Guest Column | June 6, 2014

4 Reasons To Avoid Storage Lock-In For Disaster Recovery

Saving Client Data & Business Operations With Data Protection & Disaster Recovery

By Mariah West, Director of Global Partner Marketing, Zerto

Successful resellers are able to position themselves as trusted advisors for their customers, aligning to organizational goals, offering solutions that complement existing IT investments, and providing ways to seamlessly adapt as customer needs change. The advent of data center virtualization has helped resellers achieve these goals, but a data center function that many times remains stubbornly stuck in the past, causing headaches for modern resellers, is replication for business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR). A recent study reported that more than 75 percent of respondents across various industries experienced a data center outage in the last year. You, as a reseller, know these obstacles better than most, but there are good reasons to challenge the long-established model for DR.

Traditional, storage array-based replication or backup for DR was the norm in the data center for years. During that time, storage and IT admins knew that was the best way to protect critical data. But the reality is that tying DR capabilities to the storage infrastructure can lead to immediate and long-term complexities and increased costs that can be avoided by using other approaches to replication.

Here are four reasons why a reseller should ensure their clients avoid storage lock-in for DR.

1. Traditional storage-based replication is inflexible

Good resellers recommend, sell, and install solutions that are tailored to their customers’ needs. Each customer is different, so it’s up to you to find solutions that offer the most value and flexibility to meet evolving client needs. Often, traditional replication requires homogenous storage environments at each site, meaning that the investment simply to set up DR will be significant, and scaling the system for future needs will be difficult. Even when the primary and remote storage sites aren’t required to be exactly the same, they must at least be from the same vendor and use the same technology (SAN, NAS, external disk, etc.). As a result, you are forced to sell boxes rather than effective solutions.

Additionally, looking at the long-term data center picture, there’s a built-in barrier when it’s time to expand the use of DR, or scale its capabilities because of the inherent design of the data center. All of these factors combine to create an exceedingly inflexible DR configuration that will keep you from easily generating additional ongoing revenue.

2. Array-based replication ignores application recovery

Customers rely on resellers to recommend solutions that will improve upon legacy systems and technologies to solve modern pain points. A stagnant approach will produce the same results, and a lack of innovative problem solving will fail to create or grow loyalty.

Traditional replication is only moving data from one place to another. Storage-based replication ignores applications entirely. Sure, when failing over the data is there for associated applications when they come back online, but that’s a separate, sometimes manual process that can delay full recovery and cause frustration with the customer. This is not the ideal scenario for customers or you as the partner because traditional replication solves yesterday’s problems.

There are however solutions that separate DR functions from the storage stack, while offering customers a viable alternative and resellers a way to create recurring revenue.

3. When it comes to replication, success lies in the hypervisor

Part of being a trusted partner is selling solutions that complement previous IT investments, and many organizations are taking advantage of virtualization. By moving DR to the hypervisor — which is usually in place and consistent across virtualized infrastructures throughout all data center locations — you can help customers protect much more than just data, but also applications and their dependencies. With array-based replication, the DR capabilities live outside the datacenter’s virtualized infrastructure, undermining the customer’s significant investment in virtualization. Replication in the hypervisor folds disaster recovery into the virtualized infrastructure, enabling you to make the most of their investment in virtualization.

Additionally, with hypervisor-based replication customers can protect only the applications and workloads they need, without the headache of dealing with LUNs (logical unit numbers). Finally, when failover does need to occur, VMs (virtual machines) are brought back online with all their associated data attached to them for quicker recovery. There's no need to manually recover VMs and link them to recovered data similar to the traditional DR method.

Furthermore, when expanding or augmenting hypervisor-based DR capabilities for customers, it's a much easier process for you to help them implement it. Along with the greater ease-of-installation and more robust capabilities, you have an easier road to travel to expand DR usage with your customers, making it a seamless and painless process for them well into the future.

4. Hypervisor-based DR presents new benefits for partners

When DR options are limited to what storage arrays will allow, you are stuck selling storage solutions to customers that they might not want. They end up spending more money on the wrong solution, limiting their budget for other projects you’re proposing. With hypervisor-based DR, you can sell customers the customized storage solutions they actually need, engendering customer loyalty and trust.

When it comes time to scale hypervisor-based DR for changing and/or expanding business needs is an easier process than the cumbersome, inconvenient manual expansion needed with storage-based replication. Customers will be more open and likely to invest in DR expansion with you, their trusted partner.

Finally, enterprises of all sizes continue to invest in virtualization — it’s expected to grow by more than 12 percent at least through 2016, according to IDC (presentation, slide 7) – so it makes sense for customers and partners to leverage virtualized DR solutions. With all of these things combined, you’ll have happier customers and a better path for selling DR solutions that allow for generous revenue opportunities.