EMC Corp. has integrated its Replication Manager tool into VMware's Virtual Center management application, enabling the EMC software to take writeable snapshots of C: drives stored as VMDK files and providing near instant recovery of data stored using VMware's VMFS.
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Replication Manager is an administration tool layered over EMC's replication applications for Clariion, Symmetrix and iSCSI Celerra arrays. It is used to schedule snapshots and kickoff the migration of data locally or remotely.
In May, EMC updated Replication Manager allowing customers to run VMware without VMFS by using either Microsoft iSCSI initiators or VMware's Raw Device Mapping (RDM) instead. "With that announcement, we could take consistent snapshots of data in Exchange, SQL and Oracle using RDMs and iSCSI to quiesce the data as you would with a physical server," said Chad Sakac, senior director of VMware strategic alliance. "What's new is supporting backup and recovery of the C: drive on those virtual machines, which allows backup and restore of the entire system."
Replication Manager also has visibility into VMFS through this API integration. That means customers who don't attach storage to ESX using RDMs can create consistent snapshots of all virtual machine data. Sakac estimates at least 80% of VMware deployments don't use RDMs to attach to storage. Replication Manager is now also integrated with VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM), which automates multisite failover between virtual servers for disaster recovery.
One Replication Manager customer said the value of this integration lies closer to home than a secondary data center. "We don't do a lot of off-site replication between sites," said Chris Faria, system storage architect for Pulte Homes. The home-builder has two main sites and 31 field offices around the country, but Faria uses Replication Manager mostly to create clones of production databases for test and development, and for application refreshes.
Pulte Homes has around 300 TB on a Symmetrix DMX-3 array and much of it financial applications running on Oracle 10g. Pulte stuck with VMFS rather than using RDMs because VMFS had its own snapshot utility that allows rollback in the event of an outage, Faria said. "What we couldn't do, with either VMFS or Replication Manager, was take a snapshot of a full machine and mount it elsewhere," he said.
The ability to restore writeable snapshots of the entire virtual machine container will improve the database testing process, but more importantly will put Pulte Homes closer to virtualizing its whole server environment by allowing conversions of physical servers to virtual ones.
Faria was hoping to see EMC add similar integration with IBM's AIX virtual servers and add Active Directory integration for the Replication Manager application so that it doesn't require a separate login.
"It would be a natural direction for EMC to support more types of virtual machines, but at the same time I expect to see them leverage their relationship with VMware [EMC is the majority owner of VMware stock] further than snapshots and replication," said Pund-IT analyst Charles King. "Other companies position server integration as a key aspect of their competitive storage strategy – VMware gives EMC a value proposition to exploit with virtually every x86 vendor out there, whether they're building their own storage system or not."
An EMC spokesperson said it will add support for Hyper-V soon, but the other items on Faria's wish list are "on the radar and to be determined."
Dell, which co-brands CX4 midrange storage arrays with EMC and has its own storage platforms, rolled out similar data protection integration with VMware ESX server Wednesday. Dell's product is called Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMware Edition for its EqualLogic iSCSI systems. Replication Manager's VMware generates more speculation that EMC and Dell are heading separate ways on storage.
It's an impression both companies have publicly disputed since Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic, but recent Dell products make it more competitive with EMC. "While they don't want to jeopardize Clariion revenue too quickly, they are increasingly competing with each other," said Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Balaouras. "[Long term] I think Dell becomes more and more independent of EMC, [and] it becomes less of a strategic relationship and more of an opportunistic relationship."
According to a Dell spokesperson in an email to SearchStorage.com, "Dell remains fully committed to the EMC relationship, and the two companies continue to work together to bring-to-market storage technologies that address customer needs. Furthermore, it is likely that you will see new product categories addressed through our partnership." An EMC spokesperson added, "We've never said we don't compete at all. The relationship is still strong and healthy as evidenced by the extension of our OEM agreement through 2011."