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IBM, VMware DRaaS automate disaster recovery in the cloud

Disaster Recovery as a Service offerings from VMware and IBM vie for enterprise attention. Can VMware make up lost ground to IBM's VSR?

Disaster recovery is something of a perennial concern among enterprise IT pros -- a kind of New Year's resolution that shows up on the priority list year after year, often without significant progress.

Now, VMware and IBM say they can help with new services that have turned  heads among enterprises.

One IT pro plans to use disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) from VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) -- a capability made generally available this week -- to achieve faster recovery times for virtual machines.

Financial portfolio software as a service (SaaS) company Planview Inc., based in Austin, Texas, does its own replication between SunGard data centers for disaster recovery, and the recovery time objective (RTO) for that setup is about 72 hours, according to Jerry Sanchez, vice president of hosting operations for the company. Planview hopes that RTO will decrease to four hours once it deploys the new service from VMware, which will protect over 2000 vSphere virtual machines.

VMware's vCHS data center in the U.K. will also allow Planview to protect that data without worrying about data sovereignty issues, Sanchez said.

VMware also doesn't charge for compute-hours spent replicating data to its storage repositories, charging for storage capacity alone until virtual machines (VMs) need to be spun up in the cloud for recovery.

"Cost is a huge piece [of this decision]," Sanchez said. "We won't have to pay for capital or compute."

It helps that Planview is already 100% virtualized on vSphere; only virtual resources can be replicated using the vCHS disaster recovery service. The service also requires a virtual appliance on-site to join the end user's environment with the vCHS cloud.

This was tricky when it came to load balancers, Sanchez said, which had been physical in his environment before Planview participated in vCHS's DRaaS beta. Planview went with virtualized load balancers to accommodate the vCHS environment and their replication has gone well so far, Sanchez said.

The new VMware service is priced at $835 per terabyte of data replicated per month. It's based on VMware's Site Recovery Manager and vSphere replication software.

IBM replicates physical servers, offers five-minute RTO

Also this week, IBM integrated its long-standing Virtualized Server Recovery (VSR) product  with its SoftLayer cloud services. VSR has been around since 2011, but this is the first time SoftLayer users get access to it.

Despite the name, the newly integrated VSR can also protect physical servers, which is a differentiation for SoftLayer's infrastructure as a service (IaaS) as well. Customers replicate machine images to one of IBM's data centers in Boulder, Colo. and Sterling Forest, N.Y. and can recover to their main site, SoftLayer's cloud or a disaster recovery data center in a secondary location.

VSR integrated with SoftLayer can offer five-minute RTOs for the Gold edition of the service; Silver customers can get 30-minute RTOs. VMware's DRaaS falls in the middle of that range with a minimum 15-minute RTO, according to IBM.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 IT decision makers by Forrester Research ranked iLand and SunGard at the top of DRaaS vendors, but said IBM's VSR, among others, nipped at their heels.

Still, both IBM and VMware are about 18 months behind the adoption curve for DRaaS, estimated Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research based in Boston.

"It's nice that they can finally meet the demands the enterprise has been shouting from the rooftops about for some time," Brooks said. But in a world of flimsy niche offerings that don't go much beyond traditional backup to the cloud, both IBM and VMware's services are "the real thing -- as long as you want to use their technology," Brooks said.

"There's a layer of soft automation on top that can be triggered by various scenarios, so a dead server or application could fail over into a secondary environment without intervention," Brooks said. Customers of such services can also use them to test failover scenarios without having to stand up secondary resources.

Though VMware openly offered DRaaS pricing, IBM refused to provide any pricing information for its new DRaaS.

DRaaS danger? Vendors deflect capacity worries

For niche DRaaS vendors in the market, a common concern is whether they have enough capacity to sustain recovery from a large regional disaster involving all or many clients.

That isn't a concern with VMware and IBM DRaaS, the companies said.

"Because the same hardware supports the vCHS DR service and the regular vCHS cloud compute service, we can use all of the capacity at any vCHS data center to handle DR events," said Mathew Lodge, VP of cloud services at VMware. "Our capacity planning team takes into account the possibility of large regional events."

Other vendors that offer DRaaS include iland Inc., RapidScale Verizon, Axcient Inc., Bluelock, EVault, HP, Net3Technology, PHD Virtual Technologies, QuorumLabs Inc., SunGard, Windstream Communications and Zerto.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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Will you use DRaaS in your enterprise this year?
I'm selling it to clients. It's far more cost effective than replicating an environment off site. VMware DRaaS is only around $9K a year.
Because you protect data and not pay for computing resources
I believe this going to be a well adopted product going forward for a range of reasons.

Tom Bronack