vSphere 5.1 – Built-in VM Replication without SRM

VMworld US 2012 has kicked off with some very exciting announcements.  Other blog posts will follow on this but I had to quickly mention the most genius decision to finally include VM replication in vSphere.  The best part is that vSphere Replication will be applicable for version Essentials+ all the way to Enterprise+.  This is great news for the SMB market and for clients like mine who had to resort to 3rd party replication tools when using Essentials+.  As we all know 3rd party tools add to our day to day management and overall complexity of the environment.  This is also great for larger customers who may not need the advanced features of SRM for certain VM’s and can save on the SRM CAL count. 

Not much detail is out yet but it looks like the replication technology was snatched directly from SRM 5.0.  SRM introduced VMware host based replication, which meant you no longer had to use expensive storage level replication (EMC Mirrorview, NetApp Snapmirror, etc) for VM replication to utilize SRM.  Sure, some features such as failback sync were lacking, but it was a huge step forward for some of my smaller customers that didn’t have have the budget for a SAN.  The host based replication portion required you to deploy a management and replication virtual appliances at each site.  The replication works by having the kernel track unique writes to the disk files of the enabled VM’s by using an agent.  The appliance would than ship those changes to your recovery site and apply them to the passive VM.  VMware states that VM replication between both local and remote clusters are supported. 

Obviously, SRM isn’t going anywhere since the built in replication feature set will not include any of the scripting and orchestration functionalities.  Also, announced was SRM 5.1 which includes some great enhancements such as  enhanced VSS, Forced Recovery to quickly bring up a target site, Essentials+ support, and my favorite, re-protect and failback for vSphere Replication deployments. Overall, this is a huge announcement for the future of ESX.  SMB’s have continuously complained about being forgotten by VMware and have threatened to move over to Hyper-V.  In my opinion VMware just upped the ante over Microsoft with just these announcements alone.

-Justin Vashisht (3cVguy)

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