What’s New With Zerto?

Zerto recently held their annual conference (ZertoCON) last week in Boston. I didn’t attend, but I did have time to catch up with Rob Strechay prior to Zerto making some announcements around the company and future direction. I thought I’d cover those here.

 

IT Resilience Platform

The first announcement revolved around the “IT Resilience Platform“. The idea behind the strategy is that backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility solutions into a single, simple, scalable platform. Strechay says that “this strategy combines continuous availability, workload mobility, and multi-cloud agility to ensure you can withstand any disruption, leverage new technology seamlessly, and move forward with confidence”. They’ve found that Zerto is being used both for unplanned and planned disruptions, and they’ve also been seeing a lot more activity resolving ransomware and security incidents. From a planned outage perspective, DC consolidation has been a big part of the planned disruption activity as well.

What’s driving this direction? According to Strechay, companies are looking for fewer point solutions. They’re also seeing backup and DR activities converging. Cloud is driving this technology convergence and is changing the way data protection is being delivered.

  • Cloud for backup
  • Cloud for DR
  • Application mobility

“It’s good if it’s done properly”. Zerto tell me they haven’t rushed into this and are not taking the approach lightly. They see IT Resilience as a combination of  Backup, DR Replication, and Hybrid Cloud. Strechay told me that Zerto are going to stay software only and will partner on the hardware side where required. So what does it look like conceptually?

[image courtesy of Zerto]

Think of this as a mode of transport. The analytics and control is like the navigation system, the orchestration and automation layer are the steering wheel, and continuous data protection is the car.

 

Vision for the Future of Backup

Strechay also shared with me Zerto’s vision for the future of backup. In short, “it needs to change”. They really want to move away from the concept of periodic protection to continuous, journal-based protection delivering seconds of RPO at scale to meet customer expectations. How are they going to do this? The key differentiation will be CDP combined with best of breed replication.

 

Zerto 7 Preview

Strechay also shared some high level details of Zerto 7, with key features including:

  • Intelligent index and search
  • Elastic journal
  • Data protection workflows
  • Architecture enhanced
  • LTR targets

There’ll be a new and enhanced user experience – they’re busy revisiting workflows and enhancing a number of them (e.g. reducing clicks, enhanced APIs, etc). They’ll also be looking at features such as prescriptive analytics (what if I added more VMs to this journal?). They’re aiming for a release in Q1 2019.

 

Thoughts

The way we protect data is changing. Companies like Zerto, Rubrik and Cohesity are bringing a new way of thinking to an age old problem. They’re coming at it from slightly different angles as well. This can only be a good thing for the industry. A lot of the technical limitations that we faced previously have been removed in terms of bandwidth and processing power. This provides the opportunity to approach the problem from the business perspective. Rather than saying “we can’t do that”, we have the opportunity to say “we can do that”. That doesn’t mean that scale is a simple thing to manage, but it seems like there are more ways to solve this problem than there have been previously.

I’ve been a fan of Zerto’s approach for some time. I like the idea that a company has shared their new vision for data protection some months out from actually delivering the product. It makes a nice change from companies merely regurgitating highlights from their product release notes (not that that isn’t useful at times). Zerto have a rich history of delivering CDP solutions for virtualised environments, and they’ve made some great inroads with cloud workload protection as well. The idea of moving away from periodic data protection to something continuous is certainly interesting, and obviously fits in well with Zerto’s strengths. It’s possibly not a strategy that will work well in every situation, particularly with smaller environments. But if you’re leveraging replication technologies already, it’s worth looking at how Zerto might be able to deliver a more complete solution for your data protection requirements.

Zerto Announces ZVR 6.0

Zerto recently announced version 6.0 of their Zero Virtual Replication (ZVR) product and I had the opportunity to speak with Rob Strechay (Senior VP, Product) about the announcement.

 

Announcement

Multi-cloud Mobility

Multi-cloud workload mobility is probably the biggest bit of news from the 6.0 release. It provides “inter-cloud and intra-cloud workload mobility and protection between Azure, IBM Cloud, AWS and more than 350 cloud service providers (CSPs)”. This is the culmination of a lot of work by Zerto over the past few years, with support for AWS delivered in 2014, Azure in 2016, and now you have the ability to move workloads between clouds as well. The cool thing about this is that you can do some interesting stuff with workload migration, moving to and from Azure, and also in-between Azure (i.e. region to region).

