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VMware disaster recovery options: Beyond Site Recovery Manager

VMware offers its own disaster recovery tools, but there are a number of viable third-party products you can use for VMware disaster recovery.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down over lunch with some really smart virtualization folks at a regional VMware conference to talk about VMware disaster recovery tools. I found that replication was of paramount concern -- and that many shops turn to third-party options instead of VMware offerings like Site Recovery Manager.

During the discussion, a majority of folks said VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is too complex for their administrators and environments, and too expensive for their tight budgets. VMware is warming up to the idea of selling these products to smaller business, but for many shops, the product configuration for SRM is too complicated to maintain.

In many small environments, there most likely isn’t a dedicated VMware administrator, but rather an all-around IT person who manages disaster recovery, they said. Plus, VMware doesn’t always make its products easy to grasp for non-specialized admins. The consensus at the lunch roundtable was that other vendors offer simpler disaster recovery tools for admins to manage in VMware environments.

Furthermore, disaster recovery plans for most VMware environments should involve some type of replication mechanism. File copies and even tape backups are fast becoming outdated, while more advanced products that use point-in-time or “almost real time” replication are becoming more mainstream and affordable, and can provide a more complete disaster recovery plan than ever before.

Here are some of the disaster recovery tools and replication capabilities we discussed that may suit your VMware disaster recovery needs.

Third-party options for VMware DR

In our talks, there were three main replication tools people mentioned: Quest Software’s vReplicator (now integrated into their vRanger product), Veeam’s Backup and Replication, and a newcomer to the product space, Zerto’s BC/DR for Enterprises.

Zerto Virtual Replication. 

Compared with Quest and Veeam, which combine their replication software with a backup tool, Zerto brings a complete disaster recovery tool to the table, roundtable participants said. I personally have not used Zerto, but many admins like the combination offerings because they cover all their bases rather than just disaster recovery. Zerto customers I spoke to said they chose the Zerto Virtual Replication product as their VMware disaster recovery tool because it provides more flexibility and planning options.

Quest vRanger and vReplicator. 

I have used Quest’s vRanger product since its inception, and in version 5.3, Quest added a critical piece to its replication mechanism: the ability to replicate virtual machines to multiple destinations. This seemed to perk up some ears at the table. For many admins, replicating to multiple sites would assist with developing secondary “cold” disaster recovery sites at branch offices, for example, or enabling backup machines to be spun up as disaster recovery hosts in the central data center.

Veeam Backup and Replication. 

Veeam’s disaster recovery tool is packed with features, and it introduced even more enhancements in version 6, including Microsoft Hyper-V support and the use of multiple Data Movers (a fancy term for a proxy server). The latest release seemed to coincide with the new release of vRanger and includes many similar feature changes. It appears that the competition between these disaster recovery tools is resulting in even more feature-rich software for customers.

Needless to say, everyone left the lunch table with more information, and possibly more questions, about VMware DR and how we can make our disaster recovery plans better. If Site Recovery Manager isn’t an option for your infrastructure, there are plenty of other disaster recovery tools on the market.

More on VMware disaster recovery

This was first published in January 2012

Essential Guide

Best practices, tips and tools for VMware virtual recovery and backup

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