Quest's vRanger 6.0 Combines Physical and Virtual Server Backup

VRanger 6.0 delivers data protection for both virtual and physical environments, but easy and quick recovery of data will be the key differentiator moving forward.

August 24, 2012

5 Min Read
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Quest Software joined a growing number of vendors offering a single tool to back up and recover data on both physical and virtual servers with the release this week of its vRanger 6.0.

The latest version of Quest's virtual backup and recovery tool enables enterprises to back up and restore physical Windows servers in addition to its longstanding ability to back up, replicate and recover data for VMware. VRanger 6.0 supports Windows Server 2003 and 2008, and will support Windows Server 2012 upon its release. It also provides snapshot backups for a number of Microsoft applications, including Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint and Active Directory.

John Maxwell, Quest Software's VP of product management, said that, historically, customers have used more than one tool to protect both virtual and nonvirtualized servers. He said about 90% of Quest's customers are running their nonvirtualized environments on Windows, with the remaining running Linux.

In a virtualized environment, vRanger works in conjunction with VMware's snapshot process to perform an image-level backup by reading the Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) file without mirroring. VRanger reads out the blocks required for the backup based on whether it's a full, incremental or differential backup. End users and applications are still able to operate without interruption because VMware holds any new writes in a temporary location until the backup is complete and the VMDK file is once again available for use. Once the backup is complete, VMware releases the snapshot and resolves any changes held in the cache location by updating the affected blocks in the VMDK.

This image-level backup captures the entire image--including OS, patches, configuration settings, applications and data--in a single backup without using file-level agents on each virtual machine, which only perform backups of data or files. However, vRanger 6.0 does require agents to back up physical servers, says Maxwell, by deploying distributed agents that send data directly from the source to the repository. This eliminates bottlenecks in the backup process. These agents can be pushed to the servers from a central vRanger server to make them easier to install.

VRanger 6.0 uses some of the same features that Quest developed for backing up virtual environments and applies them to backing up physical servers. That includes its Active Block Mapping technology, which speeds up backups and reduces storage space by identifying and skipping over blocks of deleted and zeroed data. Just as it does with virtual machines, vRanger 6.0 conducts full, incremental and differential backups to reduce the amount of data backed up and can make application-consistent backup copies of transactional servers such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server.

VRanger 6.0 also improves the data recovery process by allowing users to find and recover files quickly with keyword and wildcard searches using native cataloging.

Next: More Enterprises Have Mix of Physical and Virtual ServersInformationWeek Reports' "2012 State of the Data Center" found that of 256 business technology professional surveyed in April 2012, 50% said half or more of their production servers will be virtualized by the end of 2013; for a small yet aggressive 9%, it's more than 90%. This is actually a lower figure than reported in the InformationWeek Virtualization Management Survey conducted in August 2011, which found that 63% of respondents expected to have half or more of their production servers virtualized by the end of 2011.

Robert Amatruda, research director, data protection and recovery, at IDC, says Quest's decision to add physical backup, replication and recovery to vRanger makes sense because enterprises have both physical and virtual servers in production. "They still need products that really bridge the gap between physical and virtual."

Amatruda says large, incumbent data protection/recovery vendors with roots in physical, on-premise products were all caught somewhat flat-footed when the trend toward virtualization first took off a few years ago, allowing smaller vendors such as Veeam and PHD Virtual to step in to fill the void. Quest isn't making a dramatic change by adding physical data protection to vRanger, he adds, but bridging that gap between two infrastructures that enterprises are supporting. Symantec Backup Exec also provides data protection for both virtual and nonvirtual environments.

However, having one tool that manages data protection for both physical and virtual environments isn't insignificant for enterprises, says Amatruda. Companies tend to invest in tools for the long term as they don't lend themselves to a rip-and-replace approach; software is upgraded incrementally. He says vendors such as Quest have an opportunity within their own customer bases to address a need for a unified tool.

Jason Buffington, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), says vRanger's new physical data protection features would definitely appeal to existing customers looking to reduce the complexity of working with multiple tools, especially since the technology isn't radically new and leverages their existing physical data protection expertise from existing products such as NetVault, as well as vRanger features. "This is not brand-spanking-new stuff that might be untried," he says. "It's just a smarter way to utilize it."

Buffington adds that existing vRanger customers won't see a great deal of difference using vRanger for physical backups, as it employs a very similar UI.

Recent research conducted by ESG found there was a 50/50 split between organizations that use a virtual data protection-only tool such as vRanger, versus those that use a unified tool that supports both, says Buffington. Seventy percent would rather have a unified option.

What's really changed, he says, is that virtual backups aren't as difficult as they were once were, and with many vendors from either side moving toward the middle, reliable backups are no longer the key differentiator. "Just about everybody, using a myriad of approaches, can back up a VM," he says. "How well and how fast can you restore it?" Whether it's the whole VM, a partial VM or granular objects such as mail messages or files, he says, a significant differentiator will be the ability to easily restore data. "The real battleground is around restore, flexibility and agility."

VRanger 6.0 will be generally available in the fourth quarter of this year. Virtual machine licenses for vRanger 6.0 will be priced at $769 on a per-CPU basis, while physical machine licenses will be priced at just $300 on a per-server basis. The software is VMware Ready-certified for vSphere 5.

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