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Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager Preview Available

Microsoft has rolled out a limited public preview of a Windows Azure-based disaster recovery solution for private clouds.

The service brings together capabilities associated with Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2, as well as the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 or System Center 2012 R2. It uses a management component that runs in Microsoft's public cloud called the "Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager."

This management component is accessible via the Windows Azure Management Portal and is "designed to deliver consistent experience across all clouds," according to an announcement made last week by Vijay Tewari, principal program manager for Windows Server and System Center.

Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager is currently available for testing as a free preview at this page. Microsoft is screening a limited number of testers via a survey to qualify. There's also a lab walk-though available here.

Microsoft's disaster recovery management service ties together primary and secondary sites using Hyper-V Replica, although the data channel used apparently can use other approaches, according to Tewari. Hyper-V Replica is a Windows Server 2012 technology that copies a virtual machine to a replica site without requiring specific storage or hardware. Hyper-V Replica was enhanced in Windows Server 2012 R2 to support different backup speeds, as well as to allow service providers to use it to provide disaster recovery services to tenants.

Tewari claims that Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager is itself protected from disasters by running in Microsoft's public cloud. Of course, Microsoft's cloud services aren't wholly immune from service disruptions, as illustrated last week by an outage that affected some users of Outlook.com and SkyDrive services. That three-day outage is now fixed, and was described by Microsoft as being due to a caching-service error.

The Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager only sends metadata to Microsoft's public cloud, and that metadata is sent encrypted, according to Tewari. That's an assurance for organizations in Europe, for instance, that might be under legal restrictions to ensure that the data doesn't leave its country of origin, he explained.

Users of the Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager just have to check that the secondary virtual machine meets the disaster recovery requirements of the primary virtual machine. After that's assured, the service will configure the recovery site's "certificates and firewall rules," as well as "settings for both clusters and stand-alone hosts," according to Tewari.

It's possible to automate the recovery process using "recovery plans," which can be customized. These recovery plans are designed to take effect during unplanned outages, such as natural disasters. Tewari also said that the service facilitates creating disaster recovery drills for IT pros without affecting the underlying workloads.

There's no indication what it will cost to run Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager, but Microsoft is indicating that it likely will be priced by the number of virtual machines protected. Supposedly, this disaster-recovery-as-a-service offering will be scalable and easy to use as a "DR solution for the masses," according to Microsoft's announcement.

In addition to the Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager for disaster recovery, Microsoft also offers its cloud-based Windows Azure Backup service, which is also currently at the preview stage.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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