Short-form: Too little, too late, too expensive. This product should only be of interest to mixed environments using Hyper-V and VMWare, and even those should strongly consider their options.
When I worked for a shop that utilized VMWare, Veeam was the natural choice to back it up. It seemed pricey then, but like most other organizations, we were coming off of an equally spendy product to handle network-based backups of physical servers, so that was more of a speed bump. It didn’t hurt Veeam’s chances any that there really wasn’t any meaningful competition. Once acquired, the product was fast, reliable, and lived up to its promises.
Fast forward a couple of years. Hyper-V has grown up to become a viable hypervisor for production use and inexpensive backup solutions have appeared specifically for it. Veeam announced Hyper-V support, and those of us who knew Veeam anxiously waited for it.
Well, its finally appeared, and is nothing short of a major let-down. The only organizations that should use Veeam for Hyper-V are those who mix VMWare with Hyper-V, have already settled on Veeam as the de facto backup solution, and don’t care if it doesn’t completely work.
I jumped through all the hoops to get started downloading the trial (you not only have to provide information, you have to set up an entire account), and when it was about 10% done, my phone rang. It was a telemarketer from Veeam. The guy was nice enough and I have nothing bad to say about him at all, but I dislike the very concept of telemarketing and I absolutely hate it when they’re that aggressive. How exactly am I supposed to tell the guy what I think of a product or make a commitment on it when I haven’t even gotten done downloading yet? Veeam: back off. He was in an awkward spot and that placed me in an awkward spot and that made me begin this trial a little soured. I am not a “pre-sale”. I am someone who has not yet decided to become a sale and will gleefully give my money to someone else if you irritate me.
Aside to the rest of the software world: don’t make people even register for a trial. Yes, some people are going to take your trial and uninstall it and reinstall it each time it runs out, or come back and get a new one if you time bomb it, or hack around your licensing scheme and turn your trial into the real thing. We all realize that piracy is a problem and you want to curtail it, but don’t do it at the cost of existing or potential customers. Remember that if somebody really wants to pirate your software, they’re going to do it no matter what steps you take; on the other hand, a potential client might walk away because you’re asking for information up front. I’ve walked away from trying out a solution for no other reason than because I just didn’t want to fill out yet another form. If I didn’t have such high hopes for Veeam, I wouldn’t have even tried this software because they’re only a few fields shy of a complete credit application. The only things Veeam could have done to make my trial experience worse would have been to ask for my social security number, make me provide credit card information, and call me every day. This experience should be used as an object lesson in the first chapter of “How to Alienate and Discourage Potential Customers”.
Enough of that. On to the review…
I used Backup Exec for many years and I remember when they introduced the startup wizard. Wow, that was annoying. I already knew what I was doing! I was working at a solutions provider so I wound up going through it so many times that at one point I could nearly do it with my eyes closed. After a while, I realized that the startup wizard nearly eliminated the need for a new-install error-prevention checklist. When I was done with the wizard, it needed almost no tweaking and backups worked just fine. For people who were new to the product, the wizard at least ensured they saw everything they needed to get backups going and had a place to look into the manual or online help for answers to any questions. Veeam just dumps you right into the interface with no direction whatsoever. I can see how experienced backup guys would like this, especially if they’re already familiar with the Veeam product, but it’s now expected that a backup program will provide at least some initial guidance. If you approach it as a novice and read the screen top-down, as most Westerners are inclined to do, the “Backup” section comes first. Of course, an experienced engineer knows you need to configure the storage first, but a new user is probably going to get most of the way through setting up a job before s/he realizes s/he’s going to need to cancel out and set up the storage. Otherwise, it’s all going to dump to the C: drive of the backup system. Of course, in day-to-day operations, you will be using the “Backup” section much more often than the “Storage” section, so it makes sense to arrange them in this way; that’s why an initial guidance system would be useful (and why it’s become common industry practice). Not only that, but turnover happens. Would you rather have all those new users clog up your support lines or just go through a wizard that probably wouldn’t take a day to design?
Wondering what it would be like for a new user, I opened up the Help system. It’s great… for the ‘90s. The “Getting Started” section is about software requirements, installation, and licensing. I know this is how help files used to be written, but for modern software, “Getting Started” should at least go into the basics of usage. It does have an edition comparator, which gets into the second part of “Too Little”. Just count up all the ways it says “VMWare only”. Of course, my quote doesn’t have any special pricing since I’m in a “Hyper-V only” environment. I get to pay full price for a half product! Yay!! Anyway, if you follow the topics in order, you can get backup setup and going. It will give you flashbacks to the Windows 3.1 help system, but it is functional.
I set up a test job and encountered some nice things about the program. Apparently, it has the ability to perform a live backup of a Linux guest. Typical backup software for Hyper-V can’t do that because it relies on a VSS chain; the host’s VSS system coordinates through the Integration Components with VSS in the guest. Since Linux doesn’t have VSS, I’m not sure how Veeam does this. I don’t have any Linux guests and didn’t feel like building one just for a short review so this feature may or may not work.
