VMware backup solutions evolve to make use of VMware APIs

VMware backup solutions have evolved to do virtual machine backup via VMware APIs and include support for data deduplication, snapshots, granular recovery and cloud as a target.

VMware backup solutions have changed radically in a relatively short time. Following VMware’s release in 2009 of the vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP), what used to be a clunky procedure has now become a seamless integrated process that enables users to easily manage backups in a virtual server environment.

In this article we run the rule over VMware backup solutions, in particular the VMware virtual machine backup features of the main enterprise backup software products, namely, Symantec (NetBackup 7); IBM (Tivoli Storage Manager 6.2); CommVault (Simpana 9); HP (Data Protector 6.11); and EMC (NetWorker 7.6); and two VMware virtual machine backup specialist products, from Veeam and Quest Software.

VMware backup solutions have evolved over the years to give us what we have today. Initially, VMware backup was mired in the traditional agent-per-server approach traditionally applied to physical server backups. Next VMware backup took the form of a two-stage approach with the release of VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). The latest phase arrived with the release of VADP. With VADP, virtual server backup reached maturity as backup vendors gained direct access to the virtual environment and the ability to create image-based backups.

In this article we will look at the VMware backup solutions that now exploit VADP to back up virtual servers.


CommVault’s Simpana 9 backup suite takes an image-based approach to VMware backups and combines this with its data deduplication technology.

Simpana 9 features SnapProtect for VMware Environments, which provides fast snapshotting with minimal VM quiescence and snapshot indexing to facilitate access to VMs contained within snapshots. If snapshots are required for long-term retention, the SnapProtect product feature moves backup images to secondary storage without inhibiting the live environment.

VADP is used to produce snapshots that are held in a temporary storage area attached to the ESX environment. These images are then replicated out to secondary storage at a low priority to keep system strain to a minimum. This removes the need for further VM quiescence and also reduces the demand for space on expensive disks.


Symantec NetBackup 7 offers support for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments and direct storage integration via VADP.

NetBackup 7 installs in each virtual machine a client that applies data deduplication directly as the VM is backed up. This reduces backup loading on the VM and storage environment since only unique host file changes are committed to backup. NetBackup 7 supports granular recovery to the file level, off-site replication and built-in encryption for security. Symantec claims the data deduplication technology in NetBackup 7 can reduce storage space required for backup images by 50%.


EMC has also opted for image-based backups in NetWorker 7.6. It also has new features based on VADP, including non-disruptive snapshotting, granular file restores and data deduplication through integration with EMC Avamar and EMC Data Domain. In addition, NetWorker simplifies administrative tasks with VMware visualisation updates, which provide a logical, hierarchical view of backups to facilitate restore jobs.

One of the most interesting features of this product is that it offers direct integration with cloud storage based on the EMC Atmos platform, which is presented as an attachable storage device. This feature offers multiple data compression levels that are fully user-configurable, and all data pushed to the cloud is automatically encrypted for security.


HP Data Protector 6.11 is designed to integrate with HP StorageWorks SANs and uses that integration to offer an image-based backup product that is not limited to one virtualisation platform. It is capable of backing up Hyper-V as well as VMware environments. Application-aware agents ensure restored application data is consistent and quickly recoverable from a single console. This integration also means no performance load is placed on ESX hosts or VMs when backups occur and administrators can choose to use agent, VCB, VADP or array-based approaches.

The Zero Downtime Backup agent included with Data Protector has a staged backup method that uses the storage array to create snapshots and then performs backup tasks against these rather than the live environment. This effectively removes the need for a reserved backup window. StorageWorks users consequently have one of the widest ranges of backup options available for virtual environments in a single integrated product.


IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments has GUI and command line access for administrators and has a common storage node for all virtual machine snapshots, with multiple levels of restore possible from file to machine level. Backup images are stored in an off-host environment and moved directly to disk using VADP. These can then be restored directly to ESX hosts by the same method.

Automatic detection of new virtual machines is built in. Data deduplication and image compression are now standard, and TSM for Virtual Environments has the ability to offload backup work to the storage array, as with HP Data Protector.


With the release this year of version 5 of Veeam Backup & Replication, Veeam has announced a number of new features -- dubbed vPower -- designed to help backup administrators. Possibly the biggest advance in this product is the ability to run a virtual machine directly from a backup image that has been compressed and deduplicated.

Meanwhile, the Instant VM Recovery feature effectively provides a hot spare of each VM from prior backups, which can be migrated into the live environment through VMotion.

The U-air tool provides granularity to backups and allows administrators to retrieve individual files from within VMDK images. The SureBackup Recovery Verification feature gives administrators the ability to verify backup integrity in a so-called Virtual Lab, which is a dedicated test environment separate from your production infrastructure.

The vPower features exploit VADP but allow a user to work via VCB as an option.

Quest Software

Quest Software offers an image-based approach to VM backup with the Quest vRanger product suite, capturing an image of a running VM in a single file.

vRanger offers two product levels. vRanger Standard Edition provides concurrent simultaneous VM recovery, granular file-level restores from within VMDK images and deduplication via active block mapping technology. The Pro edition adds VMware replication to the package for those who want disaster recovery site capabilities.

Quest made an important addition to the vRanger product suite with the ability to perform LAN-free backups, which can be streamed directly to SAN storage. The company did this by directly leveraging VADP; it has completely abandoned the use of VCB.

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