Cigars, Schnapps, and ShadowXafe

So, the family deserted me this evening, and I found myself sitting here enjoying some Enzian with a Partagás cigar. Yes, Dad’s night out at home. Gotta make it worthwhile, right? Now this cigar, liqueur, tech stuff is not all that disjointed as some may initially think. First, let’s talk about Partagás and Enzian. The Partagás cigar name goes back to 1845 in Havana, Cuba. Today, you have the Cuban Partagás and the Dominican Partagás lines; both lines are great cigars in my opinion. Tonight, I have a Dominican Partagás. As with all great cigars, you need something to go with it … usually, some sort of adult beverage. Well, tonight I pulled out one of those bottles of Enzian I picked up in Berchtesgaden this summer. Ahhhh Enzian, made in the Grassl Distillery located on the road driving into the beautiful Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden. A distillery dating back to the 17th century. Partagás cigars and Enzian schnapps – a perfect match! The way I see it, Solutions Architecture should not be limited to just tech stuff. Heck, most things that are cool, great and awesome in life consist of putting things together that are greater than the sum of their parts. That’s what is going on here. OK, on to the tech stuff now – StorageCraft has been around since 1999 going back to StorageCraft, Inc. later to become StorageCraft Technology Corporation. StorageCraft is HQ’d in Draper, Utah; heaven on earth for all of us skiers and snowboarders. Definitely no newcomer to the world of IT namely backup and disaster recovery software… and keep in mind, StorageCraft’s software is STILL developed in the USA. Well, back in August, StorageCraft released a new generation product called ShadowXafe. ShadowXafe is a software only solution that is a killer app which provides an easy-to-use backup, recovery, and disaster recovery solution. Today, it requires a VMware vSphere environment but can easily perform host-based VMware VM backups, agent-based backups of Windows VMs, and agent-based backups of physical machines then recover to similar or dissimilar physical or virtual hardware, agnostic to the source – all on demand! IMHO the most compelling part of ShadowXafe is a feature which I first demoed at StorageCraft’s booth at VMworld a few years ago – VirtualBoot for vSphere. VirtualBoot for vSphere in ShadowXafe is an improved version of its predecessor found in StorageCraft’s SPX and is a patented technology that leverages VMware’s APIs for IO filtering. VirtualBoot for vSphere allows one to select a recovery point of choice for a server and almost instantly create the VM and virtual disk in a vSphere infrastructure… boot it… and most importantly, use it. This is cool. Like, really cool. In short, this means you don’t have to wait for the data to be transferred from the recovery point to the VM to begin using the VM. It’s also vital to note that VirtualBoot for vSphere in ShadowXafe uses an intelligent read prefetch that prioritizes the blocks that are being used to be restored first. This enables an application to be responsive while the remainder of the data is being transferred in the background. The jaw dropper in this was witnessing a recovery point in StorageCraft’s Cloud Services chosen, instantly created, and then booted in a local VMware vSphere environment. Yes, that’s right – the recovery point is in a cloud location and the VM is locally booted and used. No prior data transfer wait time required! Naturally, StorageCraft’s Cloud Services was the first test. Then, we went further… What about having ShadowXafe send the backup to or replicate to Microsoft’s Azure File Sync? Yep. Worked like a charm. Simply selected the recovery point from Azure and instantly VirtualBooted that recovery point locally in vSphere. What about having ShadowXafe send the backup to or replicate to Amazon’s S3 storage via Amazon’s Storage Gateway using SMB? Yep. Worked like a charm as well! This got me thinking … we can’t just stop here, right? So, let’s try Dropbox. This would be the killer … it’s freakin’ Dropbox … heck, my Mom can use Dropbox! Almost everyone uses or has used Dropbox! As expected, we were able to successfully VirtualBoot from a recovery point in Dropbox. Just to note: The Dropbox agent has a feature called Smart Sync which allows one with the credentials to access a cloud copy only or a local copy as well. This means one can VirtualBoot a recovery point in Dropbox from anywhere into their local VMware vSphere environment from a local or cloud-based recovery point! Granted, for a fully orchestrated site DR failover for test or for real and staying agnostic to the source hypervisor or physical hardware, StorageCraft’s Cloud Services is arguably second to none. However, the point here is that with ShadowXafe and its VirtualBoot for vSphere technology, leveraging low cost cloud storage providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Dropbox for secondary, tertiary, etc. copies of one’s data; ShadowXafe can fit into any environment – regardless of scale and budget. You gotta see a demo … seriously. Anyhow, back to my Partagás … and Enzian.Originally published on LinkedIn.