Migration from the Physical to the Virtual to the Cloud


Continuing our examination of data management in mixed physical, virtual and cloud environments, one of the key elements that brings all these disparate resources together is migration.

Is there a way to efficiently move workloads across various architectures so that resources can be used effectively but without hampering users' ability to get the data they need when they need it?

It's a loaded question, to be sure, and if you ask any of the vendors, I'm sure you'd get an emphatic "yes." But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the fact is no one is really sure how it will all pan out until enterprises are much further along in their cloud deployments.

For what it's worth, though, the fact that many platform vendors and third-party developers are already tailoring their virtual migration packages to cloud environments is a good sign that the technology should be well-advanced by the time many of you are ready to place serious IT resources on the cloud.

Solaris 10 users, for example, are getting new physical-to-virtual migration support in Novell's PlateSpin Migrate 8.1 management system, which takes advantage of the Solaris Containers approach to move workloads into cloud environments and back. The system uses a block-based transfer scheme that shifts only the altered portion of a file to speed up the migration process and minimize downtime. And because the system already supports SUSE Linux and Windows 2008 and Vista, and is part of the PlateSpin Workload Management system that supports VMware, XenServer and Virtual Iron, it works across heterogeneous hypervisor and hardware platforms as well.

VMware has upgraded its migration capabilities as well. As part of the new vCenter AppSpeed system, which the company picked up as part of the B-hive Networks acquisition, the company has introduced a new set of monitoring tools aimed at ensuring the successful completion of physical-to-virtual migrations. While the tool is designed to monitor virtualized workloads, AppSpeed can also measure performance of applications in physical servers to determine whether a physical-to-virtual migration will be successful. The system is designed to boost application performance to the point where enterprises will begin to trust virtual environments for their mission-critical applications. Unfortunately for those in multivendor environments, it has limited ability to branch out beyond the VMware universe.

Migration is also a key element in backup and recovery systems. Acronis' Backup & Recovery 10 offers Microsoft and Linux users the ability to completely restore servers and workstations, including the OS, applications, all updates and settings, as well as data, across physical and virtual layers. The system supports VMware, Hyper-V, XenSource and Parallels environments through a host-based virtual machine backup agent that provides for live migration without the need for individual clients on each VM.

Online service providers are also adding migration to the backup and recovery offerings. Microsoft users might want to check out Doyenz, which has added cloud migration to its Automated Virtual IT platform. The Migration in the Cloud service is designed to provide point-and-click migration for Windows servers, which the company says cuts deployment time and costs in half. Doyenz has also joined Intel's Enabled Server Acceleration Alliance (ESSA), which means the company will soon provide certified Intel solutions to the channel.

Despite these new releases, though, migration remains a complicated process that relies on a range of processing and networking technology to smooth out the wrinkles. The cloud infrastructure itself can't really get off the ground without a solid virtualization layer backed up by 10 GbE (at least) networking.

Once that architecture is in place, however, a solid migration stack opens the door to things like regional or even global load balancing, remote failover and other capabilities -- the kinds of things that can extend the cloud beyond simply another application layer to a truly revolutionary leap in IT capability.