- Robert L. Scheier
Many vendors' offerings are focused on areas such as data protection and disaster recovery, which were the most common needs cited by VMware users in a July 2012 survey conducted by the Wikibon technology analysis website. Again, many tools are limited to specific vendors' products or storage protocols.
Actifio, for example, tackles backup, disaster recovery and business continuity with its Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) appliance, which virtualizes both storage and storage functions such as copy, store, move and restore. But the PAS appliance supports only Fibre Channel-attached storage, such as SANs, and only disaster and recovery, not the dynamic reprovisioning required to maintain the performance of production applications.
Even if this creates a stand-alone silo of tools and data for backup and recovery, that's an improvement over the multiple silos (and multiple copies of data) many companies use for anything from testing to disaster recovery or data analytics, says Andrew Gilman, senior director of global marketing at Actifio. He also says Actifio's globally deduplicated object-based file system reduces costs by storing and moving only changes to data.
VirtualSharp Software says its ReliableDR "goes into the different layers of virtualization inside the cloud" and uses the APIs provided by storage vendors to create runbooks (defined sets of operations) to execute and verify disaster recovery and failover. However, it does this only for applications running on VMware hypervisors, and only for applications, not for the data they use.
Also, the tool supports only clouds running within corporate data centers, because, says CEO Carlos Escapa, "the market is so huge behind the firewall and the protection mechanisms are lacking." He adds that the fact that ReliableDR is capable of running multiple disaster recovery tests per day more than makes up for its lack of broader management capabilities.
Symantec's Virtual Business Services doesn't handle VM management or even storage provisioning such as zoning SANs or creating LUNs, says senior director of product management Douglas Fallstrom. It instead allows customers to define dependencies among the tiers of an application stack (including VMs and their associated storage) to better understand how the stack responds to the failure of one component. This helps ensure that the terms of SLAs for the storage tier are set properly and that performance can be measured.
Continuity Software's recently announced Availability Cloud/Guard aims to improve reliability by detecting problems such as situations where "clustered servers can't see new storage" because of a failure to map the new storage device to all the appropriate servers. That's a problem an administrator often wouldn't be aware of until the server "tries to use the storage [and] fails," says CTO Doron Pinhas. Cloud/Guard helps find such problems by comparing a customer's deployment with 6,000 deployment scenarios from the vendor's customers to "observe your effort to build the environment... and gently steer [the customer] in the right direction," he says.
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