Copying your backups offsite or to a public cloud can be a slow and bandwidth-hogging exercise in frustration. The common solutions to this problem are beefing up the network bandwidth between sites or using a pair of WAN acceleration appliances.
WAN accelerators do a good job, but some of the optimizations they carry out on traffic transfers are designed to speed up specific "chatty" applications like Exchange. When it comes to sending backups over the wire, more general optimization techniques such as caching and compression are more important, short of someone coming out with some backup-specific optimizations.
And that, apparently, is exactly what Veeam is trying to do with the latest (v7) version of its Backup and Replication software for the VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.
In a new top-end edition called Enterprise Plus, the company is introducing WAN acceleration into the software itself. It claims that this can result in copying data to offsite locations up to 50 times faster than a regular file copy.
WAN accelerators are usually fairly expensive appliances, so how is Veeam able to do this as well as it claims in software? "We understand the data streams and the data structure (of the Veeam application) better than a general purpose accelerator," explains Doug Hazelman, the company's senior director of product strategy. "We also have an infinite cache, as we know what is at both ends," he adds.
What he means by this is that once a backup copy has been made and sent to a remote site, the software at the primary site knows what is in the remote copy. The entire remote copy can therefore be used as a cache, and data that is already at the remote site doesn't need to be transmitted over the wire again. "This makes the efficiency much greater, even though this is all being done through software," he says.
There's another string to the Enterprise Plus bow, but it's only relevant if you use HP StoreVirtual Storage and HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage. Essentially, Veeam's software supports backups from SAN snapshots, which Hazelman says results in super-fast backups without the disruption that you get if you use hypervisor-based snapshots.
"The advantage of this approach is that there is far less impact on the VM so you can do snapshots more often. If you do it on the hypervisor then VM performance goes down, but by doing snapshots at the storage layer you don't have to worry," says Hazelman.
"The disadvantage is that we only support HP storage at this stage, though we are talking to other storage vendors and we may have support for them next year," he adds.
Using storage snapshots in combination with virtualization technology in this way enables IT admins to make backups and replicas as often as once every 15 minutes during business hours, which dramatically improves RPO, according to Ratmir Timashev, the company's CEO. "IT can back up three or four times every hour if they desire, ensuring that in the event that some or all of the production environment goes down, little, if any, data will be lost."
Veeam is certainly a company with a mission when it comes to backup and replication in environments that use server virtualization, and it keeps on piling on new features that appear to be worthwhile. You can't help thinking that in a few years it will be hard to find a product like this that doesn't have its own WAN acceleration built in.
The new WAN acceleration and backup from storage snapshots features will be available with the release of Backup & Replication v7, due in Q3 2013, in the Enterprise Plus Edition. Customers who purchase or upgrade to the Enterprise Edition of the current v6.5 product by July 1 will be entitled to a free upgrade to the Enterprise Plus Edition through November 1, 2013.
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.