Multi-Cloud DRaaS and Mobility

Zerto Briefing Note

IT Professionals are under constant pressure to meet tighter and tighter recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO). While traditional backup has a role to play in meeting these objectives, replication is moving more to the forefront. In addition, organizations are looking for ways to improve their ability to recover from a data center disaster while at the same time reducing DR costs. As a result disaster recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is getting a lot of attention. Finally, like the rest of us, IT professionals are more mobile than ever and have to support more locations.

Zerto is moving several steps ahead in their latest release, adding DRaaS services to Azure, one-to-many replication, and the ability to put a single virtual machine (VM) into multiple protection groups. The company is also adding its first version of a mobile app to monitor everything.

What is Zerto Virtual Replication?

Zerto is a hypervisor level, replication and disaster recovery product that can protect all of your VMs in VMware or Hyper-V. Other replication solutions tend to replicate at the VM level using agents or at the storage level, but Zerto went with a VM-centric approach. Each VM is continuously replicated into a target destination that can immediately take over if something were to go wrong. Zerto also stores history, so you can also recover to a time before something corrupted the data. You can also use historical versions to grab individual files and databases from a previous time.

Initially, Zerto’s only remote recovery option was another VMware or Hyper-V environment with Zerto installed, and then adding the ability to replicate into an AWS instance. Its most recent enhancement adds Azure as a replication destination. Customers can select one or more VMs to replicate into AWS or Azure. Zerto can then manage the process of failing over to these VMs in the case of disaster or if the organization wants to test its DR capabilities.

A Foundation for DRaaS

Zerto is the foundational component of a DRaaS solution, whether your organization does DRP internally or if you decide to leverage an external provider. Provider’s can use the Zerto solution and then add all the backend components like compute, storage and networking to create a turnkey DR service for their clients.

Leveraging the Public Cloud

Zerto’s software running at the hypervisor level has always been the basis of its architecture. Unfortunately with AWS and Azure, Zerto does not have direct access to the hypervisor and so this ability to replicate VMs into those environments is missing a few features. Specifically, Zerto can fail over to AWS and Azure, but it cannot fail back. Customers that need to fail back after a failover will need to use tools designed to migrate VMs out of AWS or Azure into VMware or Hyper-V. This also means that the migration will require a complete copy, instead of just copying the bytes that have changed since the failover. Zerto’s typical configuration (VMware to VMware, Hyper-V to Hyper-V or a mix of the two) does support failover and incremental restore of the changed bytes, because they do have access to the hypervisor.

Zerto’s representatives assured us they understand customers will want to failover and failback from cloud environments, and they are simply held back by the architectural limitations of the cloud providers. They will continue to work toward that goal, but want to begin offering this functionality now for those who believe something is better than nothing. Customers of this product will have a valid method to failover if a disaster happens. Yes, there will be challenges failing back, but the business will survive a disaster. Zerto’s customers are quite comfortable with the current situation and see it as a vast improvement over where they are

Flexible Protection Groups

Also in this new version, Zerto adds the idea of a VM being in multiple protection groups. A protection group is a group of VMs that need to be recovered together, such as a Web server, database server, active directory server, and domain controllers. Allowing a VM to be in as many as three protection groups gives customers a number of options during a restore, especially the ability to recover only the damaged part of a protection group.

Another new feature goes hand-in-hand with the concept of multiple protection groups, and that is one-to-many replication. Zerto can replicate a VM a single time and have the data reach multiple destinations. This is useful to have both an on-site and off-site disaster recovery system, including storing a third copy in the cloud.

Finally, Zerto is adding a mobile app that will keep you up to date on your Zerto data protection systems and how they are performing. This is only a monitoring system, and Zerto indicates it may stay that way for a while to protect customers against “butt-dialing failovers”.

StorageSwiss Take

The ability of Zerto customers to use the cloud as a recovery platform has been available since May of 2015 by supporting AWS. Now they have added Azure as a target, a significant step forward. Many customers are interested in Zerto’s replication abilities, but they cannot afford a complete second site to replicate to. Giving these customers the choice of replicating to Amazon and now Azure opens Zerto to a number of new customers. It would be nice to see them add a failback capability.

In addition, the flexibility it now gives its customers with support for multiple protection groups and one-to-many replication is also quite impressive. Finally, a mobile app that keeps you continually up-to-date of your data protection system is most welcome in many environments. Zerto continues to be a company to watch.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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Posted in Briefing Note

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