Quest Software Merging vRanger, NetVault Into Data Protection Platform

Quest Software outlined to its solution provider partners some upcoming changes to its data protection software which involves gradually bringing its two primary solutions together as part of a single platform

Quest unveiled its plans as part of the company's annual channel partner conference, held this week in Dana Point, Calif.

John Maxwell, vice president of product management, outlined a roadmap for Quest's data protection software that includes continual upgrades of its vRanger and NetVault storage offerings while gradually bringing them together into a single scalable data protection platform.

Quest in early 2008 acquired Vizioncore, which developed vRanger, which provides a comprehensive data protection platform for VMware virtualized environments.

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Quest followed that up with the acquisition late last year of data protection software vendor BakBone, developer of the NetVault backup and recovery offering for physical IT infrastructures.

Going forward, Maxwell said, Quest plans to add physical infrastructure backup capabilities from NetVault to vRanger while adding vRanger's virtual infrastructure capabilities to NetVault. Eventually the two will come together as part of a single platform with a common management architecture while still being available as separate products for customers with specific requirements, he said.

Quest this month plans to release vRanger 5.3, which will come with target-based dedupe technology from NetVault. That technology, SmartDisk, will be available to vRanger customers for $945 per instance, and can reduce file sizes by a factor of 10:1 to 70:1, Maxwell said.

"It can scale for customers backing up several petabytes of data, but at a single flat price," he said. "You can go to a customer and say you can offer an attractive dedupe offering, and then wrap your hardware and services. This is exciting. No one in this environment has enterprise-class dedupe priced at $945 per instance. And most customers only need one instance."

vRanger 5.3 will also feature increasingly tighter integration with VMware, Maxwell said. vRanger 5.2 was the first backup software to support VMware's vSphere 5, and vRanger 5.3 will be the first to support the VMware vStorage Virtual Machine File System (VMFS), a high-performance cluster file system for managing virtual machines.

vRanger 5.3 will also allow users to search for data in virtual machines, Maxwell said. "No longer will customers need to know which VM data sits on," he said.

Early next year, vRanger will also start supporting physical storage backup devices, including tape, he said.

Quest is planning to offer major upgrades to NetVault every six months or so, Maxwell said.

NetVault will support more heterogeneous environments in the future, including virtualized server environments. "We won't just support Hyper-V and VMware virtual machines in a stand-alone fashion," he said. "Next year, you will be able to restore Hyper-V data into a VMware VM, and VMware data into a Hyper-V VM."

Next year will also see Quest integrate NetVault as the data protection backbone for its Recovery Manager technology for managing Microsoft applications including Exchange, SharePoint, and Windows Server Active Directory, as well as with its LiteSpeed technology for managing Oracle and SQL databases, Maxwell said.

Maxwell also introduced the Quest Unified Data Protection, or QUDP, platform, which next year will bring vRanger, NetVault, Recovery Manager, and LiteSpeed into a common platform with a single management interface across heterogeneous physical and virtual environments and through the cloud.

Next: Bringing NetVault, vRanger Together

NetVault and vRanger will become plug-ins to QUDP, Maxwell said.

"Quest is the only company to allow customers from the smallest to the largest to use the same technology, or to grow their technology as their business grows," he said. "Symantec? They have Backup Exec and NetBackup, and those two don't talk to each other."

Walter Angerer, senior vice president and general manager for Quest's data protection business, said that by going with a platform approach, Quest makes it easier to protect customer and partner investments in data protection as customer data grows.

"For partners, once the platform is in place, the customer learns one set of problems and how to configure protection, and will not have to retrain," Angerer said.

Maxwell also said that Quest, with its planned enhancements to its data protection software, is ready to help its solution providers differentiate themselves from the competition.

"Let's be frank," he said. "Do you want to be just another Symantec reseller? That's a commoditized offering, and maybe gives you 7 or 8 percent margins."

Quest, on the other hand, has invested to heavily in helping partners be successful.

For instance, thanks to investments in demand generation, about 60 percent of vRanger sales come from the 30,000 search engine hits the software gets every months. "We are getting the word out to the market that we are a viable vendor to work with," he said.

Quest is also investing heavily in partner training, which Maxwell said is important as more of the data protection business goes to virtualized environments and the cloud.

"If you don't know what a VMDK or ESXi or other acronyms are, you need to learn," he said. "Some other reseller out there knows what they mean."

Maxwell said that Quest also knows that it is still a relatively small competitor when compared to companies like Symantec and EMC, and so it is developing strategic partnerships with other vendors to address more opportunities.

For instance, he said, Quest is one of two data protection software vendors to tie its dedupe software with EMC's Data Domain dedupe hardware appliances. "So if a customer chooses a hardware centric approach to dedupe, we'll support it," he said. "If they want a software approach, we'll provide it."

Angerer said that if a customer is set on buying Data Domain, a Quest solution provider should not fight the choice.

"Such a customer wants a high-end solution," Angerer said. "But on the other hand, we provide a great dedupe solution. If the customer buys Data Domain, it is not looking at a lower-cost alternative. So don't fight them."

Nicolas Heisdorffer, enterprise technology sales manager for Alliance Technologies, a Des Moines, Iowa-based solution provider and Quest Software partner, said he is impressed at how the vendor is folding its NetVault data protection software in with its other products.

"Two years ago, we asked Quest to help us with a unified message about its products," Heisdorffer said. "And now they're doing it. It's all about taking a complex environment and adding simplified technology around it."

Quest has become the largest $800 million company no one ever heard of, Heisdorffer said.

"Quest is building a great story around data protection," he said. "It's taking what can be a complicated problem, and solving it by bringing data protection, deduplication, and continuous data protection together into a solution."

Next: Quest For A Complete Solution

Heisdorffer cited Quest's ability to provide bare metal recovery of customers' applications to hardware that is different from the servers on which those applications originally ran, or the ability to recover a virtual machine to a different hypervisor, as examples of building solutions that appeal to all potential customers.

"At one time in the past, no one would have thought that Oracle databases and SQL databases would be found in the same enterprise," he said. "Now it's common. I'm convinced Microsoft will catch up to VMware in virtualization as well."