In-Depth

Snapshot: Startup Veeam Focuses on Total Package

Old habits die hard and this enterprise player gets back in the game to help customers manage enterprise virtual platforms.

Ratmir Timashev is no stranger to building companies. Timashev started Aelita Software more than 10 years ago and sold that company to Quest Software Inc. in 2004 for a cool $115 million. A Quest non-compete wasn't about to stem Timashev's entrepreneurial drive, and in 2006 he started Amust Software. Because Amust is a consumer-focused concern, the Quest non-compete didn't apply.

But Timashev's heart is in another market. "Our expertise is in the enterprise," Timashev explains. So who is this "we"? While Timashev may be the public face, his old roommate from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Andrei Baronov, has been there every step of the way, and has been a key technical driver of all Timashev startups.

The latest project is Veeam Software, a company founded last year aimed at virtualization management.

The goal? Building a complete, end-to-end management solution.

Building from Scratch
Many established storage and management companies are embracing virtualization by adding virtualization capabilities onto existing products. Timashev believes this is the wrong approach.

"Virtualization is very disruptive. Things work very differently in virtualized environments. [When it comes to] systems management tools, just extensions are not going to work. We're building our products from scratch," Timashev explains.

Don't let the fact that the company only began seriously shipping products late last year fool you. Veeam is working on, and is already shipping, new versions of all its core products.

The first tool was the free VMware file management product FastSCP. Following the success of that product, Veeam built a raft of commercial tools that it is now busily enhancing.

The company's reporting tool, Veeam Reporter, is quickly moving upscale. A new enterprise version is due in May that can report on more elements by using Microsoft SQL Server as its back-end. Reporter tracks disk space, the status of logical disks and how virtual machines (VMs) are using data stores.

An update to the base platform, Reporter 3.0, is supposed to ship in March, and has an expanded ability to report on storage, memory, networking and CPU. This kind of tracking will allow IT to generate chargeback reports.

Another tool, Veeam Configurator, is designed as an extension of VMware's VirtualCenter. Configurator automates functions that usually require scripts. Timashev argues that 90 percent of ESX admins have a Windows background, so he gave Configurator a Windows GUI-based console.

The latest revision, Configurator 2.0, is also due this month. This template-based tool includes compliance checking, so IT can build templates for standard configurations, then check to see if installations are in compliance with the templates.

Breaking New Ground
One of Veeam's goals is to make sure all of its tools work the same -- and work together. "Veeam is on the right track. They're doing things in an integrated way. There are a lot of one-off gap fillers," notes Andi Mann, research director for analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo.

The new flagship is Veeam Backup, announced at the VMworld in Cannes in February. The tool combines backup and replication: The backup's incremental, so you make one full copy and then track changes. The changes are tracked through time, so if a recent backup is corrupt, the system throws out the latest changes and reverts to an earlier, non-corrupt backup. This approach reduces storage load, but takes longer to restore.

There's also so-called Synthetic backup. Synthetic backup differs from incremental in a seemingly subtle way, Mann explains. Full backups store new, complete copies, while incremental backups store updates. Synthetic backups add the increments of the full backup into one master backup. When you restore, you can do it all at once, rather than restoring an old backup and then adding the incremental updates.

Veeam Software Lineup

Veeam Backup: Combines backup and replication. Replication offers faster recovery, but is more expensive and requires a spare ESX Server.

Veeam Configurator: A Windows GUI-based VMware setup tool.

Veeam FastSCP: A free ESX file management tool.

Veeam Monitor: A performance management tool that tracks disk, network, CPU and memory.

Veeam Reporter: Discovers and documents your virtual network, including virtual machines, network elements and storage.

Veeam Storage: Provides backup and replication.

-- D.B.

 

The replication part of the tool involves dumping full, active replicas of your VMs on another ESX Server. Obviously this is much more expensive, but with the price comes more reliability and far more instant restores. The Veeam tool can also restore individual files. Veeam Backup works with VMware Consolidated Backup, which reportedly offers faster SAN-based backups and restores.

EMA's Mann believes Veeam is breaking new ground in storage. "They're doing actual backup and recovery of virtual environments," Mann explains. "The physical backup products really don't work that well [in virtual environments]. You really need to get down to the file level."

Mann points to VizionCore as another vendor with a fresh virtualization storage story. Mann doesn't believe that storage tools have to be built from the ground up for virtualization, but they do need dedicated virtual capabilities.

The Future
Veeam is now a full-fledged company with some 50 employees. In the short term, Veeam is building a suite that includes Reporter, Configurator and Monitor. In the longer term, the company is eyeing other virtual platforms.

"Right now the opportunity is in ESX. Once Microsoft ships Hyper-V, maybe a year later, then we will be ready. We're actively looking at Microsoft development," Timashev says, though he's not so sure about Xen.

Veeam is waiting to see how the Xen market develops and whether the Microsoft/Xen relationship makes developing for both platforms more common.

Besides Veeam and Amust, Timashev and Baranov are behind ABRT Venture Fund, a venture capital fund that bridges the divide between Russia and the United States. The fund is an investor in Acronis, a storage vendor that is also dipping its toes in the virtualization waters.

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