When Zach Dickinson started working at Rapidparts Inc. in 2006, one of his first tasks was implementing the company's virtualization plan. "They were using virtualization with shared storage," said Dickinson, Senior Network Administrator at Rapidparts, an aftermarket supplier of forklift truck parts in Grand Rapids, Mich. "I had never heard of VMware or virtualization, but quickly realized its potential and spent the next two years turning everything physical to virtual."
"By late 2007 we were basically 100% production virtualized," added Dickinson. "At that point I was asked to look into a disaster recovery (DR) solution." Dickinson and Rapidparts went with a joint EMC-VMware solution.
"After this time the infrastructure was growing," said Dickinson. "We were expanding storage virtualization, and usage of our e-commerce site DealerNet was becoming greater, with more business flowing through it."
By 2013 "Rapidparts shifted its focus from being just a parts business," said Dickinson, "to becoming a solutions provider to our dealers and our parent company [Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc.]."
As a result, explained Dickinson, "DR was becoming less of an afterthought. We needed to make sure that we had a valid solution in place." Rapidparts continued with the EMC-VMware solution until last year.
"It became apparent in 2013 our physical replication DR solution wasn't what we needed," recalled Dickinson. "Yes, it was very powerful, but it offered many options that we weren't using because we were 100% virtualized, and physical replication limits the potential of the virtual environment."
"There must be a better solution for us," Dickinson thought at the time. "I don't necessarily want to use the latest and greatest products, but I really like using proven technologies in new and creative ways."
For starters, he purposely ignored the main DR solutions he would normally consider. "Then I thought what is core to our environment? And again, I came back to the virtualization piece — the fact that we were 100% virtualized," said Dickinson.
"I began to look for something that was purpose-built from the ground up for virtualization," said Dickinson. "That quickly led me to Zerto."
Dickinson learned that one of the founders of Zerto, Ziv Kedem, was also the founder of another company, Kashya. "I had known Kashya, because under the hood all the technologies I had been using, RecoverPoint, Replication Manager, and SRM, were all Kashya products before being bought out by EMC."
Powerful first impression, glowing customer reference
"My first impression with Zerto was good," said Dickinson. "The way Zerto shined from the beginning, compared to other DR companies, was amazing. The entire team was very knowledgeable, even though it was a new product. Right away I got a better feel for the company, and I liked the technology."
"Zerto was very quick to give me a customer reference," added Dickinson. "I spoke to an admin in the financial industry out in the Boston area. He had nothing but glowing things to say and was replicating to London and the West Coast."
"He told me about the different ways he used Zerto," explained Dickinson. "I started to see the potential. He used Zerto not just for failing over, but also to move virtual machines (VMs) from one location to another. Their solution does not necessarily have to be used in a DR scenario."
"At that point I was sold on the technology," said Dickinson. "That's when I had to go to the business, and do one of three things. I needed to reduce cost, reduce risk, or propose a solution that is going to empower the business to meet its mission, vision, and goals."
Reduced cost and risk
"Zerto did reduce cost. It was a much cheaper solution than RecoverPoint and SRM and the maintenance you pay every year on them," explained Dickinson, "so I could certainly go to accounting, and prove that it was cheaper."
"But the whole point of a DR solution is to reduce risk, and Zerto really did that," added Dickinson.
"With RecoverPoint and SRM, when you had to failover, the solution just took the very last point in time that it had," said Dickinson. "Maybe data was corrupt, maybe it wasn't, maybe your servers were where you wanted them, maybe they weren't."
Multiple DR checkpoints
"The big seller to the business was that Zerto allows you to use any checkpoint," explained Dickinson. "It allows you to failover, and make sure your data is correct. If not, you can roll back and try another checkpoint. It was very flexible from that standpoint."
Dickinson showed Rapidparts leadership an example of their Exchange environment, "where we might failover email, and the whole thing could be corrupt, leaving us without email for a couple of days while we fix it. With Zerto, there is less of a chance that this is will happen, because we can pick different checkpoints, and make sure the applications are consistent."
"At this point the business was sold, and so was I," said Dickinson. "We got our 30-day trial, and implemented it, and got wonderful support through it. The test failovers were great. At that point we made the decision to go ahead and move away from our existing solution, and to start Zerto."
Short and successful implementation
"As far as the implementation, it was a breeze," added Dickinson. "To implement our other solution, RecoverPoint and SRM, to really nail it down, it probably took a good month with myself and a colleague working on it, plus professional services from EMC and VMware."
"With Zerto we were up and replicating the VMs within a couple of hours. It was an amazingly short, successful, and easy implementation," said Dickinson.
Full-featured, easy testing
"Knock on wood, we have not had to use Zerto in an actual disaster scenario yet," said Dickinson. "But I will say that our testing has been extremely easy and full-featured, like a true test, which is non-disruptive in production. This is incredible."
Admin hours almost to zero
"The day-to-day operation of admin hours has dropped off significantly," explained Dickinson. "Zerto has been fully implemented for about five months now, and our admin hours have gone down almost to zero."
Zerto makes sense
"Zerto uses existing technologies in a new and exciting way. Someone who knows VMware is going to be familiar with all of the concepts that Zerto is using. The way they do it just makes sense," added Dickinson.
"People need to hear this story, understand it, and know that it is not scary," said Dickinson. "It is technology that you already know and love, just done in this new, brilliant way."
For more details about the implementation, check out Dickinson's webinar about using Zerto's DR solution.
Brian will do client work for AtTask.
Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.