Channeling the Cloud

Microsoft Readies Azure for 'Disaster Recovery as a Service' Boom

Starting with its acquisition of InMage this summer, Microsoft has been taking steps to position Azure as a major provider of disaster recovery services in the cloud.

Cloud-based disaster recovery and business continuity is one of the fastest-growing opportunities for partners. Growth in data and business expectations of constant uptime have rendered the public cloud the natural backup target. Everyone's jumping into the game.

The Microsoft acquisition of InMage in July comes two years after Redmond bought StorSimple. Both offer appliances enabling customers to back up their data to the cloud. Now that Microsoft has acquired these companies, it has tuned the appliances to use Microsoft Azure as a target. While StorSimple is aimed at using Azure as a tier in the storage hierarchy, InMage is clearly designed for disaster recovery.

A week after closing the deal, Microsoft said its InMage Scout software appliances for Windows and Linux physical and virtual instances will be included with Azure Site Recovery subscription licenses. Microsoft announced Azure Site Recovery back in May at its TechEd conference, held in Houston. Azure Site Recovery is the new name for Hyper-V Recovery Manager, released in January. Unlike its predecessor, Azure Site Recovery allows customers to use the Azure public cloud as a backup target rather than requiring a second datacenter.

Microsoft argues that only it, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google have the scale and elasticity to offer uptime for the largest of enterprises. The InMage Scout on-premises appliance backs up data in real time as changes occur. It then simultaneously performs local backups or remote replication via a single data stream.

With the addition of InMage Scout subscription licenses to the Azure Site Recovery service, Microsoft said customers will be able to purchase annual protection for instances with the appliance. Microsoft is licensing Azure Site Recovery on a per-virtual or -physical-instance basis. The service was made available for customers with Enterprise Agreements on Aug. 1. For now, that's the only way Microsoft is letting customers purchase InMage Scout, though it's not required for Azure Site Recovery.

Certainly, there are many other ways to use Azure or smaller cloud services providers to back up and store data. For example, the new NetApp Private Storage (NPS) for Microsoft Azure is a converged on-premises system that includes NetApp storage bundled with Cisco network and compute infrastructure, running the Microsoft Cloud OS stack. It's designed to let organizations elastically extend on-premises storage capacity to the Azure public cloud service. It will also support the new Microsoft ExpressRoute, which provides dedicated high-speed WAN connections to Azure through network providers, bypassing the Internet.

Other companies including Acronis, Barracuda, CommVault, Symantec, Unitrends, Veeam and Vision Solutions are at varying stages of making their backup and recovery wares more suitable for public cloud services, such as AWS, Azure and thousands of smaller providers. The sweet spot for many of these players and their partners are organizations with 100 to 500 employees. Unitrends, which offers appliances for larger shops, recently acquired PhD Virtual, letting it target these smaller organizations.

The good news is as costs per gigabyte continue to go down, demand is likely to increase. Regardless of what you sell, making sure customer data is protected is important, and it's now becoming simpler to offer and manage.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.