Transforming IT Application Protection Services with EMC AppSync

What if you could provide application protection with your end-user services?

Cloud computing services conversations seem to focus on providing end-users with business processes and the compute, network, and storage resources necessary to support them. But, not as much attention seems to go into the operational business continuance functions like application protection.

Maybe, it’s because throughput, response time, and capacity utilization metrics are more top-of-mind than measuring unplanned downtime. However, if your business relies on information or transactional processing like all of them do, you need to ensure the integrity and availability of your applications.

Announced today at EMC World, EMC AppSync for EMC VNX simplifies and automates application protection, and provides diagnostics on the health of your automated application business continuance plan.  It aligns multiple replication technologies with your applications and their service-level agreement (SLA) to ensure ongoing business processes.

Keeping Your Applications Safe

Transforming IT is not complete without application production services. Unfortunately, for the most part, replication management has not kept up with the virtual data center.

Case in point:

How often have you created a copy of data only to find out that the copy is no good?

Meta data about your virtualized app or its associated storage is not copied with your data using traditional replication because of the dynamic changes made to the virtual environment.  Replication management tools make life easier, but what’s required is an application protection tool which maps the applications throughout all of the changes that occur in the virtual data center.

Several years ago a number of us met with customers on two continents about their evolving replication and disaster recovery needs. A subsequent research project on same topic made one point perfectly clear; regardless, of company size, industry, and geography, customers want replication and protection at the application-level, not just for data.

Well, we heard you. One result is the new EMC AppSync.

Self-Service Application Protection

EMC AppSync for VNX provides simple, self-service, SLA-driven application protection for business-critical applications such as Microsoft Exchange deployed in VMware virtual environments.

AppSync is designed to protect dynamic, constantly-moving virtualized applications. It follows applications and stays in-sync with applications during VMotion actions and failovers across physical and virtual boundaries. However, AppSync is not hard-wired to an object. It simply has constant communications with applications about where data resides.

AppSync comes with pre-defined policies to meet common objectives set for tiered standards or classifications. For example, for the highest level of protection (zero data loss), you can assign a gold protection plan which would include synchronous replication with EMC RecoverPoint SE.  If the application has a 24-hour recovery time objective, you could assign a silver plan to meet that SLA objective that applies the snap technology of VNX snapshots.

AppSync also offers considerable flexibility. You can modify or create your own protection policies. Plus, it has an extensible architecture which enables customization and integration.

Using AppSync in the Virtual Data Center

How does it work?

AppSync’s approach to application protection is simple:

  1. Click. Create an inventory of your application SLAs:  Define the recovery-time (RTO) and recovery-point objectives (RPO) for each application.  Based on these requirements, you use the protection policies/plans included (AppSync assigns the appropriate replication technology right out of the box), modify these plans, or create your own plans from scratch.  The idea here is that once you create your portfolio of protection plans, you can easily assign them to applications with single-click ease.  The benefit is that once you have invested the time to create the policy, it is quickly and easily deployable.
  2. Protect. Map the replication to the SLA requirements:  As part of creating the protection policy, you choose what type of replication is deployed. There are many options here to suit the most demanding service-level agreement including snaps, and EMC’s continuous data protection technology, RecoverPoint SE.  Replication can be local, remote, or both, and includes Exchange specific options for application- consistent replication and mounting the replica.
  3. Done. Deploy the replica management/automation.  Your protection policies include options for automation including the scheduling and expiration of snaps.

AppSync also introduces application-protection-as-a-service by empowering the application owner to assign protection via self-service user roles.  This feature is especially valuable because as a storage administrator, you can securely enable the Exchange or VMware administrators or DBAs with the privileges to assign protection plans to their own data.

No longer does the storage admin have to spend the day assigning replication based on application admin’s requests, and consequently the application administrator doesn’t have to wait in a queue for days to protect their applications.  A win-win proposition!

Wait—There’s More

Management integrations are plentiful. VNX storage administrators can launch AppSync from EMC UniSphere. VMware administrators will also be glad to know that AppSync can be installed into VMware vCenter as a plug-in allowing for the protection of VMware data stores. Additionally, AppSync can be accessed through an API given service providers the flexibility to integrate AppSync application protection into their service offerings.

AppSync uses the EMC Data Access API (EDAA) REST interface. Frequently mentioned on this blog lately, this interface enables data and business logic from EMC infrastructure management products like AppSync  to be combined with other EMC infrastructure and non-EMC data sources using the new EMC DataBridge enterprise management software (also announced today) to create new, custom views of your converged infrastructure management environment.

AppSync also provides detailed analyses on the health of your application protection environment.  It does this by using a powerful analyses engine to track your protection policies.  Consequently, if for some reason a policy breaks, AppSync can be configured generate alerts to notify the parties affected.  AppSync also provides a variety of reports that you can use to prove that you are able to meet the committed service level agreements.

Who can benefit from AppSync?

The first release of AppSync will support VNX storage arrays only with the focus on Exchange 2010 and VMware.  Support for more storage arrays and applications will be added in future releases; for example, SQL Server support will follow shortly.   As an option, AppSync also integrates with EMC ItemPoint for mailbox-level email recovery and restoration of Microsoft Exchange.  Storage, Exchange, and VMware administrators will benefit from AppSync’s SLA-driven protection.

The Bottom Line

EMC AppSync provides application-protection-as-a-service to compliment and complete end-user service catalogs, providing integrity and trust to the application portfolio. It is a powerful automation tool that is as simple to use as Click, Protect, Done.

About the Author: Mark Prahl