Is Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) the New “Killer App” for Cloud Services?

Reaping value from an infrastructure investment is the ultimate goal of any project – and also the obvious challenge. A large number of cloud service providers have invested significant capital and resources to build out their services for enterprises, SMBs and the consumer marketplace. Despite these investments, the “take rate” of some of these services has failed to reach the velocities estimated in the original business cases used to justify the investment into cloud technologies.

Several obstacles have affected the cloud take rate, including the following:

  • Security of cloud instances — as well as the security of data at rest or in motion
  • Orchestration, federation and provisioning of cloud services
  • The cost of custom, dedicated cloud instances
  • Lifecycle management of cloud solutions
  • The economic migration of applications and data to cloud infrastructures

According to a recent report by researchers at the University of Massachusetts and AT&T Labs (the “UMass/Labs Report”), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — in both multi-tenant and dedicated models — offers a viable alternative for disaster recovery services.

Disaster Recovery Meets Cloud Services

Traditional disaster recovery solutions for mission-critical business processes have always represented a complex and somewhat expensive solution for enterprises. This is due to the complete duplication of infrastructure and software licenses required, as well as the need to support active-active instances to reach Recovery Time Objectives/Recovery Point Objectives (“RTOs/RPOs”) of less than four hours. However, certain observed trends within the disaster recovery environment make it clear that cloud services are very well suited to support standby “Warm” disaster recovery services. (For the purposes of this discussion, “Warm” DR solutions support RTOs/RPOs of 12 to 96 hours.)

As Rebecca Wetzel indicates in DRaaS Definitions You Need to Know, cloud platforms can provide the greatest benefit to DR services that require warm standby replications:

“In this case, the cloud can be used to cheaply maintain the state of an application using low-cost resources under ordinary operating conditions. Only after a disaster occurs must a cloud-based DR service turn up and pay for the more powerful — and expensive — resources required to run the full application, and it can add these resources in a matter of seconds or minutes.”

Hybrid Approach to DRaaS

One of the key aspects of the DRaaS solution approach is the ability to avoid the up-front investment in infrastructure and software licenses thru a hybrid approach. Using this approach, custom dedicated private cloud instances are used primarily to support development and PERF testing for the enterprise while providing DR infrastructure for mission-critical applications. Multi-tenant IaaS infrastructure can then be turned up to support Tier 2 and 3 business processes, utilizing Virtual Machines which are pre-configured in advance and are then turned up to an operational state in response to a disaster declaration. A secondary approach is to use “bare metal” Virtual Machines which can then be brought to an operational state by utilizing a recovery process from a Virtual Tape Library (“VTL”).

Why DRaaS Is a “Killer App”

In marketing terminology, a “killer application” (or “killer app”) is any computer program or solution that is so necessary or desirable to the marketplace that it becomes the core value of some larger technology — in this case, cloud technologies. For the past several years, cloud technologies have been much like a hammer in search of a nail. While the lack of flexibility in certain multi-tenant IaaS solutions certainly have contributed to this conundrum, the obstacles to cloud adoption detailed above also played a major role in impacting the “take rate” of cloud services.

DRaaS is the solution that that can become the “killer app” for cloud services. DRaaS dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of DR solutions. The available automation alternatives reduce the operational overhead required to periodically test and evaluate these solutions while the cloud model reduces the initial CAPEX spend to turn up these solutions.

My prediction is that DRaaS will be the solution that finally drives cloud adoption and “take rates” to an economically viable level – and that all of us should get out in front and make hay while the sun is shining.

What has your experience been so far with DRaaS? If you are a cloud service provider, how are you demonstrating the benefits to your customers?

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