Zerto's 3.1 release targets enterprise and cloud service providers

For the virtualized environment of your enterprise, Zerto wants to be the business continuity and disaster recovery solution provider of choice. TechRepublic recently spoke with Zerto about the recent 3.1 release of its DR solution for enterprises and cloud providers.

Boston-Israeli firm Zerto provides enterprise business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) software designed for virtualized data centers and cloud environments.

Founded in 2009, Zerto released the 3.0 and, in December 2013, the 3.1 versions of its Zerto Virtual Replication (ZVR) disaster recovery solution targeted at the enterprise and cloud service provider (CSP) markets.

Gil Levonai, Zerto vice president of marketing and products, and Jennifer Gill, Zerto, director of product marketing, feel strongly about the effectiveness of ZVR in virtualized data centers—the simplicity of management and the time saved—and they've got more than a few customer success stories to make that point.

And Zerto is in growth mode. In a Forbes interview, CEO Ziv Kedem said that in 2012 Zerto had several million in revenue and gained 100 customers. In 2013, the company grew more than 200 percent and by year's end had more than 300 customers and roughly 150 cloud partners.

In April 2013, Zerto closed a $13 million Series C deal headed by RTP Ventures, and has its sights on $100 million in revenue and an IPO in 2016 or 2017.

That's aiming high—and ZVR, according to Laura DuBois of IDC, “has an opportunity for success with enterprises seeking replication solutions” designed for virtualized environments, and is “positioned well to meet the recovery needs of virtual workloads of any size or type.”

TechRepublic talked to Levonai and Gill to find out more about this fast-growing company.

TechRepublic: What were you aiming to achieve with the 3.0 release?

Gill: I will take a quick step back to ZVR 2.0. To enable enterprise cloud adoption, in 2.0 we introduced multi-site replication for cloud providers and large enterprises. They needed to be able to replicate between many sites—a cloud provider has more than one customer after all. That was part of the groundwork for ZVR 3.0.

Then in 3.0 we introduced two new components: Zerto Cloud Manager and Zerto Self-Service Portal. In terms of making things simple and easy, here are two things that are doing that for large enterprises and cloud providers.

The Zerto Self-Service Portal is an out-of-the-box portal, a plug-in that cloud service providers can integrate into their existing portal. As of 3.1 they can now actually use it standalone if needed, and have the ability to offer DR services immediately.

When you think about what it takes to use a legacy BCDR solution, or hardware solution, to get it integrated into their portal can take a lot of development effort—weeks and in some cases months. You've got this product and now you have to wait before you can onboard a customer. The Zerto Self-Service Portal is a plug-in. There is still development work but now we're talking about hours and single-digit days to get it incorporated into their existing infrastructure.

The second component that we introduced in ZVR 3.0 is the Cloud Manager: having one view of all data centers. If a customer is using cloud assets for instance in Georgia and North Carolina, they can see what the correlation is there, and they can easily run reports and say these are the assets that we're using.

The cloud service provider now has one view of their entire infrastructure. They can see what assets they have within their own site, if they have customers outside replicating, and they can see the assets across all those customer sites.

TechRepublic: What were the factors driving the innovation from 3.0 to 3.1?

Levonai: Version 3.1 is what you call a point release. It's basically taking the 3.0 release and adding some use cases to it. It's not creating totally new functionality in the product. In this case I think the most important feature of 3.1 was that we took the things that we developed for cloud providers and adapted it for use by large enterprises.

We have a customer named TenCate. The company is using Zerto across eight sites globally, and they now have much better, simpler control of multiple workloads, migrations, and protection. Zerto is also one of the best migration tools out there, all done from a single pane of glass.

Gill: TenCate is a large manufacturing company located in the Netherlands. They are using us for the North American sites right now, and they are in discussion with us to bring it to Europe as well. They have three locations in Canada and I think four or five in the US, including one in California.

TenCate acquired manufacturing partners who had a bunch of different storage and hardware systems. The common thread was that they were all virtualized. They were trying to find a consistent way to build a BCDR solution, and were looking at VMware Site Recovery Manager  (SRM) to perhaps be the layer for that.

SRM does provide orchestration, and has some of the automation, but it doesn't include actual replication of the data. That's kind of where Jayme Williams of TenCate was running into problems. SRM could help with some of the processes, but however in terms of the replication he had to have matching storage.

When you acquire a company you have no idea what they have for IT. The challenge was either to replace the storage with what TenCate had or get some storage with what they had in their main data center.

Jayme found that the process of using SRM is just not as smooth as with Zerto. He's made made some improvements to make their SRM solution easier, but it's not at the level of Zerto, which he happened to find through one of his trusted partners.