For my test, I picked a couple of VMs that are in production but non-essential and could be rebuilt from scratch without much effort or impact. Setting them up was pretty straightforward and I don’t expect even a new user to have a lot of trouble here. Then, I got to the exclusions page. One of the VMs I selected stores WSUS data on one volume and downloaded ISOs on another. I don’t want to back those up. I followed the exclusions path (I even checked the “Help” file to be sure I was doing it right), but the calculation didn’t change. I hit the “Re-calculate” button, and Veeam still insisted that 241.6 GB minus 189 GB equals 241.6 GB. I double-checked that I had indeed unchecked those volumes in the Exclusions dialog. In the absence of any warnings or errors or any other indication as to what was going on, I hoped that when I executed the job that it would honor my exclusion then. It didn’t. I started the job, and it backed up the entire VM. Great! So, not only do you have to pay full price for half a product, it can’t even handle exclusions — a core function of backup. Other than that, the backup pretty much worked as expected. It ended with a couple of nearly indecipherable warnings, but I’m assuming that if I had installed the manufacturer-specific DSM for my storage provider, those might go away. Of course, had I known that there was a need for manufacturer-specific DSMs, I might have installed them. There was still no mention of why it ignored the exclusions I had set.
It has no ability to back up to tape for long-term storage. Not only that, but it stores everything in its proprietary format and has no method to convert it to a general purpose format for long-term storage. If you want to get it out of that format so you can run it out to tape, you’ll have to restore it first.
When Veeam stormed the scene in the VMWare world, they had little to no competition. In Hyper-V, they are late to the show, and their competition is reasonably priced and can handle exclusions in backup jobs. It’s obvious that Veeam’s offering for Hyper-V is a “me-too” afterthought that someone threw together in their spare time. They’re going to have the best success marketing this to people who already have a relationship with Veeam through VMWare and don’t want to change. It’s the only product I know of that can back up Hyper-V and VMWare hosts from a single console. Then again, if those customers are migrating to Hyper-V or mixing Hyper-V with VMWare, then they are clearly comfortable with both change and mixed solutions. The only way I can see any of them using Veeam is if they just don’t make the effort to check out the competition or if they need one of the advanced features that Veeam has that competitors don’t… assuming Veeam bothered to make those features functional (really guys? You couldn’t find anyone who could take the time to test a basic backup function before release?). The single-console aspect is nice, but it would have been much nicer before the competition came along and showed us inexpensive approaches that honor exclusions (no, I’m not going to drop that).
The only thing I see in Veeam that you’ll have a hard time finding in competitors is coverage of both Hyper-V and VMWare and the full mix of compression, de-duplication, and replication. The problem is that for the drastic cost differential, you can do much better elsewhere. Need de-dupe and compression together and your software won’t handle it? Your backup storage device probably handles one or both. If it won’t, you can probably expand it by a few TB and pay for the extra electricity to operate and cool it and still save money over Veeam. Actually, if the software you choose to use handles exclusions properly, then you can instantly save space. I mean, it’s not like their measly compression and de-dupe algorithms made up for the fact that they backed up an extra 189 GB that I didn’t want at all. Do you have to purchase another backup program to cover all your different hypervisors? It costs a fraction of homogenizing on Veeam, and you’re going to have to buy another backup product if you want to get Veeamed data onto tape anyway. So, if Veeam is planning to justify their exorbitant pricing based on “we’re the only ones that can do X”, then they’re wasting their breath. Besides that, the product doesn’t even handle the basics correctly.
Maybe they’re following in the footsteps of Maritz who has decided to channel Jobs: add a couple of features, jack up the price as high as you can, hide failings behind the earlier successes of your brand label, and tell the lemmings that those are the defining elements of “The Best”. What they apparently don’t realize is that people in the Hyper-V world don’t buy into that model or they wouldn’t be using Hyper-V. Those of us who have adopted Hyper-V want a product that satisfies all of our organizational requirements at the lowest overall cost and we are thoroughly unconcerned with what brand name it’s peddled under. Veeam cannot fill that need.
Maybe I’m assuming the worst of some fairly decent people who actually set their pricing in opposition to traditional backup packages like Symantec and ArcServe. That boat’s got holes in it, too. Those applications have to interface with an enormous number of disparate hardware units which may or may not conform to any particular standard. Those programs deal with things like pausing to wait for a tape to be switched or telling the robot to get the next in the series or tracking the barcodes on a tape. Veeam doesn’t do any of that. If you want your Veeam data to get placed on a tape for long-term storage, prepare to plop down that same huge sum for Backup Exec or ArcServe or whatever else anyway. Other Hyper-V/VMWare backup providers have realized it’s not as much work and are pricing accordingly. Veeam is gouging its customers, plain and simple.
Pricing will vary based on your reseller, but in our case, it cost more than any other Hyper-V specific competitor. In fact, with the exception of Microsoft Data Protection Manager, Veeam cost more per-socket than most of the others cost per-host. That’s about to change though: that pricing was only good if we purchased in 2011. In 2012 they will increase their pricing dramatically. In our case, it will be nearly double. So, they want you to pay two-to-four times as much for half a product that can’t even handle the basics of backup. No, thank you.
“When it comes to backing up Hyper-V, ABV.” (anybody but Veeam). The day before I downloaded this trial, I was a huge cheerleader for Veeam and felt like a kid opening up a new Christmas present. Today, I am uninstalling the trial and burning the machine I had installed it to in utter disappointment and disgust. Version 6.0 plays like version 0.1b.