PHD Virtual Technologies, which specializes in backup for VMware environments, recently released the 3.5 version of its flagship esXpress backup/recovery software.

According to analysts, PHD takes a unique approach to backing up virtual machines (VMs). Unlike some other vendors in this space, the company does not rely on the ESX Service Console or VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). Instead, PHD uses virtual backup appliances (VBAs), which are essentially small VMs, to do backups from within the VMs. As such, the company’s approach does not require additional hardware (e.g., backup servers), software or VM agents.

“The esXpress approach uses Linux-based VMs, called VBAs, that only run during the backup schedule. This means you don’t need client agents in VMs or the Service Console, and it doesn’t require VCB – no proxy hardware, VCB license or scripting,” says Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group. “For recovery, you can restore at the file or VM level. And autonomous data restoration provides full VM recovery without using esXpress or other VM infrastructure.”

The VBAs are deployed on a VMware ESX server (in minutes, according to PHD officials), and conduct hot full or “virtual full” backups of VMs outside of the ESX console. A disk throttling feature enables backups to run during production without performance impact on the VMs, according to Jim Rosikiewicz, PHD Virtual’s director of product management.

New features in the 3.5 version of esXpress include:

Source-side global de-duplication, with data compression, across entire ESX environments (see diagram). Although de-dedupe/compression ratios vary widely, PHD officials cite a minimum 25:1 compression ratio on seven to ten days of backups, with some customers getting data reduction ratios of up to 60:1.

Multi-user global deployment and configuration with a hierarchical, policy-driven architecture to reduce deployment time. Policy management is based on global/group/host settings.

Multi-user, file-level, one-step restores for faster access to compressed data.

Built-In Replication Of Changed Blocks

A date-smart dynamic export feature with pre-defined, date-based directories that allows administrators to selectively choose what data is exported to disk or tape.

The company also added a Web-based management interface. (Previous versions were based on a command line interface.)

With the 3.5 release of esXpress, PHD Virtual also introduced a new licensing structure based on per-host pricing with unlimited sockets. For SMBs, the software is priced at $1,000 per host with support for four concurrent backup streams. For larger enterprises, the software is priced at $2,000 per host with support for 16 VBAs (concurrent backup streams).

Today, esXpress only supports VMware, but PHD is working on versions for Hyper-V and Xen.