VirtualSharp Seeks to Update Disaster Recovery for Virtualization Era

by Kenneth Corbin

Two-year-old startup offers automated disaster recovery testing for virtual environments that promise stronger compliance with RTO, RPO.

It's no secret that the rise of cloud computing and the virtual data center has precipitated a seismic shift in IT infrastructure, but disaster recovery technology remains largely rooted in a model based on legacy systems, according to VirtualSharp, a startup seeking to update disaster recovery for the virtualization era.

At its core, VirtualSharp's vision is to provide a fully automated disaster recovery process that pairs with an enterprise's virtualization layer and advanced storage array, without disrupting production systems.

"As customers are shifting their application[s] to new cloud architectures, it is important for us to be able to convey to them the message about the new disaster recovery architecture to go with that," said Carlos Escapa, VirtualSharp's co-founder and CEO. "Most players in the disaster recovery space are largely talking about data protection using traditional backup and replication methods."

VirtualSharp's flagship disaster recovery assurance product is ReliableDR, which the company bills as an upgrade from older systems. It offers fully automated, ongoing testing, performed at intervals as frequent as daily or hourly. ReliableDR offers automatic failover of servers, applications and IT services in the event of a disaster.

VirtualSharp positions its Disaster Recovery Assurance solution as the next stage in the evolution of DR systems toward more automated processes, following on the heels of traditional backup and restore technologies and replication -- both methods built around a data protection model -- and then disaster recovery testing, a process built around a recovery plan, but one that still entails a high level of complexity and human oversight.

Instead, VirtualSharp frames its approach around IT service recovery, enabling users to bring disaster recovery into line with business policies, while providing for the automatic enforcement of recovery point objectives (RPOs) and minimizing recovery time objectives (RTOs).

"We solve the alignment problem between IT recovery and business continuity," Escapa said. "Most data centers have RTOs that are hours to days, whereas the line of business expects maximum downtime in the area of minutes to hours."

Through the automated testing, VirtualSharp's solution addresses what the company refers to as "configuration drift," the disconnect that can arise between a primary and secondary site, potentially resulting in extended downtime, recoverability challenges, or RPO or RTO non-compliance. VirtualSharp's recovery dashboard logs any configuration drift issues that arise, and it automatically notifies the appropriate IT support or business group with an email or SNMP alert.

VirtualSharp's story began in 2006, when the future founders of the company observed early adopters of VMware's technology encountering a new set of challenges concerning disaster recovery.

"They couldn't keep track of the VMs; didn't know who owned what, which VMs depended on which other ones; they found snapshots and orphaned machines; and so on," Escapa explained.

The proliferation of virtualized systems only compounded the problem.

"That got us thinking about how to drive automation into disaster recovery and take a proactive approach where disaster recovery tests could be orchestrated across data centers, without agents and zero production footprint," he said.

A prototype of the product was developed in 2008 and 2009, initially designed by engineers at Spain's ErmesTel SL, a systems integrator for virtual data centers. In 2010, the founders spun off VirtualSharp Software as an independent company. The firm today maintains offices in Spain and the United Kingdom, with its North American headquarters in Northern Virginia.

VirtualSharp's ReliableDR currently supports VMware ESX 3.5 and the vSphere 4.x and 5.x environments. The product is also compatible with a host of leading mid-market and enterprise storage platforms, including those from EMC, NetApp, IBM, HP and Dell.

VirtualSharp is an elite-level VMware Technology Alliance Partner, the highest designation in that program.

Escapa said that VirtualSharp is planning to roll out support for Microsoft's Hyper-V platform, as well as a new set of features for cloud service providers, including multi-tenancy, self sign-up, access controls defined by role and a Web-oriented architecture.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Feb 8th 2012
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