Virtual Machine Hybrid Cloud data protection

There are two converging forces taking place in the world of enterprise IT environments today. First, there is a need to efficiently and non-disruptively backup and protect data in virtualized application infrastructure and secondly, there is an increasing interest amongst businesses to utilize public cloud storage resources to drive down the costs associated with backing up and archiving business data. The question is, how can both of these objectives be accomplished without increasing operational complexity or hampering the ability of IT organizations to seamlessly scale-out virtualized application infrastructure on-demand?

Non-Disruptive VM Protection

It is critically important for IT infrastructure planners to implement backup technologies that will not contend for virtual server resources during the backup window. Otherwise, this can impact application performance, limit virtual machine (VM) density and reduce the return on investment made in virtualized infrastructure. By deploying backup solutions which integrate directly at the hypervisor layer and leverage VMware change block tracking (CBT) capabilities, in conjunction with source side data deduplication, businesses can more reliably protect and recover data without impacting VM performance. These solutions dramatically reduce host CPU and network bandwidth consumption and make it possible to increase VM density across the data center.

Backup Service Level Catalogue

Another major benefit of VMware integrated backup technology is that it enables IT backup administrators to increase the frequency of data protection events throughout the course of the business day and through changed block recovery, provide for very rapid data recoveries. This means that critical applications can potentially be backed up several times a day to improve recovery point objectives (RPOs) while data can also be quickly restored, helping to enhance recovery time objectives (RTOs).

Data protection policies can then be tiered according to the level of criticality of the underlying business application. For example, a Gold policy might consist of data backups conducted every 4 hours for a given application, while a Bronze policy might be a backup taken once every 24 hours for a less critical business service. This provides application owners with more choice and helps IT enhance their value to the organization by offering data protection as a service through a backup service catalogue. This can enable IT organizations to consolidate silos, improve service levels and head off emerging shadow IT threats.

Hybrid Cloud Data Protection

But now many businesses are considering public cloud offerings as a way to extend virtualized application workloads into the cloud to augment their on-premises server resources during peak volume periods. The challenge is how can an organization validate that a cloud provider is adhering to the exact same data protection policy that is configured in their on-premises data center?

So for example, if a Gold backup data protection policy is assigned to a set of on-premises VMs that are managing an Oracle application instance, this protection policy should also be assigned to the VM when it is extended into a public cloud provides facility. In this manner, the right data protection policies will be applied to the VM and will help ensure that critical business data is consistently protected, regardless of where it lives.

vCloud Hybrid Service Integration

VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) is an example of a hybrid cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform that has embedded data protection capabilities for any VM that is migrated into the service. End users that deploy applications into vCHS can designate the specific data protection policy for those VMs. This is an important differentiator from some other cloud service providers that don’t offer this level of control or visibility of how critical applications are protected within the cloud environment.

De Facto vCloud Data Protection

vCloud Hybrid Service – Data Protection is based on EMC’s Avamar data protection software technology. As a data protection software solution that integrates directly into the VMware hypervisor, Avamar can efficiently and rapidly backup data by utilizing the native CBT capabilities within VMware’s Data Protection (VDP) module along with source side deduplication.

The vCHS offering may be especially interesting for those businesses that are considering or have already standardized on Avamar for protecting the VMware infrastructure within their own data center facilities. This can enable IT planners to consistently apply data protection policies to their virtualized application infrastructure wherever it resides – on premises or in the cloud – to maintain unified data protection service levels across their hybrid cloud environment.

Unified Data Protection

Interestingly, one of the go forward strategies of EMC’s Data Protection and Availability Division is to envelope data protection policies into the actual storage provisioning process. This means that as business applications are assigned a particular service level policy with specific recovery point and recovery time objectives (RPOs/RTOs), a similar data protection policy will automatically be configured at the same time. So for example, if a mission critical SAP system is given a Tier-1 or Gold primary storage service level, the corresponding “Gold” data protection policy will be packaged and provisioned as that system is rolled into production.

These capabilities will become increasingly important as the lines blur between onsite and offsite application deployments. In other words, IT organizations will want to automate these processes to ensure that the right storage and data protection resources are provisioned without the need for manual intervention.

Likewise, it will be interesting if the capability could be developed to enable data protection policies to “follow” VMs as they move across hybrid cloud infrastructure. In essence, the data protection service would be like any other module within the VMware operating system management stack and any policy that was created locally on premise, would be universally applied wherever there is an instantiation of that virtual application service within the cloud.


Many organizations are interested in leveraging the cloud to reduce costs and to improve business agility but maintaining control of critical applications (and data protection) is of paramount importance for most businesses. As a result, hybrid cloud technology seems to be the path that most IT organizations are currently pursuing. The ubiquity of the VMware hypervisor platform will certainly play a major role in terms of the hybrid cloud offerings that businesses adopt. And those data protection solutions which enable businesses to more easily deploy and manage hybrid cloud infrastructure are worthy of close consideration.

EMC is a client of Storage Switzerland

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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