This content is part of the Essential Guide: Understand VMware disaster recovery from start to finish

What types of VMware DR tools can be used for planning and execution?

DR in large virtualized environments can be a challenge. Use VMware DR tools like vSAN, vSphere Replication and vCloud Air Disaster Recovery to ease planning.

Although virtualization streamlines and simplifies many processes that were once time-consuming and error-prone, disaster recovery planning demands even more careful consideration and attention to detail. Tools help to organize and prepare disaster recovery planning in virtualized environments, ensuring that important steps and critical VMs aren't accidentally overlooked. VMware, specifically, offers a variety of software tools designed to support cloud-centric disaster preparation and recovery tasks in the enterprise.

One of these VMware DR tools, vSAN, focuses on pooling, provisioning, managing and protecting storage at the VM level. VSAN clusters traditional magnetic and advanced solid-state disks (SSDs) to create virtualized storage pools, and then provision that storage based on storage policies, as well as workload performance and quality of service requirements. This pushes organizations toward VMware's vision of hyper-converged and software-defined data center technologies.

Beyond storage management based on policies, vSAN supports powerful storage features like read/write SSD caching and IOPS limits (throttling) to manage workload storage access performance and distributed storage mirroring (RAID 1). Protective features like stretched cluster support with local failure protection, storage replication to five minute recovery point objectives (RPOs) and vSAN snapshots and clones form the backbone of vSAN as an enterprise VMware DR tool.

Organizations that don't need the scope or sophistication of vSAN can consider other VMware DR tools, such as vSphere Replication, to asynchronously protect VMs between systems and sites, or to a cloud provider, through common platforms like vCenter Server and the vSphere Web Client. VSphere Replication can protect thousands of VMs per vCenter Server and support individual RPOs from five minutes to 24 hours. Snapshot-based replication allows point-in-time recovery, so administrators can not only recover the latest instance, but earlier instances -- an important tool for overcoming other VM errors and crashes across the enterprise.

VSphere Replication integrates with other VMware tools, including vSAN and VMware Site Recovery Manager, as well as cloud-based DR through VMware's vCloud Air Disaster Recovery service. VSphere Replication also works through the ESXi hypervisor, so storage targets are generally abstracted allowing replication between different vSphere storage types, including traditional SAN, network-attached storage, direct-attached storage, along with VMware vSAN and vSphere Virtual Volumes.

The actual processes DR implements are always a challenge for IT administrators -- it's difficult to get the necessary steps right every time and ensure proper results. VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) helps overcome these perplexing problems by providing automated orchestration of DR plans, as well as regular nondisruptive testing for VM recovery plans. Administrators no longer need to reference written policies or DR procedural manuals. Instead, SRM implements automation to handle DR and recovery tasks for thousands of VMs.

SRM typically works in conjunction with other VMware tools, including vSphere Replication, VMware NSX and vSAN; these tools provide additional features and functionality. SRM also supports some third-party replication plug-ins -- called Storage Replication Adapters -- that handle array-based replication and stretched storage across short distances; stretched storage is synchronous replication with array-based storage clustering.

Organizations that prefer to avoid installing and maintaining their own DR tools can use VMware services like vCloud Air Disaster Recovery. This cloud-based service allows vSphere customers to protect workloads in remote vCloud Air data center facilities through common VMware DR tools like vSphere Replication. Each vCloud Air Disaster Recovery subscription supports up to 500 protected VMs as desired, using RPOs from 15 minutes to 24 hours. Users can test recovery scenarios to ensure adequate recoverability from the service. VMware facilities also provide compute and storage facilities for short-term failover and recovery tasks between the enterprise and the VMware cloud.

Next Steps

Install and configure vSphere Replication

Navigate between legacy DR and the cloud

Learn more about VMware vCloud Air

Dig Deeper on VMware management tools