Virtualization Backup Is No Longer Niche
Today, it’s not at all unusual for companies to have more than 90 percent of their servers virtualized, and a significant number have all but virtualized 100 percent of their servers. According to IDC, more than half of all workloads were carried out on virtual machines in 2010, and by 2014, IDC expects more than 70 percent of all workloads to be on VMs. We are clearly long past the tipping point when virtualization is no longer a niche technology. Indeed, virtualization is now the mainstream. Physical is the new niche.
There was a time just a few years ago when virtualization was “cutting-edge.” Back then, virtualization was a bit scary to most IT pros, which is not surprising, given how fundamentally virtualization changes the nature of the data center. There’s a certain peace of mind in big iron, a data center full of servers and the knowledge that each critical application is running on a discrete machine, all to itself.
But the cost savings and management efficiencies that virtualization promised were too appealing to ignore, so most companies, at the very least, played around with virtualization on test and dev servers to see how it worked.
Although VMs are now widespread, the IT industry is only just beginning to discover the full value of this revolution. Server consolidation is a big benefit, of course, and the ability to provision new servers with a few mouse clicks is a huge breakthrough, but what other benefits could virtualization bring? What other processes and procedures need to be changed in order to reach the maximum ROI of virtualization? Virtualization has already disrupted the server market. Which sector is next?
There’s an excellent case to be made that backup is the next sector that virtualization is disrupting. The existing backup vendors were too entrenched in the physical world to move quickly into virtualization, and, while it is true that many IT organizations still use their legacy physical backup systems to protect their virtual infrastructure, unfortunately, these legacy backup systems are also causing enormous headaches.
In order to get the most benefit of virtualization, it is very important to move backup processing out of the VMs. Since VMs all share the same physical hardware and underlying disk, when there’s contention for those resources, all the VMs take a performance hit. Traditional physical backup solutions require an agent to run in each server, so, in a virtual environment, these solutions need an agent to run in every VM. All of these agents running simultaneously put a tremendous load on the server. Most IT shops that virtualized without changing their backup processes discovered their backups were taking longer than they did when all their servers were physical. For many, it became impossible to complete the backup within the allotted time window.
This unfortunate state of affairs opened the door for companies that had developed backup solutions specifically for virtual environments. Because they were built with virtualization in mind (and, therefore, operated without software agents), not only could these new backup software solutions back up a virtual environment faster than legacy backup solutions, but they could also take full advantage of the virtual platform to offer functions and features that were previously not possible within a physical environment.