Microsoft Targets VMware Customers With New Azure Disaster Recovery Service

Microsoft launched a new service Thursday that replicates VMware private cloud and physical server workloads to its Azure cloud, for disaster recovery purposes.

VMware customers can now replicate their virtual machines and workloads to Azure and recover them from the Microsoft cloud, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Client and Mobility team, said in a blog post Thursday.

The service, called "Disaster Recovery to Azure for VMware and Physical Workloads," has been in preview since March and works with Microsoft's Azure Site Recovery offering.

[Related: VMware To Salespeople: vSphere VMs Running On Microsoft Azure Is A Pipe Dream]

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Microsoft launched Azure Site Recovery for Hyper-V last year, and the new service uses technology from its acquisition of cloud storage vendor InMage.

VMware offers disaster recovery on its vCloud Air public cloud, but Microsoft -- as part of its companywide push to support other vendors' technologies -- is pitching the new Azure service as an alternative.

By replicating VMware and physical server workloads to Azure, customers "can perform DR drills and failover tests multiple times without requiring the reseeding of source data," Anderson said in the blog post.

Microsoft is offering a "test drive" of Azure Site Recovery in which customers replicate physical servers and virtual machines to the cloud service for free for 31 days, said Anderson in the blog post. After that, Microsoft charges $54 per month for each instance protected with the service.

Jason Sauers, founder and director of connected systems at Phidiax, a Denver-based Microsoft partner, said Azure Site Recovery allows VMware and physical workloads to depend on Azure for disaster recovery scenarios.

"This allows customers to utilize their Azure subscription with an environment that they are already familiar with, to ensure complex infrastructure recovery scenarios. We are excited to see portability of the IaaS tier," said Sauers.

Microsoft has been battling VMware on the server virtualization front for years but hasn't been able to overtake it in the data center. However, Microsoft has a significant advantage over VMware in public cloud, as Azure is widely seen as No. 2 behind market leader Amazon Web Services.

Sources told CRN in February that Microsoft was working on technology that lets VMware-based virtual machines run on its Azure public cloud, but that has yet to materialize. The new Azure Site Recovery service is currently the only way to get VMware workloads onto Azure, two Microsoft partners told CRN.

Microsoft is converting VMware on-premise images into Hyper-V images so they can run on Azure, and reversing the conversion process when moving them back down from the public cloud, the sources said.

"You could say that Microsoft is running VMware up in Azure, because VMware customers can now move stuff to Azure and fail it back to VMware," said one of the partners. "But under the covers, it’s not VMware natively running on Azure."

VMware's vCloud Air product marketing team, in a document sent to salespeople in response to CRN's report in February, said the process of converting VMs from one format to another is "an inexact science, especially for Windows."

"It involves 'open heart surgery' on the VM, injecting new drivers to prevent BSOD or boot failures. Network configuration is also unlikely to survive conversion to Azure, especially as it lacks many of the vSphere networking capabilities," said VMware in the document.

VMware didn't respond to a request for comment on Microsoft's new service.