Who would’ve thought that I needed to go to Symantec headquarters to learn something about NetBackup and Backup Exec. But learn a few things I did when I visited Symantec’s headquarters last week while attending Stephen Foskett’s Tech Field Day.
I knew that the NetBackup team had been putting a lot of R&D resources into VMware backup, so it was no surprise that they had made a number of advancements in this area. They, of course, fully support the vSphere API for Data Protection that replaces VMware Consolidated Backup(VCB). Symantec does claim that NetBackup is the only product that offers granular file restores without forcing backups to be on a filesystem style device. NetBackup users can backup VMs to a filesystem device, tape device, or virtual tape device–and can still restore individual items from those backups. Other products must either keep such backups on a filesystem-type device forever or de-stage tape or VTL backups to a filesystem before performing granular restores.
In NetBackup 7.1, they also added concept of the VMware Intelligent Policy. This policy allows you to select an ESX server and have all of its VM’s automatically backed up. The VM’s that the policy will backup can be programmatically determined via a bunch of parameters, such as the name of the machine, the folder it is in, or the storage pool is stored in.
One other interesting piece of functionality that I had never heard of was something called NetBackup Air, which is the ability (using functionality in OST) to duplicate NetBackup images from one master server to another. Currently, this functionality is only available via the NetBackup appliances, but I wonder if it will eventually be enhanced to provide functionality similar to what TSM users can do. (They can easily export backups from one TSM server and import them to another TSM server.)
The Backup Exec folks also presented their product, and also gave a very detailed explanation of how they support VMware and Hyper-V. While certain parts of their functionality might not be as “cool” as how NetBackup works, it is important to understand the target market for Backup Exec. They are aimed solidly at the SMB market, not the enterprise market (where NetBackup is aimed). They are therefore focused mainly on simplicity and cost — not high-end functionality. Having said that, they do have a fully integrated solution for VMware and Hyper-V, which should be compared to other products in their space. It was obvious to me that their main goal was to have us understand that they want to be the one-stop-shop product for SMBs to use to back up both physical and virtual machines, as opposed to products that only do one or the other well.
There is one pricing decision that the Backup Exec team made that I do not agree with. For years, Symantec customers were forced to buy individual licenses for each VM, and those customers were not given a free upgrade to the one-license-handles-all vSphere product when it came out. They said they did that for a short period of time when they first came out with their VCB product, but have stopped it now. My belief is that the previous VCB product was so bad (because of VMware’s design, not Symantec’s implementation) that this new product is really the first viable option that Symantec customers have had to buying individual licenses for each VM. That’s why I say that customers were forced to buy individual licenses and Symantec made a lot of money on those licenses. I think they should therefore allow customers to trade in a certain number of VM licenses for a single VMware license. If they force them to pay the full license of the VMware product, then that gives their customers a reason to check out the competition, and that’s the last thing Symantec wants right now. Just sayin.
During our time at Symantec headquarters, we also received a visit from Symantec CEO, Enrique Salem. His main message was that Symantec was committed to the backup, recovery, and archive markets–despite any rumors to the contrary. That’s good to hear.