the two -- except the core technology.
VMware VDP instead focuses on ease-of-use and extreme simplicity. Specifying and monitoring data protection for your VMs is never more than a few mouse-clicks -- using the same look-and-feel of other VMware products.
End users can easily mount a restore point (or multiples) without copying everything back, and then recover the files they're interested in. All very self-service, which is what you'd expect in smaller environments.
What Happens Next?
VMware's vision is the "software defined data center". Storage -- and everything that goes with it, like data protection -- is a key ingredient of that vision. Here we have an excellent example of advanced data protection, completely expressed as virtualized software.
On a more pragmatic note, I think that VMware needed to offer data protection capabilities as part of vSphere, especially for smaller environments. In my mind, it's sort of a competitive imperative. Now they've got what their customers need, and -- by all appearances -- it's a very slick integration indeed.
As an unabashed EMC fan, of course I'm pleased that VMware selected EMC's Avamar technology for their product. There are a lot of potentially decent alternative choices that could have been considered; I see this as a clear nod that they liked the Avamar approach.
I can't believe that the other backup vendors in this space will be especially overjoyed about this -- they now have another obstacle to overcome in a highly competitive marketplace.
Unfortunately, things that are easier to consume tend to get consumed more; and VDP will be exceptionally easy to consume going forward.
Of course, EMC's hope is that buyers of VDP really like the technology (just as Avamar customers do today), and -- when their needs exceed what VDP offers, EMC and our partners will likely get the first shot at the business.
That's the idea, anyway :)