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Hypervisor vendors upset virtual disaster recovery market

Zerto and Veeam have conquered the DR market, but hypervisor vendors such as VMware and Nutanix have emerged, offering services that look to lower costs and provide better performance.

Hypervisor vendors continue to offer more competitive disaster recovery products and features, but whether or not IT administrators will make the switch from traditional virtual DR vendors depends on several factors, such as cost, labor demands and DR destination options.

One of the byproducts of a virtualized environment and its decoupling from the physical server is the ability to quickly and effectively fail over to an alternate environment. Companies such as Zerto and Veeam have had a considerable share of the virtual disaster recovery market.

Some hypervisor vendors, such as VMware and Nutanix, have integrated virtual DR into their base products or doubled down on improving existing virtual DR products. An example of this new tooling is Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure. Hypervisor vendor services have a major thing going for them: There's no additional per-VM cost. But whether or not these products and features will upset the status quo remains to be seen.

New vendors tackle the virtual DR market

Even at its base licensing level, Nutanix provides the ability to fail over VMs into a DR environment, though this service isn't exactly performant in terms of recovery point objective (RPO). Additional options, such as shorter RPOs and multiple failover destinations, are provided at the higher licensing levels.

VMware introduced a DR replication product known as VMware Site Recovery Manager, which takes advantage of AWS to enable quick failover into the cloud. This service offers admins a significantly lower-cost option atop previously owned licenses compared with other products.

Traditional DR vendors' advantage is they have been forced to evolve to support the major cloud providers, because many customers use a cloud-first approach for new technology. Failing into -- or between -- the cloud is rapidly becoming the new norm.

Traditional DR vendors' advantage is they have been forced to evolve to support the major cloud providers.

The reasons for this change come down to flexibility and cost. Failing into the cloud minimizes the DR failover cost, because it requires fewer on-premises resources, and certain tasks -- such as site management -- aren't required. Virtual DR vendors can provide this functionality for various cloud services, whereas hypervisor vendors tend to only support failover into their own infrastructure or one cloud provider.

Hypervisor vendors must have a unique selling point, or at least market their products as a cleaner and quicker alternative to the competition by providing value through better performance. The DR market does have a place for hypervisor vendors, so long as they can differentiate their products.

For example, if hypervisor vendors can combine DR capabilities with a rich API to automate DR testing and failover, some admins might prefer their services over traditional DR vendors. Hypervisor vendors can also make their products more appealing if they offer admins both multisource and destination hypervisors, which provides a reduced learning curve, simplifies complex tasks and offers fine-grained protection around charging models.

Drawbacks of DR technology

DR is one of those technologies that no one really wants to have to use. It's invoked in case of major failures in the environment and is focused more toward business continuity, rather than technology. But if the DR tool is there, admins need to be able to competently invoke it when needed, which requires training and familiarity. The more DR technologies that admins use, the more complex DR tools are to manage and use. Admins must implement and learn how to use each DR tool.

Other scenarios further add to this complexity. DR automation is a great example of forward thinking. When DR failovers and test failovers are fully automated, it speeds up the process and improves accuracy. However, developing and implementing DR workflows isn't cheap. Each integration of DR technology adds issues and more code that admins need to manage. Doing it twice just because one platform is cheaper than another is faulty logic. It should also be noted that the more platforms, the greater the chance of failure.

For admins just coming into the DR evaluation and purchasing cycle, there are myriad opportunities. Admins not currently using the cloud might want to look into hypervisor-based opportunities as a cost-saving measure in the interim, because licensing is a sunk cost.

Well-established environments that have their DR practices and process already setup with Zerto and Veeam might not have to worry about increased costs or labor, as the DR offering itself is built around those products and processes. But it's up to each admin to do his own due diligence as to what services fit his needs, because choosing a platform on price alone might not provide positive results when it comes to business resilience.

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