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SunGard plans cloud-based disaster recovery for VMware

SunGard and VMware forge a partnership for DR services based on VMware's Site Recovery Manager, and SunGard says the duo will offer a cloud-based option for secondary data centers.

SunGard today said it will host secondary storage systems for customers of VMware Inc.'s Site Recovery Manager failover software, eventually leading to cloud-based disaster recovery services for VMware customers.

Site Recovery Manager, due out this month, is designed to help server virtualization customers automate their disaster recovery checklists, which many of them keep on paper and check off manually. The failover software will also help them figure out how storage and server resources correspond between primary and secondary sites, alerting administrators to inconsistencies between storage and servers that can cause disaster recovery plans to fail.

VMware also plans to work with its storage partners to integrate Site Recovery Manager with array-based replication products from vendors such as EMC, EqualLogic, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, LeftHand Networks and NetApp.

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However, companies may find it expensive to use Site Recovery Manager with storage arrays, according to Don Norbeck, director of partner strategy and virtualization technology officer for SunGard Availability Services. "[Site Recovery Manager] is a great concept, but everyone who adopts it needs two data centers," he said. SunGard is pitching its hosted disaster recovery infrastructure to organizations that can't afford an entire second set of storage gear and secondary data center space.

"Two of everything is not the best way," Norbeck said. "We've already put in place a managed infrastructure that makes a pool of resources available."

Analysts said that Sungard's announcement could be a significant step for users wrestling with disaster recovery. "The ability to replicate data and virtual machine configuration files really simplifies application restart at the alternate site," said senior analyst Stephanie Balaouras at Forrester Research. "And for companies that don't have an alternate site and need the services of someone like SunGard, it means they can achieve a much better recovery time objective."

Balaouras added that organizations can use Site Recovery Manager to spread workloads over primary and secondary hot sites. "Site Recovery Manager can help repurpose between workloads so your alternate site doesn't have to be idle," she said.

Will storage vendors adjust?

The SunGard system will require compatibility between a company's main site and its secondary environment, even if SunGard packages third-party replication products and masks the complexity of the secondary site's back end from the customer. But Norbeck said SunGard is working with heterogeneous replication products, such as EMC's RecoverPoint software to develop cloud-based generic disaster recovery space for users.

VMware could add its own host-based replication to its software, but doing that within ESX Server would put VMware in competition with storage system vendors. VMware executives said they are looking to avoid that, hence the partnerships with storage vendors for array-based replication software to move data under Site Recovery Manager. But a cloud-based option from SunGard would require heterogeneous replication tools from any storage vendor that wants a piece of that pie. "Storage is moving in that direction in fits and starts anyway," Norbeck said.

But Taneja Group analyst Arun Taneja said that might not be true for everybody, yet. "Many people [in the storage industry] don't understand the metamorphosis that's going on right now in data protection thanks to server virtualization," he said. "Everybody says they're compatible with VMware, but that's table stakes -- storage vendors are going to have to figure out how to make themselves relevant in the new world where a lot of storage functionality is shifting toward VMware."

"This approach brings disaster recovery down to the common server for midtier companies, and storage vendors didn't seem to have much on tap for that market. I don't see this affecting the storage guys since they didn't seem to have much interest there anyway", countered Daniel Golding, an analyst with Tier 1 Research.

Karthik Rau, VMware's vice president of marketing, said while VMware also has relationships with other hosted service providers, SunGard is the only partner that focuses on disaster recovery.

"The SunGard relationship is unique in that its solution focuses on using virtualization to provide a fully managed, hosted and shared recovery site, whereas most of our other service providers focus primarily on solutions for production environments."

Rau declined to comment on the idea of cloud-based disaster recovery from SunGard, saying VMware is not familiar with those plans.


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