He tried it and he's one of our greatest advocates. Jayme now does webinars for us—he appeared on Vimeo. He did a case study where he was really able to showcase the power is from that central pane of glass. With Zerto, Jayme is now able to remotely manage their disaster recovery. He also can migrate applications more simply. He migrated a 300 GB ERP system from California to Atlanta using Zerto.

His previous partner said the migration would take two to five days, and Jayme said I can't go without this application for that long. He went with Zerto and actually moved it on a Friday afternoon after hours at the end of the day just make sure. Jayme did it in about 10 minutes — that was quite a big difference for him.

Having the one pane of glass for production sites, being able to remotely manage and move production workloads, these capabilities extend the promise of virtualization for his production environment. The Zerto BCDR solution really does a lot for his production mobility.

TechRepublic: In its Predicts 2014 report for Business Continuity IT Disaster Recovery Management, Gartner cites a “growing risk of availability failure.” Given your experience and what you're seeing, how would you evaluate that prediction?

Gill: In terms of my experience a lot of our customers are cloud providers. I do customer referrals. One customer that I can't name had to handle the failover from Superstorm Sandy, and said that he was was able to do everything under 10 minutes with one pane of glass, when normally he would have needed three or four people and it would have taken hours.

We hear stuff like that all the time from our customers. The most common comment I get when I do customer surveys is: “I can't believe your product works this way it does what it says it does.” I don't know about you, but talking to IT guys, it seems like they've been sold a bill of goods over and over again. They hear this is going to solve world hunger and then they get it and it's just terrible. And with Zerto they are amazed they can't believe how good the application is.

So regarding the risk of availability failure I don't see it where Zerto is working, but there could be something else outside of that. Honestly we have fantastic experiences with our customers, and doing the customer reference program for me is easy. Rarely do I have a customer who says, no I can't speak positively about this product.

Levonai: I would like to go a little bit back and talk about the cloud providers that Zerto partners with. We have about 150 active cloud partners.

Gill: Going back as far as Version 1.0, the Zerto Cloud Ecosystem Program started when cloud provider customers said, "hey, this storage agnostic solution, the ability to onboard customers really fast and the seamless installation—that's pretty interesting." We see a real use case for this.

And disaster recovery is the perfect use case for customers to evaluate the cloud because they still hold onto their production environment—it is still under their control, you know they are going to failover once a year twice a year, less than that hopefully, but they get the comfort level with the cloud provider.

And once they have more comfort with that organization, the cloud provider has the opportunity to sell additional services Maybe they will outsource an entire application to the cloud provider.

So based on features we have with the initial capability, cloud providers came to us and said, you already have this storage agnostic solution. I don't have to make a lot of changes to my site or to my customer site. Those two things are kind of the two barriers that customers are looking at when going to the cloud.

And then the third barrier is management. Managing all these different sites and all these different assets and applications, it can be too much. That's when we begin to build in the Cloud Manager and other things to make the management simple. We have a simple replication, a simple installation and the automation orchestration, kind of the bare bones. And then the layer for the cloud service providers was the simple management.

Levonai: This whole cloud thing, we all know, is kind of the hot topic and everyone is talking cloud. But in reality I think there is a big difference in the market between different clouds. I want to focus on a specific use case, and that's what to do with production workloads in the cloud.

And the reality is that that's not really happening. Yes, there's a lot of testing in the cloud and a lot of portal applications, websites like the network Netflix, all these guys they go to the cloud. But if you look at your IT production applications you see that these kind of still stay on premise.

There are lot of managed service cloud providers around the globe that are looking to get workloads hosted on Amazon; there are a lot of this kind of breed of cloud providers. And their business plan is: I am sending infrastructure services to the enterprise, not for their own workloads, but it turns out to be much more problematic and a much harder sell than they thought.

And then everybody saw that disaster recovery as a service is a very easy steppingstone. The problem was that before Zerto there was no way to offer that because if you needed to go with legacy-based hardware disaster recovery, hardware-based replication. This was cost prohibitive, because you needed to match the customer hardware with your own hardware.

You would have to use some type of professional service, which was not really a cloud service, or you would go with some backup solution—backup as a service, which is what they are but it's not really DR. It does not provide you the same SLAs as DR.

And then cloud providers began to find Zerto's hardware agnostic DR solution and they were all over it. They said, yes we need it.

That's where in Version 2.0 we added lots of layers. And then in Version 3.0 we added more layers for them, not only to provide the service but to be able to manage it, to report on it, and to orchestrate it all in a very efficient manner.

That's why to date we have around 150 cloud service providers actively providing services using Zerto. And the list just continues to grow and grow and grow.

By Brian Taylor

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.