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HotLink DR Express gains automation, management features

HotLink makes it easier to set up and manage virtual machine protection for its DR Express hybrid cloud plug-in that uses vCenter and Amazon Web Services.

HotLink this week updated its DR Express cloud disaster recovery tool, adding automation and management features while tightening the integration between VMware vCenter and Amazon Web Services.

HotLink launched its DR Express plug-in last August as a way to enable DR for VMware vSphere virtual machines without requiring extra hardware. DR Express lets customers select VMs to protect and the frequency of restore points, and uploads those virtual machines (VMs) to Amazon S3. In case of an emergency or for testing, the VMs can be restored in Amazon Web Services (AWS) or to a VMware vCloud provider.

The updated version released this week includes a new dashboard showing the status of protected VMs, makes it easier to reconfigure storage for DR, allows rollback of the replication baseline of future restore points to any prior successful point and enables file server and database server replication.

The dashboard, which DR Express shares with Hotlink's Hybrid Express virtualization management platform, shows customers which VMs are protected, how big they are and how much space they take up in AWS. Customers can see the aggregate data transferred into Amazon over time.

The new version of DR Express automates the process for protecting disks with a screen that lets administrators specify the disks they want to protect and set up protection options such as recovery point objectives (RPO), and determine how frequently the restore points should be consolidated and how long restore points should be retained. Another screen shows which VMs are protected, their restore points and whether the restore points meet RPOs.

The new replication capabilities automate continuous bi-directional replication of large file servers and virtual or physical database servers between on-premise devices and Amazon EC2.

DR Express pricing starts at $12,000 to protect 30 instances in Amazon. Customers also need an AWS subscription. They can use cheaper S3 storage when no instances are running.

HotLink only supports the Amazon public cloud. "We believe Amazon is the most robust and cost-effective and has the most features for a production class type," HotLink CEO Lynn LeBlanc said. "I expect we will add other public clouds if they live up to standards our customers need and are cost effective."

DR: 'Biggest elastic load' in the data center

John Bickle, director of IT operations for mobile application developer Cellfish Media, said his company is switching from VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) to HotLink Express DR.

SRM automatically synchronizes data between Cellfish's primary and backup data centers in Montreal and Paris and automates recovery in case of emergency by bringing up VMs in the proper order. Bickle said the problem with SRM is it requires hardware resources at the recovery site.

"We had good success with SRM, but found it was getting too expensive to keep our resources provisioned for a recovery," he said.

"If there was ever an argument for cloud computing, DR is it. DR is the biggest elastic load you can think of. I have two racks at a colo site. Suppose I want to make a DR site in a geographically distinct location. I have to buy a new SAN, then I have to buy new servers, and I have to pay operating costs on the colocation site. That's a huge capital investment. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. With DR Express and the cloud, I'm looking at a minimum monthly operating cost to keep databases and storage running.

"When I need [to recover], I will pay higher operating costs because it will be on-demand. But when I don't need it anymore, I turn it off and it goes away."

Cloud DR is a crowded market and HotLink's competition grew earlier this year when VMware added disaster recovery as a service to its vCloud Hybrid Service. LeBlanc said DR Express has advantages on price and its automated DR testing features.

"We suggest customers test early and often," she said. "You can't have confidence that you can recover from disaster recovery if you're not consistently testing. And if testing is not easy, you will not consistently test."

Next Steps

RackWare expands software into cloud disaster recovery

N.C. city adopts hybrid cloud disaster recovery for non-critical apps

Unitrends launches DR service with PHD Virtual technology

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