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Partnering with virtualization market leader VMware certainly has its advantages, including a huge shared reseller channel eager to take advantage of Double-Take Software’s new virtual recovery assistant.

The VRA is a free enhancement to Double-Take’s self-branded server virtualization software for Windows that provides real-time backup and automated failover for Windows applications. 

The VRA builds on Double-Take’s automated backup and failover capabilities, and allows for real-time migration of P2V (physical to virtual) or V2V (virtual to virtual) VMware ESX virtual servers in about the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, says Bob Roudebush, Double-Take’s director of solutions engineering.

Roudebush says that the Double-Take’s VRA is strictly for physical or virtual Windows servers and that when replicated, the data on those servers must be migrated to a VMware ESX virtual server, the virtualization giant’s enterprise-class virtual machine.  Not that that limits the technology’s scope—besides the fact that the Windows OS is a corporate staple, VMware holds anywhere from 55 to 85 percent of the worldwide virtualization technology market, depending on which analyst company you ask.  Offering technology such as the VRA to Double-Take’s own partners and to VMware’s provides a substantial channel and a customer base already familiar with the benefits of virtualization.

"We have a large, shared channel with VMware, and anything we can provide that makes virtualization more attractive to customers is something we and VMware are interested in," Roudebush says.

Stu Sjouwerman, co-founder and vice president of marketing for Double-Take partner Sunbelt Software, says his team sees a market for the VAR with nearly all of its Double-Take customers.

"Our mission in life is to keep servers, physical or virtual, up and running, no downtime.  So my guys are going out of their skulls for this," Sjouwerman says.  He says the technology is horizontal and that any small or midsize business for whom e-mail and other server-based applications are mission-critical is a potential customer.

"And whose e-mail isn’t mission-critical these days?" Sjouwerman says.

The VRA provisions the target virtual machine automatically for the user, eliminating the need to set up the new virtual machine, install an operating system, apply patches and add applications. The VRA also allows users to easily increase disk capacity, reallocate memory resources and allocate the number of processors available to applications on the virtual machine.

Existing migration tools lack real-time data replication capabilities and require that servers be taken offline while the data is moved to the new virtual environment. Because Double-Take and the VRA replicate changes in real time, downtime is eliminated, and production applications can be accessed right up until the data and applications are migrated.

"There’s a similar product from EMC and another from CA, but they don’t have the focus that Double-Take does, and Double-Take has more licenses, as far as I know, than the other products combined," Sjouwerman says.  "They are small, but they are the market leader in this niche," he says.

Besides the ability to easily migrate from a physical to a virtual machine with minimal downtime, the VRA protects existing virtual machines and provides for simplified backup and disaster recovery, Roudebush says.

The VRA can automatically move data and applications from physical servers to virtual environments in the event of a server outage or a site disaster, and can easily replace more expensive and time-consuming tape-based disaster recovery solutions, Roudebush says.  He adds that even if customers choose to leave certain business-critical applications like Exchange e-mail servers on a physical machine, backups of the physical server data are much easier to manage and are more cost efficient than having a separate physical backup server.

Virtualizing a backup server also helps save on energy costs, as well as reducing physical space needs in the data center, he says.

"While changes to the data are automatically replicated to the virtual server, it remains powered down unless the physical server goes offline and it is needed" for recovery, Roudebush says.

Any partner currently selling or servicing Double-Take software can offer the VRA to customers at no additional charge, Roudebush says.  And while VMware remains the virtualization market leader, Roudebush says Double-Take is evaluating such competitors as Microsoft’s Hyper-V, set to release in the second half of 2008, and Citrix’s open-source Xen server.

"We’re looking at where the market’s going, and we’re certainly evaluating offerings with vendors like that," he says.