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New StorageCraft Release Streamlines Backup Image Virtualization on VMware

Called VirtualBoot for vSphere, the technology spins up backup images as VMware ESXi virtual machines without first sending them through an appliance or conversion process. By Rich Freeman

StorageCraft Technology Corp., of Draper, Utah, has released a new version of its VirtualBoot technology for VMware’s vSphere server virtualization platform that accelerates system and data recovery by enabling users to boot backup images created with the company’s ShadowProtect SPX solution as virtual machines on a VMware ESXi hypervisor host without first going through the conversion processes that competing vendors typically execute on specially designed and separately installed hardware.

“This is directly tied and integrated into the hypervisor platform without a need to go through a third-party appliance,” states Brian Wistisen, StorageCraft’s director of product marketing.

Called VirtualBoot for vSphere and making its debut in conjunction with the annual VMworld user event currently underway in Las Vegas, the new StorageCraft system also lets ShadowProtect SPX users automatically write data from backup images onto VMware virtual machine disk (VMDK) files if they wish, essentially turning what are normally two separate procedures—backup image virtualization and data recovery—into one. Furthermore, the new StorageCraft solution performs migrations in the background while ESXi VMs are running, enabling administrators to recover data without temporarily suspending critical workloads.

“There’s no point in time now where I’m going to have to take a machine offline, perform that recovery, and then bring it back online,” says StorageCraft senior director of product management Matt Urmston. “It’s all happening as a single process.”

The underlying technology that makes functionality like that possible is VMware’s recently released vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (VAIO), which enables software makers to safely and securely modify a virtual machine’s IO stream before data gets written to disk. VMware first announced its intention to create VAIO at its 2014 VMworld conference. According to Urmston, a senior StorageCraft engineering executive was there, and saw right away how the forthcoming technology could shorten data recovery times.

“His mind immediately started spinning as to how we could leverage that new platform to pull some of the things off that we wanted to do,” Urmston recalls.

Some time later, StorageCraft successfully applied for admission to a small VAIO beta program based on the originality of its intended use of that offering.

“It was unique,” says Urmston. “Nobody else was talking to them about using their platform to do these same types of things.”

That was roughly 18 months ago, and StorageCraft has been developing VirtualBoot for vSphere ever since. Urmston believes it could be a similarly long time before other BDR vendors can add similar functionality to their products.

“We basically had a year head start to work on our particular solution as a part of that beta program,” he says. StorageCraft has also patented the specific way it utilizes VAIO in VirtualBoot for vSphere, Urmston adds.

According to StorageCraft, system failover is but one of several potential scenarios in which VirtualBoot for vSphere’s rapid backup virtualization and downtime-free data migration could be useful. Developers can tap into those capabilities to quickly spawn test machines, for example, while companies switching from Microsoft Hyper-V to vSphere can carry out that process through the new system without disrupting operations.

VirtualBoot for vSphere is available immediately to ShadowProtect SPX users at no additional cost.

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