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The DR Doctor

– Blog post by vExpert Mike Laverick

Last week’s podcast with John White, where we debated the options for backup, disaster recovery and availability, brought me firmly back on familiar territory. It seems like for the last two or three years I’ve been almost totally focused on challenges surrounding virtual DR, what with my focus on VMware’s Site Recovery Manager and now the all new vSphere Replication. In case you haven’t heard the recent vSphere 5.1 release ushered in support for vSphere Replication right down into the core platform, where as in its previous incarnation it was decidedly an optional extra.

That’s a phase that’s really started to click in my mind – “optional extra”. It’s often used in other fields to describe “nice to have” features, that aren’t strictly necessary and often include an extra charge. Think of your new shiny car, and how the sales guy tries to bolt on additional optional extras like alloy wheels or a fancy spoiler on the tailgate. Well, I’m being to see that features like replication and automated DR a slowly and steadily becoming not optional extras, but something that customers demand and expect to be baked into the core platform. Since the inception of virtualization in the previous decade, a rich eco-system sprung up to service and exploit new customers and business opportunities – what we commonly refer to as the “start-ups”. Now I personally think these businesses are hugely important – both in kick starting radical change (remember the mighty VMware was once a Palo Alto based start-up!), but also a diverse eco-system drives choice to the customer.  But with that said I’m increasingly seeing customers (especially our SMB customers) who are interested in single solution from single vendor – VMware – rather than having to cobble together a solution from a pool of vendors. That’s why I think its so significant that vSphere Replication is now part of the platform for everyone – as well as the newer “EMC Avarmar” backed “vSphere Data Protection” which sunsets the older VMware backup system called “vSphere Data Recovery”. It’s more than just “name changing” or rebranding exercise – its significant departure and improvement to previous attempt deliver backup and restore directory inside the core platform.

I think these changes will benefit all customers large and small. At the top end we have customers who want to create these mega-scaled out “software-defined datacenter” which can host many “tenants” and where those tenants expect to be able to backup, restore and replicate the VMs within the context of their Organization Virtual Datacenter. But precisely that simplicity and ease of this is something that SMB market also craves. The bottom line is the SMB has always desired the same quality tools as enjoyed by the Enterprise – but without the massive scale, and massive price tag that normally comes hand in hand. In John’s podcast I created a catchphrase for this called “SMB-Democracy”, something that is rather fitting in this election year. For me what we are trying to do is to use virtualization to drive down costs to such a degree that everyone can enjoy the fruits of technology, regardless of size, scale or turnover. That to me fits very much into my “community” values. I hate to see it when folks feel they being excluded – and I think of the things that is rather good about the IT industry (there are notable exceptions!) is that is always striving to push value to as many people as possible, rather than constructing massive paywall and locking folks out. Call it “waterfalling” or “cascading” if you like but year on year, you generally find what was once enterprise only feature in one decade is pretty much an industry standard and open to everyone the next. Of course there’s nothing new in that – a few years ago VMware VMotion and High-Availability was available to much smaller number of people than it is now – considering now that these features are available to all customers even in the SMB sector.  The direction of flow is all in the right direction – with VMware as focused on the SMB sector as the enterprise. You could say that’s a natural development. Given 100% of the 100 Fortune companies use VMware as their virtualization platform, is natural that as the company grows it will want to spread and diversify into as many markets as possible.

I believe this general principle of our industry is being demonstrated with the new options for backup and recovery. For too long the SMB is been priced out the market – especially when it comes replication. For too long is been the preserve of the storage vendors, and few token software vendors. What really needs to happen in this decade is for access to this sort of technology to be driven to everyone. The benefits are so great, so persuasive they can no longer be ignore, or pushed into the long grass of something we will worry about next year.  One of the most striking things that came across in my chat with John is how is first and primary use of vSphere Replication – wasn’t for DR at all. But merely for replication within his site – as he wants a faster way to bring back a VM back from the dead than backups currently allow. I can see why. The quantity of data together with the regulatory burdens we all now endure – are driving our data consumption up in only one direction. Even with disk-to-disk or disk-to-cloud solutions the time it takes restore data via conventional backups has not really kept up with our capacity to consume data. It become almost like a Law of Physics that the only way to reasonably recover large amount of data quickly, and have minimize data loss – is to have some internal site replication – or for DR purposes external site replication. I expect to see this principle to be extending across the whole types of resources that we currently manage. So virtualization isn’t going to stay corralled into cul-de-sac of just virtual machines – it needs to spread its wings into other areas such as the network and storage. If it all goes to plan the enterprise will get much quicker, simpler infrastructure designed with the cloud in mind – the SMB will get features, functions and flexibility previously the preserve of the big boys.


Mike Laverick is a VMware vExpert who writes, instructs and otherwise communicates about virtualization.

Get to know Mike – Read 10 Questions With… Mike Laverick



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