Great article and debate concerning the benefits of virtualization for small business over at InformationWeek SMB (Virtualization for Small Business: When Does It Make Sense? by Fredric Paul)  The same VMware survey that I discussed a few days ago in this blog is what raised the debate.

What Paul does in his article is raise the issue that virtualization may not be appropriate for smaller businesses.  How small?  That gets fuzzy in the article; however, the author goes to Dell and gets an opinion that if you have five servers running at 30%-45% capacity and everything is going smoothly, that you don’t need virtualization.

I’m not sure that this is all that controversial.  But then Paul quotes Gene Mark as saying

“Most of the 27 million small business owners in this country have little need for virtualization. Dithmer gets that most of us have fewer than five or six servers in our companies. He understands that most of us are not running high-growth, high-storage-type applications.”

This isn’t that surprising.  Dell wants small and medium businesses to buy more servers.  VMware wants small and medium businesses to buy its software and thus buy fewer servers.  The reality of which is the best strategy for a particular company depends primarily on the specifics of the small and medium business itself.

But then VMware overreaches in the article and claims that one of the benefits of virtualization is “integrated backup, business continuity, and high availability.”

Integrated backup?  Okay, first, in terms of VMware vSphere 4, the only thing that VMware could be talking about would be its Data Recovery virtual appliance.  This is a pretty interesting definition of “integrated.”  Data Recovery is a separate appliance that requires a separate storage suite.  Moreover, it is incredibly processor intensive – putting it on the same physical server as your other virtual machines is going to give administrators tremendous headaches in terms of managing CPU and I/O performance.  It’s no more “integrated” than my iPhone is integrated with my Mac.

It’s the nature of technology companies to overreach in terms of competing with each other.  Nature of the beast.  But when you start misrepresenting technology to buyers and customers in a desperate bid to drive market share  – it’s short-term foolish and long-term disastrous.

Comments

  1. vDR does not require a separate “storage suite”. You can point it's repository at a local or SAN disk.

    What it doesn't do, which is required for DR is allow to the data repository to be backed up to tape. This is a showstopper for most businesses.

    VMware appears to want to “offer” a backup solution, but not irk the 3rd party BUP ecosystem.

    Once more mature, vDR with a to-tape option, could be all that most SMBs need for BUP.

    We will see

  2. We're in a semantic debate on the definition of “storage suite” – you're just substituting one medium (disk) for another (tape.) Let me rephrase. If you don't want to lose your data if your DAS, NAS, or SAN goes down, then you should point vDR to some separate storage. I think what you're advocating is using the same storage that you backed up as temporary storage and then writing it to tape. Certainly is possible if you have the spare space on your primary storage and your read/write to it and then your read/write to your tertiary storage doesn't get in your way. But as long as you go to some separated storage – disk or tape – then it works – if of course you can recover the tape-based data when you need it.

    I'm not a big fan of tape (given the high recovery failure rates that exist), and with disk pricing coming down I'd use a D2D system – but then again, I work for a D2D company so you have to factor that in.

    But what I'd note is that when you say “all that most SMBs need for BUP” you really mean “if SMBs do 100% virtualization at not only the server level but at the edge (PCs, notebooks, etc.) then that's all that most SMBs need for BUP.” And even then, I'd substitute a media with a higher recovery rate and something where I get retention without having to physically load/unload tapes. And I'd substitute some type of enterprise backup backplane so that I could handle heterogeneous systems in case I wanted to spend $89 on a terabyte of DAS storage versus a ton of money on some SAN storage.

  3. We're in a semantic debate on the definition of “storage suite” – you're just substituting one medium (disk) for another (tape.) Let me rephrase. If you don't want to lose your data if your DAS, NAS, or SAN goes down, then you should point vDR to some separate storage. I think what you're advocating is using the same storage that you backed up as temporary storage and then writing it to tape. Certainly is possible if you have the spare space on your primary storage and your read/write to it and then your read/write to your tertiary storage doesn't get in your way. But as long as you go to some separated storage – disk or tape – then it works – if of course you can recover the tape-based data when you need it.

    I'm not a big fan of tape (given the high recovery failure rates that exist), and with disk pricing coming down I'd use a D2D system – but then again, I work for a D2D company so you have to factor that in.

    But what I'd note is that when you say “all that most SMBs need for BUP” you really mean “if SMBs do 100% virtualization at not only the server level but at the edge (PCs, notebooks, etc.) then that's all that most SMBs need for BUP.” And even then, I'd substitute a media with a higher recovery rate and something where I get retention without having to physically load/unload tapes. And I'd substitute some type of enterprise backup backplane so that I could handle heterogeneous systems in case I wanted to spend $89 on a terabyte of DAS storage versus a ton of money on some SAN storage.

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