Using not just one type of hypervisor? A challenge for backup providers

Companies are increasingly interested in using free tools for server virtualization. However, while this choice has its advantages, it also has certain drawbacks, such as limited selection of tools for backing up virtual machines.

In the world of new technologies, an up-and-coming buzzword is freedom of choice. Users don’t want to be dependent on one provider because they know how difficult it can be to renegotiate their agreement or change to solutions provided by competitors. Up until not long ago, customers had practically no room for maneuver in some areas. One classic example is the market for systems designed for server virtualization. Vmware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper V – such was the dilemma faced by organizations looking for a hypervisor. But all that is now history. Recent years have seen dynamic development of products based on KVM technology. Entrepreneurs noticed that they were no longer stuck with Microsoft or VMware, and increasingly started to reach out for alternative solutions. This doesn’t change the fact that vSphere, as well as Hyper-V, continue to be the most popular server virtualization systems. It’s also worth noting that companies are starting to use heterogeneous environments, featuring at least two different virtualization platforms.

More than one hypervisor

According to the Enterprise Strategy Group, 65% of companies and institutions use more than one hypervisor. Almost identical were the results of research conducted by Open Virtualization Pro, published in their report ‘Server Virtualization Trends Q1 2020’. Data collected by analysts of the portal shows us that 66% of respondents have between 2 and 4 server virtualization programs. Jan Sobieszczański, CEO at Storware, admits that since changing hardware or software is relatively easy, it is not surprising that companies are continually looking for more effective solutions that provide a better return on investment.

 

Almost 35% of companies that participated in the Open Virtualization Pro study plan to change or implement virtualization software. The solutions most often considered by entrepreneurs are VMware (21%) and oVirt (21%). Solutions available as open source software are on an upward trend, and include Red Hat Virtualization, Proxmox, oVirt, Virtuozzo and Xen Server. According to the Open Virtualization Pro report mentioned earlier, only 40% of respondents declared that they use commercial software.

New virtualizers in hyperconverged systems

The last two years have seen a significant increase in the popularity of hyperconverged systems. Interestingly, some manufacturers have added free virtualizers to their solutions. The precursor of this trend is Nutanix, which offers its own Acropolis HV hypervisor as part of the standard hyperconverged platform package. Importantly, the system is also compatible with VMware vSphere, but many clients choose Acropolis HV due to the reduced cost. Another infrastructure manufacturer, Scale Computing, is going down the same path. As part of its system, the company offers the HC3 virtualization platform, which is proving to be of great interest to medium-sized companies.

Two hypervisors better than one

 

Research by the Enterprise Strategy Group and Open Virtualization Pro show that most organizations use more than one virtualization platform. At first glance, it would seem that using two different hypervisors is done purely on a whim. Opponents of this solution claim that it introduces unnecessary chaos into the server room and may give rise to problems related to ensuring proper protection for virtual machines. However, in spite of popular opinion, it’s a step worth taking. Company servers usually have to deal with a varied workload connected to production, testing and critical business processes, and as a result play a range of different roles in organizations. Understanding what the workload involves and how it is distributed in time is often the deciding factor in choosing the most suitable hypervisor. The average company does not usually need three different server virtualization solutions, two are perfectly sufficient. For systems which can remain offline for a certain period, such as test servers, a good choice can be a reliable open source hypervisor which does not need to provide the advanced functionality available in solutions from the top shelf.

Heterogeneous environments reduce costs

The most common reason for implementing an environment with two hypervisors is to save money. VMware and vSphere deservedly have a good reputation among users, but they cost an arm and a leg. Is it really worth using such a virtualizer at all workload levels? In many cases, the answer is: no.

Test servers are usually used in upgrade cycles or sandbox environments. In any case, they do not require the use of top-class virtualization platforms. What’s more, an additional virtualization platform frees up higher class platform resources for critical production applications.

Once you are able to define what workload requires what type of hypervisor, it is easier to decide on the number of licenses necessary for virtualization of server resources. Saving on the cost of a hypervisor can have a significant influence on the budget and bring measurable benefits. According to the companies that took part in the Open Virtualization Pro research, the implementation cost is the second most important deciding factor in the choice of virtualization platform. In first place, respondents most frequently rated system stability.

What about the backup for hypervisors?

One key issue is appropriate protection for virtual machines and the possibility to quickly re-launch them after an outage. Analysts estimate that around 90% of companies use virtual servers, on which critical applications are very often installed. As ever more programs are moved to a virtualized environment, both more protection is required, as well as a rapid return to operation after an outage. There is a wide range of virtualizer backup tools available on the market, but the problem is that most of them are compatible with the most popular platforms.

Some, such as Veeam, have chosen to integrate their software with only three hypervisors (VMware vSphere, Hyper V, Acropolis HV). Another interesting example is the American startup HYCU, which delivers solutions solely for backup of Nutanix hyperconverged systems. Storware is moving in the opposite direction, with a focus on software universality.

Backup for many virtualizers

In addition to VMware vSphere and Hyper V, the Storware vProtect system is compatible with ten open source platforms: Nutanix Acropolis/AHV, Red Hat Virtualization, oVirt, KVM, OpenShift, Citrix XenServer, Oracle VM and Proxmox. Paweł Mączka, CTO at Storware, emphasizes that the company’s strategy differs decidedly from that of some competitors, who limit their product compatibility to several most commonly used hypervisors. This does not mean that Storware intends to rank individual virtualization platforms. Nevertheless, their solution is a highly convenient option for companies planning to change their virtualizer or to add a further one to their infrastructure.

Thanks to the universality of Storware vProtect, firms do not need to look for new backup tools. Storware has developed a niche in the market by answering the needs of companies that have implemented either free tools or ones that are cheaper than Vmware and Microsoft virtualizers. While companies are happy to use two hypervisors, in the case of backup software they prefer single solutions. According to Open Virtualization Pro data, only 7% of companies use more than one software solution for creating backup copies and for data recovery. At the same time, 75% declare that they have software for protecting virtual machines.

 

Paweł Mączka Photo

text written by:

Pawel Maczka, CTO at Storware