Product Review: Evolve IP DRaaS ZT
A Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) is a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, and several companies are trying to become the preferred vendor for online, off-site DR products. One of those companies is Evolve IP, an emerging cloud services provider that was named one of the top 500 fastest-growing tech companies in North America by Deloitte for 2015. The company won other accolades last year, including the Emerging Technology Company of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies. But before we get too carried away with how well Evolve IP is doing, let’s take a close look at their DRaaS ZT offering to see how it holds up.
The ZT model specifically uses hypervisor-based data replication, which means that the data backup is managed at the hypervisor level (not the physical storage level) and deployed on virtual machines. This happens because of Zerto, a company whose hypervisor-level replication product is used in the Evolve IP DRaaS ZT.
“The biggest benefit was the ability to reduce our overall recovery time objectives (RTO) from 48 hours or more to four hours or less with near real-time recovery points. We were able to do this while reducing our disaster recovery operational expenses.” – Rusty Lorenzon, IT Director, Leaf Commercial Capital
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It should be noted that Evolve IP has several other DRaaS products in their suite, and the ZT model is the only one that will be covered in this review. For reference, see the product comparison chart in the “specifications” section.
The ZT model specifically uses hypervisor-based data replication, which means that the data backup is managed at the hypervisor level (not the physical storage level) and deployed on virtual machines. This happens because of Zerto, a company whose hypervisor-level replication product is used in the Evolve IP DRaaS ZT. (Indeed, the ZT stands for Zerto.) As Zerto’s website claims, this is the “first and only replication solution that delivers enterprise-class, virtual replication and BC/DR capabilities for the data center and the cloud.” Importantly, Zerto’s replication strategy allows each write command sent by a VM to be captured, copied, and sent to the data recovery center (in this case, the Evolve IP Cloud). This is a more efficient solution than taking a snapshot for backing up data and allows Zerto to replicate data continuously. Additionally, Zerto’s fully software-based replication supports different types of storage arrays. This, in turn, allows customers of the Evolve IP DRaaS ZT to replicate any type of storage.
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The Evolve IP DRaaS ZT is suited for the VMware Hypervisor and transmits data between this hypervisor and the Evolve IP Cloud for backup. As mentioned previously, it backs up the data continuously and does take snapshots so as to not slow down the production environment. A self-service portal is employed to allow customers to control the disaster recovery process. Beyond this level of control, most of the DR process is automated, including “creation of all VMs, reconfiguring IP addresses and executing custom scripts,” according to the Evolve IP website.
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The image below shows different versions of Evolve IP’s DRaaS solution, including two versions of the ZT. While the DRaaS ZT comes in Premium and Standard editions, the intentions and hardware setup behind the two is very similar. The differences between the two lie in RTO (recovery time objective) and pricing. As seen on the chart, the Premium version offers four hours RTO, in exchange for a 25 percent reservation fee to reserve space on Evolve IP’s servers.
While the Evolve IP DRaaS suite of products has done well for itself, winning Cisco CMSP Master certification a few months ago, it is not without competitors in the DRaaS space. Gartner did a Magic Quadrant report in April 2015 on DRaaS competitors, while noting that some of these competitors did not have much experience working with enterprise DRaaS customers. Evolve IP’s product was not a part of the report, but perhaps this is not surprising since 2015 is the year that put Evolve IP on the map as a quickly rising technology company.
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Regardless, one of the main competitors in the DRaaS area is IBM, who features the Cloud Virtualized Server Recovery (CVSR) as one of its data recovery products. The Silver and Gold editions of the CVSR promise a failover time of less than one hour, which is impressive, and unmatched currently by Evolve IP. IBM also offers a comprehensive set of professional and managed services through its IBM Resiliency Services, beyond their DRaaS products. Perhaps the biggest downside of IBM for data recovery is that their price tag is hefty, including their monthly costs for VMs and storage. Another alternative is Sungard Availability Services’ DRaaS solution suite, which is well-reviewed in the Gartner report. While the report does note some minor weaknesses in the Sungard product, it does provide its highest rating among all DRaaS products in the report.
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While these and other companies are doing a good job with their DRaaS products, there are still potential improvements to be made. The Gartner report notes that, “No single DRaaS service attribute was overwhelmingly rated positively or negatively by the references. This may indicate that users feel today’s services are simply ‘good enough.'” It remains to be seen whether that statement will hold true over the next several years.