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VMware disaster recovery could be a gateway to cloud

The latest VMware disaster recovery upgrades to vCloud Air could allow customers to seamlessly replicate workloads between cloud and on-premises.

VMware continues to upgrade its public cloud services to support its hybrid model, including improvements to what is often seen as the low-hanging fruit of cloud -- disaster recovery.

New features have been added to vCloud Air, including improved security, networking and disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS). VMware has also made on-demand pricing -- something other cloud vendors have offered for years -- generally available. VMware's lack of on-demand pricing had been one of the biggest knocks by critics, who questioned how seriously VMware took its public cloud offering.

The disaster recovery piece is likely the biggest addition to the platform given that DRaaS has been the fastest-growing use case for vCloud Air, according to Mathew Lodge, vice president of cloud services at VMware.

Customers utilizing the upgraded DRaaS will have the choice of replicating machines from 15 minutes to 24 hours and can replicate workloads back on-premises from the cloud platform if needed. VMware also will build daily recovery points, which can be stocked for up to 24 days.

The primary reason the city of Avondale, Ariz., wanted cloud services was for DR, and the ease of use and familiarity with VMware made vCloud Air the best option, said Rob Lloyd, Avondale CIO.

The problem with choosing most other DRaaS vendors is that it would have required the installation of another piece of equipment into their existing environment to replicate to the cloud, said Aaron Favata, a systems engineer for the city. Setting up and running is much easier through VMware vCenter, he added.

"Once it's up and running, you don't have to touch it anymore," Favata said.

VMware has had some challenges with vCloud Air interest and adoption, but disaster recovery is a good route to take because it's a set of features nearly any VMware customer could consider, said Al Sadowski, research director with 451 Research LLC, based in New York.

"They're just making it easier to bridge the private VMware deployment in the cloud with an economical DR solution," Sadowski said.

It's a lot easier to justify a business case for DR when the solution kicks in only when you need it.
Al Sadowskianalyst, 451 Research

VMware first offered DRaaS last year, but the upgraded service is expected to become generally available this quarter. VMware says it will also represent a lower-cost option for customers, citing the example of 10 2 GB VMs and 1 TB of storage being protected for $795 per month.

"Why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars or more for a DR solution that you may never need?" Sadowski said. "It's a lot easier to justify a business case for DR when the solution kicks in only when you need it."

The lack of translation between the on-premises VMs and the cloud can also be appealing, Sadowski added.

"Some public cloud vendors don't put a lot of tools in place to easily take workloads and run them in-house," Sadowski said. "They don't give that to the customer because they don't want you to leave."

Creative Solutions in Healthcare, a vCloud Air customer based in Fort Worth, Texas, uses a dual data center approach with the new DR capabilities and has found considerable efficiencies, said Shawn Wiora, the company CIO.

"We've got limited amount of IT staff and when you have limited staff it really helps to have some of the new features that are easy to jump on to," Wiora said.

New networking features expected to be available in the first half of 2015 include a zero-trust security model that can isolate VMs and applications, a feature that helps to prevent widespread data breaches similar to the recent Sony hack, Lodge said.

Creative Solutions in Healthcare is also looking at the new isolation capabilities to bolster security protocols in the highly regulated field of healthcare, Wiora said.

"As one of the first customers, it's encouraging to see the increased investment into the platform," he said.

On-demand cloud

The lack of pay-as-you-go pricing has been a major complaint about vCloud Air since it was introduced in 2013 under the vCloud Hybrid Service moniker.

"It's something VMware was slower to embrace, but it's an acknowledgement that people understand it and prefer it," Sadowski said.

Now customers can order a Virtual Private Cloud that starts at $0.17 per hour for a VM with 8 GB of RAM and 2 vCPU. VMware's cloud subscription model allows customers to make either a single pre-payment or regular monthly installments to consume cloud services.

VMware vCloud Air's Virtual Private Cloud includes a firewall, load balancer, NAT, VPNs and high availability at no extra charge.

By comparison, competitor Amazon Web Services' on-demand (Linux) instances cost $0.14 for 7.5 GB of memory and 2 vCPUs. There is no additional charge for AWS Virtual Private Cloud instances, but there are additional VPN Connection costs.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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