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Microsoft Tests Disaster Recovery Option for Azure VMs

Microsoft on Wednesday released a technical preview of a new disaster recovery feature for its Azure Site Recovery (ASR) service, enabling customers to restore virtual machines (VMs) running on the Azure IaaS platform.

The disaster recovery option will let users replicate IaaS-based applications in Azure to any region of their choice without having to deploy additional software or appliances to existing ASR subscriptions, according to an announcement by Microsoft Principal Program Manager Rochak Mittal.

"This new capability, along with Azure Backup for IaaS virtual machines, allows you to create a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery strategy for all your IaaS based applications running on Azure," Mittal noted.

Microsoft is adding new features to its disaster recovery service on the heels of forging tighter ties with key suppliers of data protection software. Among them is Commvault, which claims to have been the first to offer Windows-based data protection 17 years ago, and has built its own Disaster Recovery as a Service solution based on Azure.

Randy De Meno, chief technologist for Commvault's Microsoft partnership, said he's not concerned about Microsoft's ASR, noting that Commvault offers a broad set of archiving, Office 365 protection, e-discovery and migration capabilities that go beyond core data replication.

"We are going to drive more Azure consumption and give customers an enterprisewide solution," he said during a meeting this week at Commvault's Triton Falls, N.J., offices.

Key Microsoft executives have given a nod to some of these key partnerships. In a new promotional video, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Steve Guggenheimer said: "We're partnering together to help those customers move to the cloud, in a way that helps take advantage [of what] Microsoft has built in Azure."

The new ASR disaster recovery feature offers redundancy without requiring additional infrastructure on-premises, allowing administrators to choose cross-region disaster recovery by selecting the VMs and a target location, according to Mittal. By offering the disaster recovery function as an "as a service" offering, customers can avoid the need to deploy, monitor, patch and maintain on-premises disaster recovery infrastructure, he added.

Administrators can enable cross-region disaster recovery by selecting a VM, choosing the Azure region and creating replication settings. Customers can choose how to orchestrate failovers and determine the required recovery time and point objectives. The cross-region preview is available in all regions that Microsoft offers ASR.

Earlier this month, a number of key Microsoft executives gave talks at Veaam's annual gathering of customers and partners in New Orleans. "Azure Site Recovery is just replicating virtual machines out to Azure," said Clint Wycoff, a technical marketing evangelist at Veeam during an interview at VeeamON. "It's somewhat complex to set up and a lot of customers and partners have had challenges around its complexity and consistency."

Scott Woodgate, director of Microsoft Azure management and security, begged to differ. "This is the simplest disaster recovery or business continuity configuration ever, in particular because it's all within Azure. There's no need to worry about configuring the interface to your organization's firewalls," Woodgate said during a brief interview. "It's virtually a simple wizard. Many of the other vendors are offering applications running in virtual machines, where I as the end user still need to manage and patch and update and secure that application. Azure Site Recovery is actually a SaaS service, so Microsoft does all that work for you, which reduces the overall cost of ownership versus the VM-based solutions."

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.