"Ever wished you could simply compress a copy of a running VM and save it to disk. Well now, you can!"
OK, it sounds like a rather cheesy TV commercial, but it's also the message that backup, replication and server virtualization management software company Veeam is sending out with its new free VeeamZIP backup capability, released on Monday.
The purpose of VeeamZIP is to provide a quick and simple way to make ad-hoc backups of running VMware of Hyper-V VMs that don't end up taking up terabytes of storage space. VeeamZIP manages this rather efficiently, so that even if a VM has been provisioned at 1TB, the VeeamZIP backup might only take up a few gigabytes. This is a rather welcome change, as converting VMs to NTFS often results in files getting larger rather than smaller.
"This is WinZip for your VM," says Doug Hazelman, Veeam's chief evangelist. Use cases for VeeamZIP include backing up a VM running on a VMware or Microsoft hypervisor on to a memory stick to take home with you to work on (including any required XML files, along with Hyper-V VHD files), making a copy to archive before decommissioning a machine that you don't think is needed any more (but have a nagging thought in the back of your mind that might not be the case after all), or simply making a quick copy before applying a new patch (just in case).
"Our goal is that this will become a vital tool in every server virtualization administrator's tool bag," says Hazelman. It is intended to replace the company's now rather obsolete FastSCP tool which made it possible to copy ESX(i) files quickly, but without the compression. You also have to suspect that Veeam — a marketing-savvy company if ever there was one — is fully aware of the PR value of VeeamZIP.
If this were indeed a TV commercial, now would be the time for the "But wait, there's more!" part. That's because VeeamZIP is actually part of a free mini-suite of virtualization technology tools called Veeam Backup Free Edition. Aside from the ability to make VeeamZIP backups, the suite lets you restore individual guest files directly from an image-level backup.
Veeam Backup Free Edition also lets you carry out a sort of poor man's vMotion, or perhaps a better description is a kind of Quick Migration — you can migrate a running VM to any server virtualization host or datastore even if you don't use clusters or shared storage, the company says. There is no limit on the number of hosts or VMs you can use the suite with.
The free suite of tools was released on exactly the same day (co-incidence? I think not) as Veeam Backup and Replication 6.1, the latest upgrade to the company's core VMware and Hyper-V product. In fact, it's really the same base product, but paying for a license unlocks features that are unavailable in the Free Edition and turns it into the full product.
The new version includes the ability to boot and run a VM directly from a compressed, deduped backup file to minimize disruption while a VM is restored back to the production environment, and it extends support for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager. which can be used in private cloud environments. Pricing is per CPU socket, starting at $699 for the standard edition.
If VeeamZIP does what it's supposed to, then it's a good bet that VeeamZIP and Veeam Backup Free Edition will end up being used by a fair number of Hyper-V and ESXi virtualization administrators. It will also put Veeam Backup and Replication onto their radar screens and that, of course, is exactly what Veeam wants.
But if what Veeam has to offer is a free and genuinely useful tool — rather than, say, just an annoying TV commercial — then who can complain?
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.