Read this if you’re thinking of going 100% agentless!

Since the beginning of backup times (almost), backing up specific platforms has typically required an agent optimized for the environment in question.  Typically, you’d get one agent installed on each server, the agent would interact with the backup engine/server and do its thing.  This became very cumbersome when virtualization exploded, when adding a server (virtual) could be easily done with one phone call to your favorite admin. Not just one, but dozens or hundreds. It meant installing one agent on each virtual machine, which quickly became cumbersome and operationally created data protection gaps and issues.

Along came agentless backup which significantly reduced the difficulty associated with backing up virtual machines.  With this approach, you can capture all of the VMs with a proxy server without having to install an agent in each virtual machine.  Less administration, less data loss exposure…what else could be better? It certainly made agent backup look old and clunky.

Not so fast…. As is often the case, there’s more than meets the eye.  You can’t just go 100% agentless…Here’s why:

  • With VMware, any virtual machine that does not use native VMFS cannot be properly protected “agentless-ly” leveraging the native VMware API’s.  Raw Device Maps (RDM’S), and SQL Cluster disks are both examples where a different File System to VMFS is used.
  • Our competitor Company V’s agentless technology, for example, can’t protect these systems.  In contrast, Arcserve easily can through the installation of an agent.  In a recent conversation with our field, we confirmed that we often see customers who use RDM’s being told by Company V that they have to convert them to ‘normal’ virtual machines.  That’s a dirty little secret, and something that many customers just won’t deal with. (By the way, this company’s recent announcement around agent deserves serious inspection – a glorified desktop agent is not the same thing as a full-featured server agent.)

To quote one of our field leads: “Our physical server support through the UDP agent install is a significant advantage over Virtual only agentless solutions.  The ability to be able to protect and recover physical machines as bare metal, as virtual machines or at an object and file level is obvious, but it also allows us to protect virtual machines that are not supported by the native tools and API’s.  There are also circumstances where it may be preferable to install an agent inside the virtual machine – for example if the virtual machine is very large or has a very high change rate, or if the VM Tools are perhaps not properly configured or up to date.”

Also, with our High Availability module, which provides Continuous Data Protection, Fail Over, Fail Back and more, supporting replication and backup of an MSCS cluster running on Windows 2008 R2 in VMware with physical RDM is easy.  It is however a big issue with our competitors Company V and Company Z.  In addition, remember that Arcserve offers great deduplication, global across nodes.  Not everyone does that!

Beware of 100% agentless solutions – they just don’t cut it in many cases!

Arcserve UDP Appliances vs. Company “U”

The purpose-built appliance market has drastically changed in the past year, particularly in the mid-market. Historically, organizations looking to purchase all-in-one backup and recovery appliances only had a few limited choices, and specifically in the sub-100TB segment of source backup data.

The emergence of Arcserve UDP Appliances is changing the game, in particular for existing customers and prospects of Company U. There many reasons to underscore the acceleration of Arcserve UDP Appliances, and the subsequent reversal in market adoption for Company U’s solution.

While I will provide more specific detail below, let me net it out executive summary style:

  • Arcserve UDP Appliances are more cost-effective and provide more features than company U; one reason being their poor deduplication technology.
  • Company U’s reviews and tech support complaints on public community boards are at an all- time high.
  • Arcserve’s business is growing across the board, and our appliances and software have become the natural replacement for the aging and inefficient technologies in many organizations.

The smoking gun

One of the ways to determine marketing claims is to simply take a look at specifications and features. While Company U offers data deduplication – something you need as an end-user – it clearly lacks efficiency compared to the deduplication technology delivered by Arcserve..

How do you check? It’s simple: Take a look at the recommended configurations to see what model you’d need (how much on board-storage) to protect the amount of backup data (source data) you have in your environment, given some retention parameters.

But be careful, because Company U will tell you that its 120TB raw storage system can backup 80TB of data. (As a side note, in talking to customers in the field we believe it’s actually closer to 50TB – but let’s go with 80TB.) Conversely, Arcserve recommends a 30TB raw storage system for protecting roughly 90TB of source data. Note the difference here; needing 120TB vs 30TB to backup roughly the same amount of source data. In addition, it takes a 4U rack for Company U whereas the Arcserve UDP Appliance only requires a 2U rack.

Why does this matter? Read on to learn more about key differences in features and capabilities.

More features – that work

Deduplication:

Arcserve’s deduplication technology is global source-based deduplication. This means that the deduplication is shared across all appliances and/or software/server deployments, and allows us to deliver extremely high levels of storage space savings (please see what our customers said here).

On the other hand, Company U uses a combination of host backup deduplication and inline deduplication, which means there’s always going to be some post-processing of the data. Further, it’s only central to that one appliance – so if you have five Company U appliances, they can’t share the deduplication store.

Recently, Company U added “inline” deduplication – a departure from the initial post processing. However, it’s only file, VMs, Exchange and SQL data. This means data that isn’t inline is still post-processed, such as Oracle data and bare metal file system backup data. In this scenario, you still need a landing a zone and the backup data store needs a lot of storage – hence the specifications discussed above.

Deduplication meets replication – or not:

Arcserve UDP delivers replication across appliances or software RPS servers (UDP’s “brains”) and is a key differentiator. Not only can you do can do restores from these instances, but it’s also great for scalability.

In contrast, Company U doesn’t scale well for the enterprise – each appliance has its own engine, and you have to manage them individually (you can connect from one and see all of them, but there is no global deduplication).

Further, Company U can only do many to one, or one to one – meaning that one appliance can only go to one target of replication. In the words of one customer, “if you have over five appliances, it’s unusable.” There have been many reports of replications issues, where their customers claim “It stops. It’s not working – the replication is cued up and not keeping up.” Alternatively, Arcserve allows you to do many to one, one to many or pretty much any permutation that makes sense for your environment.

Hypervisors:

Bottom line: Company U doesn’t offer cross-hypervisor capabilities. To be fair, they can do Physical to Virtual for Windows machines however to do so, they have to put an agent on the Windows machine and back that up. You can put that image in VMware or HyperV, and on the physical appliance you can run Windows physical backups on their Linux appliance – Windows Instant Recovery. But you would still need an agent on the virtual machines.

In comparison, Arcserve UDP software and appliances support cross-hypervisor recoveries or migrations and agentless backup without limitations. Just what you would expect from a three-time Best of VMworld award winner

User Interface:

Company U debuted a new (much nicer) interface it its 9.0 version. I seem to remember older versions still mentioning OS/2 Warp as OS options, so it was time for a face lift. Nicely done. Except that not everything can be done through it, and you still have to go back to the old interface (that’s what we’ve heard anyway). Oh well.

Cloud: Nebulous:

Company U can go to Cloud, but only directly. While this sounds interesting, you can’t do appliance disk to appliance disk to cloud – or multi-hop, if you will. This is a huge operational limitation, and given the poor deduplication ratios, you likely need to watch you bandwidth closely.

Tape: What?

Check out Arcserve’s impressive support for tape capabilities. Company U offers no support for multiple tape drives, just one drive at a time, and 99% of the vendors are not on the compatibility matrix (I may be exaggerating, but it’s very limited).

Money Talks

Using publicly available list prices, it’s easy to plot a comparison of the cost of protecting 1TB of source data by vendor, based on the publicly recommended specifications. In other words, how much will it cost you to backup 1TB of data with Company U vs. Arcserve. Below are the results with three-year maintenance included (apples-to-apples comparison).

Cost per Source TB

Arcserve also offers a series of models that come with Virtual Standby capabilities. To be complete, here’s what the picture looks like if we compare these models:

Cost per source TB 2
Need we say more?