Since previewing the Site Recovery Manager last fall at VMWorld, VMware has been working with storage vendors to create software integration modules called storage replication adapters. These storage replication adapters allow VMware's VirtualCenter management console to handle the failover and recovery of virtual machines via array-based replication.
The integration will also allow VMware's VirtualCenter to execute commands against storage arrays at primary and secondary sites during recoveries and enable VirtualCenter-generated metadata about virtual machines to be replicated, along with system and application data.
EMC, Dell/EqualLogic, LeftHand Networks, NetApp and FalconStor will support VMware Site Recovery Manager when it becomes generally available in June. Vendors that will be adding support for the product later include Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and 3PARdata. SunGard recently announced support for Site Recovery Manager, and plans to add cloud-based secondary data center offerings for small shops.
VMware does not support host-based replication yet. "We have had customer inquiries about supporting server-based replication," said Jon Bock, VMware senior manager of product marketing. "But we're going to be thinking about the size of most host-based replication environments. With a large number of virtual machines, it might not really work."
VMware's target audience for Site Recovery Manager is organizations running large numbers of non-mission-critical virtual machines, Bock said. "This is for users with large amounts of virtual machines they want to protect as a group," he said. "For critical servers, geoclustering and other high-availability partner products make more sense."
Site Recovery Manager is a separate download, but users also need VMware's VirtualCenter to provide an interface to the software. Software integration modules must be downloaded separately from storage vendors. Once installed on a server, organizations can enter policies and an order of operations for their disaster recovery plans. If there's a site failure, administrators can log onto VirtualCenter and hit a button that says Run to have the recovery process carried out automatically.
Site Recovery Manager will require users to log on for disaster recovery plans to execute, Bock said. "If we're talking about the failure of one mission-critical server, it does make sense for users not to want it to wait to failover, but we're focused on cases of a whole-site failure where there may be specific processes for declaring a disaster and getting approval to proceed with recovery plans," he said. Customers can also use Site Recovery Manager to create an isolated network and use snapshot data to do a "what if" workup of disaster recovery plans or to conduct a live test that doesn't impact production systems.
Bock said VMware will next look at expanding the set-of-use cases for the product, including the possibilities of adding automation and features specifically for branch office failover to a central data center.
As VMware looks to expand beyond the hypervisor and broaden server virtualization's appeal beyond the estimated 60% of the market that has it installed, there is speculation about VMware's intentions when it comes to its storage partners. VMware could conceivably come out with its own host-based replication product and crush the storage players' stake in that space.
But Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker said that's unlikely. "So could Microsoft, couldn't they?" he said. "Users were already basically doing this with scripts – and you still can. VMware has identified an opportunity and stepped in to develop a framework so customers don't have to go through a long and tedious process."
Still, there seems to be confusion among users as to which data protection features will fit where in their environments. "I'd like to find out more about how this plays with NetApp's Data Protection Manager," said Tom Becchetti, systems engineer for a medical manufacturing company. Becchetti said he's been evaluating the NetApp software for similar replication and data protection automation.
Editor's tip: For more on Site Recovery Manager, check out our tutorial on VMware Site Recovery Manager disaster recovery best practices.