SDDC Deployment Types and Use Cases

VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery provides two main SDDC deployment types that allow you to balance costs vs. RTO:

  • On-demand (also known as "just-in-time") 
  • Pilot Light with cloud bursting

Annual SDDC commitment

SDDC startup time

On demand

Only when needed

Up to 90 minutes for cluster initiation, plus 15 minutes per host.*

Elastic DRS adds additional hosts as needed.

Pilot light

Minimum 3 VMware Cloud on AWS hosts at all times

Instant for critical VMs, plus 15 minutes per additional host required for full failover capacity*.

Elastic DRS adds additional hosts as needed.

* Times to add additional hosts can vary, and can be less than the figures stated here, which are a conservative average based on testing. These times are subject to change as VMware continues to add more capabilities to VMware Cloud on AWS.

RTO Components

For each type of use case, VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery Recovery can include one or more dimensions of RTO:

  • Site RTO. The aggregate time it takes to recover an entire site, composed of the execution times of one or more DR plans executing either concurrently or sequentially. This includes the time required to deploy the VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC and all its hosts.
  • DR Plan RTO. The time it takes to recover all assets protected by a single DR plan, which may involve sequencing, scripting, or other pacing elements.
  • VM RTO. The time it takes for ESXi to access an individual VM snapshot for restart.


The on-demand (also known as "just in time") deployment of a cloud DR site provides an attractive alternative to continuously maintaining a warm standby cloud DR site. With on-demand deployment, the recurring costs of a cloud DR site are eliminated in their entirety until a failover occurs and cloud resources are provisioned.

The on-demand nature of public clouds enables VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery to drastically reduce the operating costs of disaster recovery by deploying the bulk of the DR infrastructure programmatically following a DR event. During steady-state operation, your VMware Cloud on DR costs remain low and you avoid having numerous active VMware Cloud on AWS hosts. The backups are sent to the SCFS, and after some processing, land in a cost-effective compressed and deduplicated form. In an on-demand type of deployment, a cloud DR site is created only following a disaster. A VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC provides a cloud DR site with a significantly larger server footprint and associated costs, which is deployed only immediately before executing a DR plan.

On-demand Deployment RTO

This deployment type eliminates the costs of running and maintaining an SDDC during normal operations, but increases your RTO.

If you do not want to use Pilot Light or an ahead-of-time deployment, you can use an on-demand deployment, which means you deploy your SDDCs after a disaster is already in progress or has occurred. This deployment type increases failover RTO by an additional 90 minutes for the SDDC deployment plus the length of time needed for SDDC configuration - the time it takes to create vSphere inventory objects such as folders and resource pools, configure the network, and then run the failover DR plan(s). Within the DR plans, VMs may be Live Mounted from SCFS snapshots from any point in time.

With this deployment type, continuous health checks are run every 30 minutes for the source and backup site to ensure that your failover DR plans and configurations are up to date and accurately reflect your environment. Health checks are then run just before a Failover to ensure the plan is in compliance between source and recovery site before the plan is run.

Pilot Light with Cloud Bursting

With a Pilot Light deployment, VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery enables a smaller subset of SDDC hosts to be deployed ahead-of-time for recovering critical applications with lower RTO requirements than a purely On Demand approach.

This deployment mode assists organizations to reduce the total cost of cloud infrastructure by keeping a scaled-down version of a fully functional environment always running in warm-standby while ensuring that core applications are readily available when a disaster event is triggered.

Upon use of a Pilot Light deployment, VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery presents an option for administrators to add extra SDDC hosts through Cloud Bursting and failover the remaining applications. Since there is no SDDC initiation time with a Pilot Light, expanding the SDDC by adding hosts happens in minutes providing a lower Site RTO for all applications than the Site RTO of the on-demand deployment at a fraction of the cost of the ahead-of-time deployment. A full SDDC deployment is a more time-consuming operation with a higher Site RTO impact than that of an SDDC expansion. A Pilot Light is a compromise solution with a range of options to balance costs vs. RTO.

A Pilot Light Deployment with Cloud Bursting RTO

This deployment type is useful when you need to mitigate the costs of an SDDC deployment and can accept a slightly longer Site RTO but you still need a low VM RTO/ DR Plan RTO for certain workloads.

With such a ‘Pilot Light’ approach, you can deploy a site subset of 3 SDDC hosts ahead of time, with these hosts enabling you to immediately recover critical applications that have lower VM RTO requirements. If more than 3 hosts are required to recover your whole site, you will need to “inflate” the Pilot Light SDDC by adding additional hosts servers. This Pilot Light inflation can be done simultaneously with the Live Mount of mission critical workloads.

With this deployment type, continuous compliance checks are run against both source and target sites every 30 minutes to ensure that your failover DR plans and configurations are up to date and accurately reflect your current environment.

The Site RTO is much shorter than that of an On-Demand SDDC, and is equal to roughly the time it takes to add additional hosts and failover to your already running SDDC. Adding hosts to an already deployed SDDC takes roughly 15 minutes. Additionally, some applications can be pre-deployed on the Pilot Light SDDC during normal operation.

Additional Use Cases

These additional use cases further illustrate key VMware Cloud Disaster RecoveryS capabilities:

DR for General Purpose Workloads

For protecting production workloads, you can create snapshots of your VMs and files and replicate them to the SCFS, then create DR plans for failover to the recovery site. In the event of disaster, select the most recent available snapshots for failover .

VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery will automatically check your DR plan for health and compliance every 30 minutes, so you can be confident when a DR event occurs, you can successfully fail over to your SDDC in the public cloud in a short amount of time.

Single VM Recovery from Snapshots

Once a snapshot has been taken of VMs on your VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery protected site, you can restore individual VMs from a snapshot. The VM will be restored to the same state it was in when the snapshot was taken, including its vCenter location, configuration, data, etc.

This is useful in cases where an important application is running on a single VM, and when you need to, you can select a recent snapshot of the VM and restore it from the VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery UI.

Note: Single VM recovery is supported only for VMs that are included in a VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery protection group.

See Restore a VM for more information.

Ransomware Recovery

Ransomware is becoming more and more prevalent and severe, whereby malicious hackers steal (or encrypt) valuable company data and extort large ransom payments to allow the owner access to their data.

In this use case, you can use VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery to create regular, secure remote backups of critical data through regularly scheduled, application consistent snapshots of VMs and files.

In the event of a ransomware attack, you can easily ‘go back in time’ to a moment before the attack occurred and recover snapshots or backups from months or years ago. You can use these snapshots to rebuild your VMs and computing environment in a new SDDC deployment to VMware Cloud on AWS.

DR for VDI systems

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) systems are used by many organizations to create remote computer environments for end users without needing to buy extra hardware. This can reduce infrastructure costs, but creates a risk concentration in those systems that are running the VDI VMs. These virtual desktops need DR protection just like a physical machine. VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery can provide disaster recovery protection for the VMs that power virtual desktops, as well as the other types of software needed to enable the virtual technologies (e.g., Active Directory, connection servers, etc.).

For example, you might want to spin up VDI desktops for temporary usage, to provide temporary virtual compute resources for a short term project with contract workers. You can use DR plans to recover VDI VMs and other files to create a temporary SDDC for the work. Once the project is finished and the temporary workers no longer need their desktops, you can tear down the SDDC and resume normal operations.

Currently, the following features are not supported for VDI desktops:

  • App volumes
  • Modifying the golden master image once failed over