One of the best things to come out of VMworld 2011 was the announcement of the latest version of VMware's vCenter SRM (Site Recovery Manager). While previous iterations of SRM have brought little more than bug fixes and relatively minor feature additions, SRM 5.0 packs in a number of critically important features.
Those features, including built-in host-based replication and automated failback support, substantially increase the capabilities of SRM -- even in small to midsize business environments where it had previously gained little interest due to its relatively high cost of implementation. The introduction of replication to SRM 5.0 is also a continuing reminder of VMware's transformation into a de facto storage company as it tacks more and more storage array functionality into its product line.
SRM before 5.0
At its heart, Site Recovery Manager was and still is a site failover automation engine. Prior to SRM 5.0, there was nothing that SRM did for you that you couldn't do by yourself manually. However, that's certainly not to say that it was without any value -- far from it. By automating the site failover process, you could shave hours or even days off of the time that it would take to reconstitute a virtual infrastructure at a warm site.
SRM also made it extremely easy to perform thorough tests of the failover process at any time without disrupting production services. That testing capability is arguably SRM's strongest feature. Without an automation engine to run a site failover, it's often so time consuming to test that all but the most diligent organizations will rarely make the time to do so regularly, thereby opening themselves to the real possibility that their failover system will fail when they most need it.
VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5.0 brings a raft of new features to the table. However, the one feature that's rightfully catching everyone's attention is the ability to leverage HBR (host-based replication) either by itself or in combination with ABR, thereby making the purchase of a second SAN infrastructure entirely optional.
This feature is a transformative one for Site Recovery Manager. If you're trying to offer business continuity to a small business with 20 VMs and would like to replicate them all to a single vSphere host with a large amount of internal storage, that's now feasible without requiring the use of third-party software like Veeam or vReplicator. That's not to say that those third-party products are suddenly obsolete -- in most cases they offer backup-related features that SRM doesn't. However, the failover automation capabilities of SRM that initially drew in large enterprises are just as attractive to smaller businesses without the staffing or skill set to monitor and manage multiple systems. SRM helps out there by drawing all of the management of production and disaster recovery functionalities within the same pane of glass.
This new HBR capability also has implications for large enterprise -- even ones who already use ABR for their primary data centers. Multisite enterprises with small virtualized infrastructures distributed at remote offices can leverage vSphere Replication to replicate edge-site VMs back to centralized data centers, either as a business continuity functionality or to make the process of migrating those servers back to the head end easier.
On top of all of this, VMware has actively been courting VMware-based cloud services providers to use SRM's HBR capability in new DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) offerings. Already, companies like FusionStorm, Hosting.com, Iland, and Veristor are offering or preparing to offer such cloud-based solutions. This opens the possibility for true business continuity to organizations without the capital or real estate to implement a warm site.