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Sizing up vCloud Air DRaaS for midmarket companies

VMware's DR cloud service may be one viable alternative for an organization that can't afford to double its hardware setup.

It's amazing how many businesses do not have a fully functional disaster recovery system in place. According to...

the 2014 annual report by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, nearly three out of four companies worldwide are failing in terms of disaster readiness.

Some end users assume that backup or cloud storage is more than adequate for disaster recovery. It's only when a significant problem arises do they realize how complex and time-consuming it is to recover business critical services.

According to The Data Center Journal, companies lose an average of $84,000 for every hour of downtime.

Disaster recovery (DR) is like buying an insurance policy: It may cost quite a bit upfront and you may never need to use it, but you will be glad you took one out when something goes horribly wrong.

When VMware launched vCloud Air Disaster Recovery, there was a lot of intrigue for businesses with a secondary/DR site. Enterprises are always looking for ways to reduce costs, and offloading DR into the cloud has considerable appeal.

There are four reasons why vCloud Air Disaster Recovery is a great option for the midmarket companies.

  1. DRaaS protects applications and data in the cloud without investing in hardware, without hiring and training new specialists, and without investing in a secondary site.
  2. As a cloud service that operates as a subscription-based model, you're not tied in to purchasing hardware and watching it depreciate. Also, you're not locked into a lengthy contract; vCloud Air Disaster Recovery comes in a variety of term lengths from one month to three years. The flexible subscription model allows you to only pay for what you need, when you need it, with the ability to scale when required.
  1. Recovery point objective (RPO) configured on individual VMs from 15 minutes to 24 hours. With guaranteed recovery time objectives of four hours or less, per vCloud Air service level agreements. DR protection is per VM, allowing individual VMs to be failed over. This gives you granular control over replication frequency per VM or per business/application services.
  2. Monitoring and management via vSphere Web Client for seamless integration with your on-premises vSphere environment to give a single point of management.

The capex versus opex discussion

A subscription-based DR solution allows customers to decrease their capital expenditures and offset it with an operational expenses model. It boils down to the old accounting argument regarding whether capex or opex is a better spending model for IT Infrastructure.

Usually a capex model means:

  1. You require a large amount of cash outlay to purchase all the goods.
  2. You have to make an educated guess to estimate future capacity needs.
  3. After purchasing the equipment, you're stuck with it, despite advancements in technology or company growth.

However, some CFOs feel opex is more expensive; they only consider the cost of the physical hardware required for the applications.

Whenever you have to do any sort of capex/opex comparison, you have to take direct costs into consideration, such as power, cooling, floor space, storage and IT resources to manage all the extra hardware.

Then there are all the indirect costs -- network and storage, procurement and accounting costs, transportation and logistics, to name a few. Once all these other costs that accompany the physical hardware are considered, it becomes a different argument.

Additional vCloud Air Disaster Recovery features

VMware vCloud Air Disaster Recovery offers native failback using vSphere Replication to reverse the replication from the vCloud Air data center into your on-premises vSphere environment. This means you do not need the VMs to be powered off during the reverse replication.

Also, VMware offers multiple point-in-time recovery through vSphere Replication's ability to retain multiple recovery points, up to a total of 24. An RPO of 15 minutes means six hours of recovery points. An RPO of 24 hours will give 24 days. This is helpful when you need to recover to an earlier point in time if the latest replication set is corrupt.

Lastly, automation is now possible with full integration with vRealize Orchestrator via a plug-in. This will allow you to create orchestration workflows for multiple VM recovery plans and automate the failover process. This is similar to what vCenter Site Recovery Manager can do.

Next Steps

Cloud DR coming to VMware users

Using DRaaS and DaaS for DR in the cloud

Changes coming to vCloud Air and other VMware products

This was last published in July 2015

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Would you consider using a cloud provider for your disaster recovery needs?
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This article doesn't mention the importance of *testing* the disaster recovery solution once it's set up. It's important to make sure the DRaaS vendor allows for that.
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