Monday, 15 July 2013

Veeam Management Suite Wish List

We've been running Veeam Backup & Replication (B&R) for a couple of years after I saw it demoed at the London VMUG. It's a great product that works well and has proven itself many times when we've had to restore a VM. It's not perfect (what is?) but overall, it's definitely our go-to backup product.

The Veeam Management Suite is a package that combines B&R with Veeam ONE, itself a suite of three products: Veeam Monitor, Reporter and Business View.

Veeam ONE competes with other VMware monitoring and reporting solutions such as VMware's vCenter Operations (VCOPS) and VMTurbo Operations Manager.

We opted for Veeam ONE as it provides a good balance between cost and features. Personally, I prefer the VCOPS user interface (especially the way it now integrates with the vSphere Web Client) and it's a seriously powerful product, but the cost is prohibitive in our environment.

We did look seriously at VMTurbo, and while I think its "Intelligent Workload Management" and "Economic Scheduling Engine" are very clever, I didn't think that the interface was accessible enough for our IT operations support team. Very whizzy, but too complicated.

In contrast, although Veeam ONE is less sophisticated than some of the above products in certain areas, the Veeam ONE Monitor interface is very functional and gives clear remediation steps for alarms. We needed to get a product that could help us with our proactive monitoring and ongoing capacity planning, and Veeam ONE meets these needs.

With both products due a version 7 refresh this year, these are the highlights that I'm excited about:

vCloud Director support

Without a doubt, this is the "must-have" feature for us and the arrival of version 7 will coincide with the deployment of vCloud Director (vCD) into our environment.

Having the ability to backup all the vCloud metadata and restore vApps back into the vCD infrastructure is an essential component that has, until now, been unsatisfactory. Veeam should be rightly proud that they have the first vCD backup/restore solution.

vSphere Web Client plugin

From vSphere 5.1, the Web Client has become the primary interface to vCenter. Veeam B&R 7 will introduce a plugin that allows visibility into backup jobs through the Web Client.

It looks pretty decent and this kind of integration reduces the number of applications vSphere admins have to open  in order to keep track of their infrastructure.

Tape support

Tape is dead. Except for all the places where it isn't!

For many organisations, bandwidth costs mean off-site backups can only be effectively done using tape. Apparently any tape drive or library that can be seen by Windows will be usable and this will help many organisations overcome a clunky backup approach that currently consists of multiple backup applications.

WAN acceleration

I'm tentatively excited about this because although the compression ratios look impressive, I'll need to do some testing when B&R 7 is released to see how effective it is in our environment. Certainly having another option alongside the much wanted tape support would be good for those really important, mission-critical VMs.

The Wishlist

Although the above additions will make Veeam 7 a compelling upgrade in itself, there are some features I'd like to see:

A vCenter specific backup job

There has been a long running "challenge" in backing up vCenter using VSS. The provided solution is to manually add the ESXi host on which vCenter is located and backup that way. Which is fine until the vCenter VM is moved to another host (via automated DRS, manual vMotion or the result of an HA failover).

Given that computers are designed to automate repetitive tasks for us, I'd like to see a Veeam backup job type that is designed specifically for vCenter and when run, queries vCenter to find out which host its on and then directly connects to that host to perform the backup.

I appreciate that there is likely to be more complexity under the hood to solve this problem, but the current method is unsatisfactory and requires too much manual intervention.

NetApp snapshot support

Veeam has obviously got a good relationship with HP and has introduced the ability to backup Lefthand SAN snapshots. As a NetApp customer, I'd love to see the same functionality for the NetApp filers.


VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is very impressive and allows an admin to define a "run book", essentially a series of steps to perform should DR be invoked. This includes the order in which VMs should be started, any IP address changes or network settings that need to be modified for the remote site, etc. With it, a site can be failed over (and back) by clicking a button.

Although Veeam B&R is currently focused on replication of VMs to another site, there appears to be a huge gap in the market for something that sits above the replication functionality and provides SRM functionality at a lower price point.

Backup and Restore Self Service

vSphere 5.1 is bundled with the VMware Data Protection (VDP) appliance. Based on EMC Avamar technology, this basic (and limited) backup product has a couple of nice features. Firstly, it integrates seamlessly with the vSphere Web Client (as will Avamar 7). Secondly, it provides a self-service interface that allows end users to restore their own files (as demoed on Chad's blog). I know that Veeam Enterprise Manager has similar functionality, but I'd like to take it a step further.

It would be useful to give users the ability to specify their own VM backup and restore jobs. As vCloud Director enables end users to provision their own VMs, there needs to be a way to allow these VMs to be scheduled for backup and then restore them in the future, without the need to log a call with IT.

I appreciate that there are lots of factors to consider when allowing end users to run their own backups such as how to quota backup repository space or prevent developers from backing up their VMs every hour ("just in case"), but in a multi-tenant environment, having the ability to delegate this functionality becomes important.

It's possible that this functionality may be in version 7 (I don't know, I'm not a beta tester).

Veeam ONE UI integration

There is some UI inconsistency across the Veeam ONE products. Monitor is a traditional Windows application, while Reporter and Business View are web applications. None of the above look like the Backup & Replication user interface.

Similarly, the Veeam Enterprise Manager is a web application, but has a different look and feel to the other products.

Although it's not the end of the world, I'd like to see some tighter integration between the three ONE products, Enterprise Manager and B&R to enable the oft-promised "single pane of glass". At the moment, the multiple separate icons on my desktop highlight how there is more integration to do at the front end.

As I've previously commented, I like it when applications smoothly integrate with vSphere Web Client. VMware have done this with VCOPS Foundation, and Veeam themselves will with B&R 7. This would be the logical conclusion of a UI merge for Veeam ONE.

And while the existing interfaces are functional, they're not beautiful and lack the "wow" factor when compared with vCenter Operations Manager.

Veeam ONE appliance

Okay, so this is unlikely to happen, but many of the competing solutions come in the form of virtual appliances on Linux. They don't require a separate database install or Windows licence. With VMware moving towards a Linux based appliance for vCenter Server, this appears to be the future.

I'm not really expecting this one, since Veeam support both VMware and Hyper-V, but hey, it's a wish list.

Chargeback Reporting

I've not had the opportunity to dig into all the reports thoroughly, so this functionality may already exist (but I've not found it after a quick look).

Veeam Business View provides a way to group VMs logically, such as by business unit. I'd like to see the ability to be able to define costs for vCPU, vRAM, datastores and operating systems and be able to assign these properties to specific business units (or Business View entities). With the addition of a report pack, we would then have the ability to generate custom chargeback reports for our vCloud environment.

If this sounds like VMware Chargeback Manager then its because Veeam seem to be almost there with it. Most of the pieces are already in place and it would be a useful addition.

Final thoughts

The Veeam Management Suite, especially the ONE products provide a lower cost alternative to the expensive, do-everything VMware solutions. Veeam could expand its existing products to compete in other areas where VMware is not affordable to many companies, specifically in the areas of disaster recovery and VM chargeback.

Last year's "free" upgrade for vSphere Enterprise Plus customers to the vCloud Suite Standard Edition has given many organisations access to vCloud Director and vCloud Networking and Security. But the vCloud Suite Standard Edition lacks chargeback and SRM functionality.

This has to be an opportunity for third parties such as Veeam...