Virtualization Key to Business Continuity

Arthur Cole

Virtualization is emerging as more than just an effective means for hardware consolidation and improved data management. It turns out that it offers significant improvements in the areas of disaster recovery and business continuity.


Organizations that specialize in disaster recovery are reporting that business continuity ranks among the highest of priorities in the coming year. A survey by systems integrator CDW reports that nearly half of corporate risk executives say a loss of only 24 hours would be critical to their company's survival. One client, the Lansing Automakers Federal Credit Union, is installing a LeftHand iSCSI SAN that will replicate to an offsite facility using VMware's Virtual Infrastructure.


Another survey, this one by Scalent Systems, reveals that nearly 90 percent of enterprises test their backup systems only once per year, with more than half saying it would take several days to restore their servers from a complete failure. Scalent offers a solution that calls for software encapsulation onto central storage and virtualization of network and storage connectivity so that remote servers can back up the failed device at any time.


As this article on Continuity Central points out, there are any number of ways to replicate data from guest to host systems and vice versa so that you have complete replication and failover of virtual systems. With a fault-tolerant system established across the WAN or LAN, you should be able to restore systems anywhere in the enterprise. The data replication software can reside in the guest OS to target files or directories in virtual machines or, more commonly, it is housed in the host to maintain copies of virtual disk files on the target server. A third option is to locate the software on the host OS of the source platform, allowing you to replicate data from any allocated partitions and/or virtual files in the guest OS.


You'll still need to ensure that no compatibility issues exist between the backup server and its targets, which could prove challenging in the shifting world of virtualization, but the end result is a recovery regime that offers more flexibility and reliability than non-virtual environments.


Virtualization can also be used to back up mobile networks, as Foster's Brewing Co. learned in its European operations. The company installed the VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, along with a pair of EqualLogic PS300E storage arrays, enabling laptops to back up to the central array every three hours. Should anything happen to the laptop, an updated virtual replica is available from a remote office.


By itself, enhanced continuity probably won't justify the cost of implementing virtual environments. But as a value-added prospect, it certainly makes one more compelling argument for moving ahead.

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