In the last few years, Quest Software has acquired a number of companies in the data protection space – most notably Vizioncore, with its vRanger product, and BakBone Software, with its NetVault line of products. However, these acquisitions raise questions like: “Where is Quest Software going with these different products lines?“; “What will they look like?“; and, “What level of integration does Quest plan to deliver?” In the final part of my interview series with Quest’s Senior VP of Data Protection, Walter Angerer, he answers the questions that are on the minds of many.
Jerome: Backup as we know it today – fulls, incrementals, differentials – may never go completely away, but that approach is arguably on the decline, and transforming into a CDP or snapshot-like environment. Do you also see that occurring, and, if so, what are the implications for backup providers and people who use backup software?
Walter: The CDP or snapshot approach that keeps track of changed blocks will likely be the way backups are done going forward. At the very least, it will play a much more dominant role, especially given the amount of data being created in the form of ever larger data sets and powerful databases.
That’s going to force us to become even more efficient with our data protection solutions, and I believe this will give CDP a bit of second life. So, we definitely expect to see more utilization of CDP technology as backup continues to evolve to account for rapid data growth.
In terms of snapshots and alternative backup approaches, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out. We’ve seen a lot of adoption of array-based snapshot technology in the last 2 – 3 years, but one of the drawbacks with this approach is that while it works well with physical and virtual servers, we’re not sure how well it will integrate with cloud environments. As more organizations create heterogeneous environments and move to public, private and hybrid cloud configurations, it’s not yet entirely clear how array-based snapshot methodologies will fit.
Jerome: Let’s turn our attention to Quest Software and how it is evolving. It has made a number of acquisitions over the last few years – Vizioncore a few years ago and BakBone Software about a year ago – giving it a robust portfolio of backup software. Can you tell us what is occurring with these lines?
Walter: We have focused our data protection business on three core areas, namely application recovery, ease of use, and performance. We talked earlier about how the challenge of having one good copy of data has been largely resolved, so we’re really focusing on the restore side of the equation.
Let’s start with the idea of application recovery. One of the interesting things about Quest is that while legacy vendors have long been focused on building traditional backup software, Quest’s portfolio has been built around core technologies designed to enable rapid recovery of critical applications.
As such, the main focus for us in 2011 was to find ways to take advantage these core Quest backup technologies and start integrating them and bringing them more broadly into the data protection portfolio, in order to enhance the protection capabilities of both vRanger and NetVault Backup. We want to make application recoveries much simpler and easier for users to execute.
In addition to application recovery, ease of use has been another major area of focus for us. A big problem with data protection today is how complicated backup products have become. If you look at most truly heterogeneous, enterprise backup products, most of them are complex systems that are challenging to install, configure, and get up and running.
At Quest, we have focused on making our backup software much easier to setup and run. Quest vRanger has long been a much easier product to use than most competitive products, and that’s something we continue to build on. In addition, we believe NetVault Backup is the only truly heterogeneous, enterprise-class backup solution that you can download directly from a vendor’s website, install yourself and start operating.
But that’s really just one component of what we consider ease of use. If a product is truly easy to use, it needs to be current in its application support. It has to provide up-to-date support for the latest versions of VMware vSphere, Oracle databases, and other applications in use by customers in production environments. If a product is not up to date with the applications that companies are protecting, then customers have to find other products to protect those environments, and that just makes backup all the more complicated.
So, we’re really focused on making sure we stay up-to-date with all the levels of support customers need. Specifically, we want to make sure we are always first to market with new features that can fully support VMware and all of its new capabilities. To that end, Quest adapted an agile development process in 2011 for vRanger. That resulted in Quest shipping four releases of vRanger in 2011, and it’s why we’re still one of the only vendors to have achieved logo-ready status for VMware vSphere 5.
Even with all the new competition that has entered the VMware backup space, vRanger is still the fastest and easiest way to protect a virtual environment. We have done a lot of work and spent a great deal of time enhancing performance of backups and recoveries in virtual environments, and that shows up in vRanger’s performance. In addition, we have also integrated vRanger with our NetVault SmartDisk technology, so virtualized environments can realize the benefits of true enterprise-class deduplication.
Jerome: Can you provide me some examples as to what you are doing in NAS and integration with NAS arrays?
Walter: NetVault has traditionally been a leading product in the NAS space with its NDMP capabilities. NDMP is the best way to protect NAS environments, so what we have done is enable customers to conduct block-level incremental backups using NDMP. That becomes a huge performance differentiator when protecting NAS.
Jerome: At what point should companies using both NetVault and vRanger consolidate into one product, or should they continue using both?
Walter: That is a very good question. Most of the time, Quest’s customers are happy using both, and both products have proven attractive at both ends of the SMB/enterprise spectrum. This might surprise people, but we see many SMB-centric customers – customers with requirements to protect both physical and virtual environments – gravitating towards NetVault Backup. Conversely, we have enterprise customers with extremely large environments who choose to use vRanger for their virtual protection needs.
Down the road, it could well be that as Quest keeps enhancing NetVault’s virtual backup capabilities, customers consolidate on one product. But again, it really varies based on the specific need of the customer.
Jerome: So it sounds like Quest will keep both backup software products for the foreseeable future, but may create a “manager of managers” to manage both products from a single console?
Walter: We definitely plan to keep both products around. Companies can buy both products with full confidence that we will continue to develop, enhance and support them to the fullest extent. Neither product will be disappearing in any way, shape,
or form. There is, however, a plan to create a “manager of managers” console that will encompass not only vRanger and NetVault Backup, but all of Quest’s data protection technologies. We should be making a formal announcement about this new technology very soon. It’s one we think is really going to shake up the market.
In Part I
of this interview series Walter and I discuss how backup is changing
and examine the quantum leaps forward that have occurred in how backup
and recovery are done.
In Part II
of this interview series, Walter and I will explore how backup software
needs to evolve to address new requirements to manage recovery as well
as the new challenges that Big Data is placing on data protection and
In Part III
of this interview series, we look at how backup software is evolving in
light of the new challenges that server virtualization creates, in
order to become smarter, more agile and do a lot more than backup.
In Part IV of this interview series, we explore whether or not virtualization only backup software solutions can survive long term.