One of the more interesting hybrid cloud use cases is cloud-based disaster recovery (Cloud DR). In the past, large organizations that could afford it would invest in cold and warm standby sites in order to ensure business continuity for enterprise applications. More recently, the widespread use of server virtualization reduced the investment required for DR infrastructure and put it within reach of a larger number of companies. Virtualized applications are inherently easier to replicate across internet and WAN connections than “bare metal” implementations, boosting interest in Cloud DR.


While adoption is still in early stages, Cloud DR can be an attractive alternative for companies that are strapped for IT resources. The usage-based, “pay-as-you-go” cost model for cloud services is well suited for the DR use case, since replicated data is inactive most of the time. But, like any nascent technology, the challenges associated with Cloud DR should be clearly understood and addressed. Because security and performance top of the list of concerns, it’s important to consider the following issues when developing a Cloud DR strategy:


  • Can sensitive data be securely transferred and stored in a public cloud?
  • Does the cloud provider meet regulatory requirements?
  • If restoring applications from the cloud during a disaster; how long will the restore take?
  • If redirecting users to the cloud during a disaster; are bandwidth requirements understood?

A unified data fabric can help alleviate these concerns. For instance, a data fabric powered by NetApp allows high-value corporate data to be stored securely on shared public cloud storage through the use of Secure Multi-tenancy (SMT). SMT utilizes a logical partitioning scheme that splits physical storage into multiple logical segments that cannot be viewed, shared, or downloaded by anyone using other segments of the same storage array. This not only gives IT additional peace of mind, but also helps satisfy legal and regulatory requirements.


A NetApp-powered data fabric also facilitates quick data recovery during disaster events. If the DR plan calls for restoration of applications from public cloud sites, NetApp SnapMirror reduces restoration time by attempting a “partial” restore of missing/corrupt data during a disaster where the primary storage is not completely lost. In the event of a complete data loss, NetApp SnapMirror accelerates data access by incorporating bandwidth-saving thin provisioning, deduplication, and data compression throughout the data recovery process.


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If the DR plan calls for redirecting application users to cloud-based servers, the NetApp-powered data fabric similarly assists in avoiding cloud latency bottlenecks. With a NetApp-powered data fabric, DR replicas can reside on private storage arrays, connected to public cloud providers via a direct-connect high speed link. In this manner, compute and networking services are provided from the cloud, but I/O is provided directly from NetApp Private Storage – sitting right next to the cloud.


One example of a company that has deployed cloud DR is BlackLine, a SaaS provider of enterprise financial software. BlackLine protects its production environment by using Verizon’s Virtualized Disaster Recovery (VDR) service and a data fabric powered by NetApp that uses SnapMirror to replicate BlackLine’s data to the cloud every hour.


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According to Darren Glasser, Blackline Director of Engineering:
“Virtual disaster recovery enabled us to migrate to the colocation facility rapidly without having to build and maintain an equivalent, separate hot site. It allows us to scale more effectively because we don’t have to buy, provision, install, and test redundant infrastructure components.


We can expand our U.S. colocation facility as we need, and trust that Verizon has the virtual infrastructure on the other end to scale with us. It’s also helping us to meet our compliance requirements for ISO 27001, SSAE 16 (SOC 1), and ISAE 3402 disaster recovery testing and vali-dation because annual DR tests are included with the VDR service.”


With a cloud DR environment that leverages Verizon cloud-based services and a Data Fabric enabled by NetApp, BlackLine was able to significantly cut hosting costs, eliminate bottlenecks, and offer their customers a two-hour SLA for full recovery from any disaster event.


BlackLine Executive Overview
In this video, BlackLine executives explain why they made the decision to build their Cloud DR architecture around NetApp and Verizon.


BlackLine Technical Overview (sign-in required)
Blackline Engineering Director Darren Gasser explains how he used a hybrid cloud model to maintain control of data while enhancing disaster recovery.

Larry Freeman