Virtualization as Disaster Recovery Tool

Arthur Cole

Virtualization made a name for itself as a cost-saving measure -- a means to streamline data center infrastructure through improved resource utilization and simplified management.


But this year, a new generation of virtualization technologies is hitting the market with an eye toward enhancing very specific enterprise functions. Disaster recovery in particular has proven to be highly receptive to the redundancy and decentralization that virtual networks excel in.


IDC recently held a Virtualization Forum in New York City in which DR was spotlighted as one of the key areas that stand to benefit from virtual infrastructures. A key capability in getting systems back online after failure is live migration, the ability to shift virtual machines from one physical server to another without disruption of ongoing operations. What's needed now is a means to expand virtualization beyond the hypervisor and to target specific failures in the OS and application layers.


File virtualization should also be a key tool in the DR arsenal in that it vastly simplifies ongoing backup procedures. This profile of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office describes a system built around a file area network (FAN) consisting of NetApp FAS 3050 filers and VMware ESX servers. The system allows the AG's office to build a global namespace for all of its files, decoupling files from their physical locations. Now, when changes have to be made, they are made once -- a far cry over having to rewrite LUNs and pathways countless times.


DR is also providing the means for newcomers to break into a market dominated by VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. Kidaro recently unveiled the Kidaro Desktop DR system designed to get works up and running by distributed virtual desktops on DVDs, USB drives or through the Web. The company sees itself as feeding a niche market, considering most of the major DR platforms offer recovery only for central systems and mission-critical applications.


But the larger firms are sensing opportunity as well and are moving to capitalize on the growing demand for robust DR solutions. VMware took the wraps off its Site Recovery Manager component of its VirtualCenter platform, which automates many of the manual steps needed to keep DR infrastructures ready to go at a moment's notice. The system integrated with numerous third-party systems, such as LeftHand Networks' Storage Replication Adapter, which provides automated failover and failback services.


Virtualization is a natural fit for disaster recovery because, like in the server farm, it greatly lessens the burden of a major cost center in the enterprise. That it also makes DR operations more effective and more reliable is an added bonus.

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