VMware Enters Replication Arena

In a move that bears out its pledge earlier this year to move full-bore into automating the virtualized environment, VMware today unveiled product bundles and deals with nine replication software vendors.

The products, and the bundles, are designed to tackle two critical aspects of the virtualized infrastructure: IT service delivery and business continuity.

Managing IT service delivery is a crucial issue in many datacenters today because virtual machines (VMs) are so cheap and easy to set up that IT shops just throw one up whenever it’s needed. But that ease also leads to what’s known as VM sprawl, as well as a tracking issue when administrators lose track of how many VMs are in the environment or where they reside.

This can lead to IT management issues and the possibility of compliance breaches if, for example, some VMs are mothballed without their access rights to the applications they serviced having been rescinded; when they’re called up again, to serve different applications, they will also connect to the ones they served before, which could lead to a breach of compliance.

VMWare is targeting these issues with a spate of products, such as, VMware Stage Manager, which has been in beta since January, and VMware Site Recovery Manager, Melinda Wilken, senior director of product marketing at VMware, told InternetNews.com.

VMware is also offering two bundles. One, the IT service delivery bundle, consists of VMware LifeCycle Manager and either Lab Manager or Stage Manager, and the other, a management and automation promotional bundle, consists of the IT service delivery bundle plus VMware Site Recovery Manager. They are priced at $2,995 and $3,995 respectively, per two CPUs.

VMware Lifecycle Manager lets administrators track and control VMs “from the cradle to the grave,” and has an automated approval process and a policy-based rights control process built in to manage VM sprawl, Wilken said.

One of the most crucial aspects of business continuity is disaster recovery and, in addition to managing and controlling VMs, the seasoned IT manager also needs to plan for disaster recovery. This becomes tricky when you have VMs in the infrastructure because one physical server can host several VMs — for example, Dell recently announced that PowerEdge R900 and R905 can serve 60 VMs each according to VMark Testing 1 results.

“Once you go to a virtual environment, you have to look at the VM and figure out if you back that up the same way you do your physical system,” Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse told InternetNews.com.

And here comes the kicker: With all that high-tech horsepower at their disposal, IT shops still use a manual process for disaster recovery — the “processes, systems and steps required to do recovery are recorded in a document called the run book and that’s maintained over the life of the system,” Whitehouse said.

Site Recovery Manager automates the run book, putting it into VirtualCenter, and when IT staff want to test their disaster recovery process, “they just push the ‘run’ button in SRM and it will automatically run through all those manual steps,” Jon Bock, VMware’s senior manager, product marketing, told InternetNews.com. VirtualCenter is VMware’s virtual environment management product.

It’s not quite that simple: For Site Recovery Manager to work, ESX servers must be available to accept failed VMs when there is a system crash. There are two ways to achieve this: Have servers on hot standby, running all the time, or turn to a vendor like Scalent Systems, whose Virtual Operating Environment (V/OE) can turn any physical server or servers into an ESX server or ESX clusters in real time so there is no need to have hot (running) standby machines for disaster recovery.

When there is a system crash, Site Recovery Manager triggers Scalent to create ESX servers on the fly, then lands the failed VMs onto these newly created servers. “No Scalent would mean those servers must have already been sitting there in hot-standby mode, which is a waste of resources,” Kevin Epstein, Scalent’s vice president of marketing, told InternetNews.com.

Scalent is part of VMware Community Source, its code shipping in both ESX 2.5 and ESX 3.0.

That’s still not enough; Site Recovery Manager needs to team up with replication software, which is “necessary to migrate data from your production site to your recovery site” for disaster recovery, Jeff Bernard, director, technology alliances at EMC Corp. told InternetNews.com. “VMware doesn’t have replication software, so customers would be running multiple virtual machines on an ESX server without disaster recovery.”

Hence, VMware has teamed up with nine replication software vendors, who announced their support for Site Recovery Manager today. They are NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP); EMC Corp. (NASDAQ: EMC), VMware’s parent company; 3PAR (NASDAQ:PAR); Dell (NASDAQ:DELL); Hitachi Data Systems; HP; IBM; Falconstor (NASDAQ:FALQ); and LeftHand Networks

VMWare is hoping that the broad array of replication vendors it’s lining up will help it keep its lead in enterprise IT. Bock said VMware plans to add more replication partners over time.

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