GCP is on their roadmap, however demand for that functionality has not been as great according to Strechay.

 

Enhanced Analytics Visibility

Zerto’s analytics capability (first announced in ZVR 5.5) has been enhanced as well. Customers now have access to expanded dashboards with:

  • Live network analysis reports for troubleshooting and optimisation;
  • Insights into network throughput and performance;
  • The ability to monitor site-to-site and outbound traffic; and
  • 30 days of network history metrics for any site.

 

Cloud Portal for CSPs

CSPs are still a huge piece of what makes Zerto successful. The new CSP Management Portal will give CSPs the ability to “remotely upgrade customer sites to provide them with continuous availability and latest software releases”. This is a SaaS-delivered service, and will eventually be supported for Enterprise customers as well.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

If you’ve ever been to VMworld (or similar events), you’ll see that Zerto make a big effort to get in front of current (and potential) customers and spread the good word about disaster recovery and disaster avoidance. Not only do they make pretty good t-shirts, they also have a nifty product (and excellent CSP ecosystem) that keeps improving as the years go by. They now support over 6000 customers in over 70 countries and have done quite a bit of work to make disaster recovery for virtual environments a relatively simple undertaking. This simplicity, coupled with some great improvements in cloud workload mobility make it worth a second look.

Disaster recovery (and disaster avoidance), like most data protection activities, isn’t sexy. It’s boring. And you hope you’ll never have to use it. But if you’ve ever had to, you’ll know how kludgy some solutions can be. Zerto has worked hard to not be one of those solutions, instead offering a simple mechanism for workload protection and mobility. If you’re into that kind of thing (and you probably should be), they’re worth checking out.

Zerto Analytics – Seeing Is Understanding

I attended VMworld US in August and had hoped to catch up with Zerto regarding their latest product update (the snappily titled Zerto Virtual Replication 5.5). Unfortunately there were some scheduling issues and we were unable to meet up. I was, however, briefed by them a few weeks later on some of the new features, particularly around the Zerto Analytics capability. This is a short post that focuses primarily on that part of the announcement.

 

Incremental But Important Announcement

If you’re unfamiliar with Zerto, they provide cloud and hypervisor-based workload replication for disaster recovery. They’ve been around since 2010, and the product certainly has its share of fans. The idea behind Zerto Analytics, according to Zerto, is that it “provides real-time and historical analytics on the status and health of multi-site, multi-cloud environments”.

It is deployed on Zerto’s new SaaS platform, is accessible to all Zerto VR customers, and, according to Zerto, “you will be able to quickly visualize your entire infrastructure from a single pane of glass”.

 

The Value

DR is a vital function that a whole bunch of companies don’t understand terribly well. Zerto provide a reasonably comprehensive solution for companies looking to protect their hypervisor-based workloads in multiple locations while leveraging a simple to use interface for recovery. because when it all goes wrong you want it to be easy to come back. The cool thing about Zerto Analytics is that it gives you more than the standard issue status reporting you’ve previously enjoyed. Instead, you can go through historical data to get a better understanding of the replication requirements of your workloads, and the hot and cold times for workloads. I think this is super useful when it comes to (potentially) understanding when planned maintenance needs to occur, and when a good time is to schedule in your test recoveries or data migration activities.

There’s never a good time for a disaster. That’s why they call them disasters. But the more information you have available at the time of a disaster, the better the chances are of you coming out the other end in good shape. The motto at my daughters’ school is “Scientia est Potestas”. This doesn’t actually mean “Science is Potatoes” but is Latin for “Knowledge is Power”. As with most things in IT (and life), a little bit of extra knowledge (in the form of insight and data) can go a long way. Zerto are keen, with this release, to improve the amount of visibility you have into your environment from a DR perspective. This can only be a good thing, particularly when you can consume it across a decent range of platforms.

DR isn’t just about the technology by any stretch. You need an extensive understanding of what’s happening in your environment, and you need to understand what happens to people when things go bang. But one of the building blocks for success, in my opinion, is providing a solid platform for recovery in the event that something goes pear-shaped. Zerto isn’t for everyone, but I get the impression anecdotally that they’re doing some pretty good stuff around making what can be a bad thing into a more positive experience.

 

Read More

Technical documentation on Zerto Virtual Replication 5.5 can be found here. There’s also a great demo on YouTube that you can see here.