Microsoft acquires InMage. Enhanced disaster recovery services for Microsoft Azure

Today Microsoft announced it  has acquired InMage. InMage is a US company while software development is done in India. InMage offers software to enable disaster recovery (DR) for mid-market and enterprises. 

There are many solutions on the market offering DR. However InMage is the only one supporting all assets in a datacenter: both physical and virtual servers ( VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and XenServer). It supports Windows Server, Linux, IBM AIX  and Solaris. It supports major enterprise applications like Exchange, SQL, Oracle, SAP and Sharepoint.

One of the software solutions of InMage is Scout. Scout is storage agnostic and allows to replicate virtual machines as well as physical servers to a target location. This can be either a secondary datacenter, to a cloud provider like Azure or to a Managed Service Provider datacenter. InMage has many Service Provider customers in the US. For example SunGuard. Cisco uses InMage Scout in its blueprints which can be used by partners building DRaaS solutions. InMage partners with HP, Hitachi and Fujitsu which provide DR services.

Scout current version is 7.1.

The solutions are offered in three form factors: software, a hardware and as Software as a Service.

Scout will be integrated in the current Microsoft Azure service called ‘Azure Site Recovery’ which is in Preview at the moment.

Besides the support for all major hypervisors a very interesting feature of InMage Scout is the ability to covert hypervisor virtual machine disk formats. So a VMware customer can protect their virtual machines running on vSphere  (which uses  VMDK format) to Microsoft Azure which uses Hyper-V .VHD virtual disks.

Also for example an Amazon customer can easily migrate virtual machines to Azure using InMage Scout.

In this  blogpost,  Takeshi Numoto – Corporate Vice President, Cloud and Enterprise Marketing , states

This acquisition will accelerate our strategy to provide hybrid cloud business continuity solutions for any customer IT environment, be it Windows or Linux, physical or virtualized on Hyper-V, VMware or others. This will make Azure the ideal destination for disaster recovery for virtually every enterprise server in the world. As VMware customers explore their options to permanently migrate their applications to the cloud, this will also provide a great onramp.

Microsoft has two main goals by the acquistion of InMage:

  1. attract Microsoft customers to Microsoft Azure
  2. attract VMware and other non Hyper-V customers to Microsoft Azure. VMware has a large installed base but not every VMware customer can afford a secondary datacenter. Especially in Europe there are not many Service Providers offering a mature Disaster Recovery as a Service offering. VMware itself only recently introduced its vCHS-DR service.

It is interesting to see how the currently in Preview service ‘Azure Site Recovery’ (ASR) will mature now InMage has been acquired. ASR support is limited to Hyper-V virtual machines running on-premises. It provides some orchestration features but is limited in out of the box post-processing of failover of virtual machines. For example changing IP addresses needs to be scripted. It is not unlikely development of ASR will change course.

Technology
InMage Scout uses agents which are installed in a source server (physcial or virtual server). This agent copies every write to disk and sents it to a software appliance called the InMage Scout Server. I understand this can be either a virtual machine (called the Process server) or a hardware appliance 

This appliance has two functions:

  • -a backup function. It stores backup data on disk.
  • -a disaster recovery function. It replicates data to a secondary site or to the cloud. It does compression and encryption as well.

In the secondary location there is a virtual appliance as well which is used to process the replicated data. It stores the replicated virtual disks on storage. Replica’s of virtual machines do not have to be powered on during the replication. This is very usefull as it does not consume compute and memory resources thus lowering costs.

At failover or failover testing virtual machines are created and started.

Conclusion

The acquisition of InMage is a very interesting one. Many see Disaster Recovery as a Service as a  first step for organizations to embrace cloud computing. Now DraaS is open for any enterprise, also non Hyper-V customers. The barrier for using DRaaS is lowered now.

 

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