VMware ties disaster recovery to vSphere

VMware Inc.’s Site Recovery Manager is now supporting vSphere, eliminating one of the obstacles preventing customers from upgrading to the latest version of VMware’s virtualization platform.

vSphere 4, the successor to ESX Server 3.5, was unveiled in April but until now did not work with Site Recovery Manager, VMware’s software for recovering virtual machines in case of disaster.

VMware on Monday released SRM version 4, with support for vSphere and other upgrades including a “many-to-one failover [that] protects multiple production sites with automated failover into a single, shared recovery site.”

Because Site Recovery Manager did not immediately support vSphere, numerous customers have delayed upgrades from 3.5, acknowledges Jon Bock, product marketing manager for VMware’s server business unit. Now that SRM supports vSphere, adoption should accelerate, he said.

“vSphere was a significant change that we had to update the add-on products for. In a perfect world, we’d love to have all the new releases of products released on the same day as the platform,” Bock said. But the months-long delay is similar to delays often seen between the release of a new operating system and add-on products, he said.

“A customer who has important production applications on ESX 3.5 is probably not going to upgrade to vSphere 4 the day after it’s released,” Bock said.

vSphere is still not supported by VMware View, the vendor’s desktop virtualization software. VMware View will be compatible with vSphere in its next release, expected in 2010, according to a VMware spokeswoman. Lifecycle Manager just gained compatibility with vSphere in a new release a few weeks ago.

In addition to support for vSphere, Site Recovery Manager now supports NFS storage, along with Fibre Channel and iSCSI, which were already supported.

“We have a lot of interest in NFS from customers looking at using that in important applications,” Bock says.

SRM works by integrating tightly with storage array-based replication. VMware provides an integration module to partners, and most of the major storage companies have made their products compatible with Site Recovery Manager.

Shared recovery sites, the other new feature, could be useful for companies with multiple branch offices, Bock said. Overall, the new release is “focused on expanding the use cases for Site Recovery Manager,” he said.

The new version of SRM is available now and costs $1,750 per processor. SRM was first released in June 2008 and has been purchased by more than 2,000 customers, Bock says. That’s still a small portion of VMware’s 150,000 customers overall.

Virtualization offers inherent advantages when it comes to disaster recovery, since it eliminates the need to recover the actual physical server an application was running on, Bock notes. Some customers have been using SRM not for disaster recovery but to move applications from one site to another when they are switching data centers, he said. Still, disaster recovery is the main purpose for the software.

SRM support for vSphere was a highly anticipated feature, says ITIC analyst Laura DiDio. “Disaster recovery and backup are in every customer’s top five checklist of things you must have,” she says.

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