Veeam wants to dominate the world of data

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Veeam’s goals and ambitions are sky-high. Initially focusing on backup and virtualisation, it now aims for the leading and dominant position in the data and infrastructure strategy of companies. We spoke with Veeam about how its focus on ‘modern data protection’ led to its current platform.

Veeam will be a familiar name to many readers involved in infrastructure. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the backup and disaster recovery market without the brand. In the 15 years that it has existed, that is a great achievement. A relatively short period, when you realise that many suppliers in this area of the market have been focusing on backup and recovery for decades.

From this perspective, it is good to take a look at Veeam’s milestones. When looking at the total backup and recovery market capacity, it claims to have the second-largest market share based on revenue. And it is also considered a leader in analyst firm Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. The pressure on established names has therefore increased considerably. Its ambitions also remain sky-high, intending to take the number one position. Veeam literally states that it is not really satisfied with the number two position.

Virtualisation

Veeam’s current market position has been achieved with a platform that has evolved over the years. That’s why it’s good to go back to basics first. Initially, Veeam was all about virtualisation. This technology has shaken up the infrastructure market by radically rethinking compute, storage and networking. Virtualisation allows capacity to be split into multiple parts, making it possible to run multiple virtual servers without buying a new server for each application. This approach has also changed the way backup works. Non-virtualised environments are complex and large in size, which makes restoring data long and difficult. Virtualisation makes backup easier, recovery faster and moving virtual machines in the event of problems simpler.

Veeam has taken a software-based approach to backup and recovery. It does this by leveraging VMware vSphere, which many infrastructure admins use to set up and run virtual machines. Veeam is tailor-made for VMware virtual environments, which promises to make backing up and restoring data fast and trouble-free.

However, when you want to support companies more in their backup strategy, VMware support alone is not enough. Businesses want to use the hypervisor of choice. That’s why Veeam has been looking for support for more virtualisation options and scenarios. This has led to support for Microsoft Hyper-V and Nutanix AHV, which allows a large proportion of companies to move forward. In recent months, Red Hat has been gaining traction in this area with its RHV hypervisor, particularly in telecoms, Veeam sees. In the coming months, Veeam, therefore, has support for RHV planned. This should work out well on paper because RHV, like AHV, is based on the open-source virtualisation software KVM. Veeam can extend what it has learned at the technology level from Nutanix environments to Red Hat RHV.

Role of Kubernetes and containers

So while Veeam originally thanks its market position to the virtualisation world, the platform is now going further. Its ambition is to become “the most reliable provider of backup solutions, delivering modern data protection”, CTO Danny Allan explains in a conversation with us. To build as much functionality as possible for the entire IT landscape and all data types. Veeam calls this the transition from ‘act 1’ (virtualisation) to ‘act 2’ (hybrid cloud) in its marketing messages. After perfecting virtualisation, it is now in the middle of the optimisation phase for hybrid cloud scenarios.

The characteristic of this hybrid world is that it is formed by containers, explains Allan. That really is the future of software development. Orchestration platform Kubernetes is the standard for managing these containers. “Kubernetes is exploding,” Allan states. This is because containers make it easy to package software, which is ideal for building applications based on microservice architecture and deploying targeted resources for performance. This also makes applications less dependent on the underlying platform.

To play a critical role in this container and Kubernetes strategy for enterprises, Veeam has thus purchased Kasten. This will allow Veeam to be more responsive to the hybrid scenarios of businesses of all sizes and in all scenarios. Containers improve portability, making it easier to move the software to other infrastructures. That’s exactly what Veeam wants to do: support as much infrastructure as possible and offer flexibility. Allan points out that customers are asking for Kubernetes backup, so Veeam can’t stay behind. As a result, Veeam has recently demonstrated a robust integration of its repository with Kasten K10, giving companies a central location for storing backups of Kubernetes workloads.

