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5/7/2013
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VMware Users Gain Bluelock Recovery Option

As VMware prepares for the public cloud market, compatible suppliers like Bluelock add services.

Bluelock, an early member of VMware's public cloud ecosystem, launched recovery-as-a-service Tuesday for users of VMware virtual machines, whether on premises or in a cloud service.

Recovery-as-a-service is expected to one day evolve into a lower cost replacement for disaster recovery systems, where duplicate hardware and software sit in reserve at a company's secondary or alternative data center. Bluelock is one of the first general-purpose services available online to VMware customers, based on familiar VMware vSphere 5 and vCloud suite products. It will be competing with SunGard and other disaster recovery services that provide similar services across the board to multiple hypervisor users.

Bluelock is part of VMware's public cloud partner ecosystem, a group that is likely to find itself under increasing pressure as VMware prepares to enter the list of infrastructure-as-a-service providers. VMware is slated to announce May 21 how it expects to encourage and sustain its existing ecosystem, on one hand, and compete more effectively with Amazon Web Services on the other. Other primary cloud partners include Colt, Singtel, Softbank, Dell, CSC and AT&T. In addition, hundreds of other regional providers offer vCloud suite compatibility in their public IaaS offerings.

Bluelock appears unfazed by the prospect of VMware offering an alternative, public cloud service. Bluelock will supply a VMware customer with a service that creates clones of vital systems running in the enterprise data center and establishes them in a Bluelock data center. It will also provide recovery service in a second Bluelock data center. Bluelock has data centers in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City as well as Indianapolis, where the company is headquartered.

In each case, Bluelock creates a virtual data center unit, a designated set of virtual servers with well-defined software stacks, in an alternative location to the one in which they're running. In the event of a malware invasion, data center power loss or a natural disaster, the recovery systems are activated and preset means of feeding in up-to-date data are triggered.

[ See our related story, Will VMware Stay The Public Cloud Course? Bluelock Bets Yes. ]

Bluelock calls the recovery-as-a-service offering its "4-Series Virtual Datacenters," a name that appears to reflect the fact that it runs Tier 4 designated data centers, facilities that meet a 99.995% level of reliability, resiliency and compliance as determined by the Uptime Institute. The institute is an independent unit of the 451 Group, the company that owns 451 Research and the Yankee Group.

Pat O'Day, CTO of Bluelock, said recovery-as-a-service is easier to test than physical disaster recovery systems. In many cases, the complexity of a physical duplicate of existing mission-critical systems made IT staffs reluctant to stage a full-scale test, where production systems were shut down in hopes that disaster recovery systems would work as planned and pick up the tasks.

Bluelock bases its replication of existing systems and establishment of data feeds on the Zerto Virtual Replication software system. It clones virtual machines and data traffic in running systems and feeds a copy to the recovery site. The system relies on a constant, up-to-date data stream rather than snapshots. Zerto spokesmen say it does so without impacting existing application performance.

Using virtualization as the basis for a recovery system reduces its cost and provides "an appropriate balance between IT disaster recovery capabilities, affordability and risk mitigation," said O'Day in the service announcement. The service is priced to represent an estimated 40% of the cost of running a second, physical, production system, he said in an interview.

The recovery service keeps a journal of all transactions of a running system. In the To-Cloud version, the customer goes to his or her vSphere control panel tab for disaster recovery and uses it to activate the backup system. The replacement system is given a data feed that represents up-to-date data for the application. If there has been a data corruption incident, the recovery system can go back in the transaction log to a point that preceded the corruption and reactivate only good data, O’Day explained.

The service includes all the commands needed to run a test of the system, which the customer may activate when he chooses. If he schedules the test with Bluelock or conducts it on a weekend, there are no fees for twice-a-year testing, O’Day said. Testing disaster recovery systems is a sensitive point; few IT shops wish to risk bringing their systems down unintentionally in the process of DR testing.

It's not uncommon for many small businesses or nonprofit organizations to have only the most rudimentary recovery system, such as a snapshot tape taken once a week or once a day. An early adopter of the service, Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., didn't previously have a disaster recovery system. "We're excited to have a partner who we know will be there to help get us back on our feet in the event of a (disaster) declaration," said James Shuttleworth, director of network systems and infrastructure at the college, in the announcement.

The service for existing Bluelock cloud customers is dubbed the Bluelock Virtual Datacenter 4500. The service for on-premises VMware users looking for a cloud-based recovery site is called the Bluelock Virtual Datacenter 4000.

Bluelock was clustered with GoGrid and Joyent in the "challengers" section of Gartner's magic quadrant on infrastructure-as-a-service suppliers.

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