Hybrid scenarios

Within a few months, Kasten has thus become a key component for the hybrid world that Veeam envisions. However, the original Veeam platform is receiving product-level updates and modifications for hybrid scenarios as well. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working grew in popularity, and Veeam saw a crucial role for its agents. The lightweight applications can be installed on Windows, Linux and Solaris (database) systems, among others, to back up to a remote environment. When employees located at home need to be protected against ransomware, these agents can be a solution. You notice little of this in terms of system performance, but it does protect important data. Certainly, now that business information is increasingly a target of hackers, a necessary option.

It is also striking that the hybrid push results in more support for and integration with cloud infrastructure. The support is more extensive for some cloud providers than others, but basically, Veeam can protect workloads for the most common cloud platforms. There is the most compatibility with AWS and Microsoft Azure in terms of functionality, with features such as creating secondary copies and setting accurate retention periods. For Google Cloud, another important platform for our region, some more recent close backup support has been announced to protect virtual machines. More features are planned for Google Cloud.

Allan emphasises that such features will only become more desirable, as companies need cloud-based products due to the mass working from home. Therefore, the CTO calls it an interesting period in which the general public quickly embraced IT. Everyone has to be able to work with modern IT systems. “Data is at the basis of the changes”, says Allan about the rapid changes. The shift can be seen in the adoption of a product such as Veeam Backup for Office 365, according to the Veeam-CTO. The Microsoft Office 365 product is extra popular thanks to remote working, but it deserves a serious backup approach. Microsoft itself does not make backups in principle; Veeam can help with that. According to Allan, 6 million companies are now using this product.

Going beyond data protection and recovery

Ultimately, Veeam’s core business remains backups, but that’s not all, according to Allan. “Cloud mobility, for example, is very important for businesses. Our data format stores data very portable, so companies can pick up the data and restore it somewhere else. That happened a lot, particularly in 2020. We saw many organisations moving workloads to the cloud and keeping some on-premises. But we see more and more movement between infrastructures.”

So Veeam is increasingly talking about modern data protection to describe its platform’s core business. You can find several targeted features to protect the data on it. The important thing is to see it as a platform because this uniform approach keeps things clear and simple. If you ask Veeam if that is its unique approach, it is certainly one of the distinguishing factors. In fact, it wants to conquer the market with three focus points:

  • Simplicity by having just about every organisation adopt the same backup repository approach. The backup files and metadata are stored in this repository. The size of an organisation does not matter here: a software approach must make deploying, managing and maintaining Veeam easy.
  • Flexibility by focusing on as many infrastructure integrations as possible. Allan calls Veeam “hardware-agnostic, software-defined and cloud-ready”. There are 85 primary storage integrations, and the platform can provide fast backups for NetApp and HPE, for example. There are also similar numbers around certified secondary repositories. According to Allan, this makes Veeam extremely flexible in terms of where data is collected and sent.
  • Reliability is something that goes beyond guaranteeing that data will work. “If ransomware is in an environment, we don’t rely on a server or specific file system to lock down the data,” Allan explains. If there is a copy of the data, he says, it is always possible to get it back. Being portable, as we described earlier, also contributes to reliability.

Apart from the above, what makes Veeam different is its ability to use standards and principles that apply to unique business situations. On the one hand, this means the platform follows commonly used frameworks. For example, NIST, which ensures compliance with industry standards for protecting and restoring data. Secondly, it allows Service Providers to add their specific expertise. For example, are there requirements for the business size, industry or geographical location of the Veeam user? The platform offers that extensibility. It can be useful for meeting sovereignty and regulatory requirements, which are prevalent in our region.

Is Veeam ready for the future?

With its focus points, Veeam is confident of becoming the absolute market leader in backup and recovery within a year. That is an ambitious goal, but certainly not unachievable. Veeam has little legacy and is built for modern infrastructure landscapes. It, therefore, keeps its eyes open for competition but does not necessarily fear it. Allan points to the fact that other vendors are hardware-dependent, while Veeam goes for integrations with common infrastructures.

After Veeam’s maturity in virtualisation, the focus is now on hybrid scenarios. This is something companies are relying on more and more. In particular, Veeam mentions containers and Kubernetes as crucial components for this hybrid world. With the recruitment of Kasten, Veeam has brought in extra specialism to play a role in the hybrid world. It can and will build on this in the coming period.