November 15, 2007

Virtualization for Disaster Recovery

I wont' discuss why ANY business structure should have a strong Disaster Recovery Plan here. The point is, DR is deadly expensive.
The argument usually used is that since it's a strategical priority (most of the enterprises suffering severe data loss are out of business within 2 years) the cost of a DR solution are not avoidable.

What usually happens is that there is no such thing as an "Enteprise-wide tested DR plan". How can we achieve an affordable, testing-friendly, enterprise-level DR solution? Enter virtualization...

What good can virtualization technologies do for us in the DR space? Just to cite a few:
  • They provide a mean to achieve High Availability, even on remote sites. P2V migration software are available, without even a reboot required.
    Just create a Virtual copy of ALL your production servers and store them on a single machine. In the event of an hardware failure, just bring your virtual copy back online within 2 clicks. Just keep in mind you'll have to keep those server synchronized.
  • They finally allow us to do testing within an environment closely resembling the production one. This is a huge deal, since most DR solutions aren't fully tested: no one will take the responsibility of pulling the plug from the main database server to test a recovery plan, but with virtualization this suddenly becomes doable and easy. Most virtualization solutions will even allow you to test your application under hard network condition (high packet loss, narrow bandwidth and so on).
  • They can be used to leverage the existing backup infrastructure: data backup technology is far more advanced than "machine" and "application" backup. With virtualization, machines are nothing more than files and your "proven" backup infrastructure can be exploited to achieve a wider reach.

And the list goes on. Vendors are fully aware of this new business environment for virtualization, and are now releasing DR oriented products. VMWare has its Site Recovery Manager almost ready and the competitors are catching up quickly.

If you are not planning for server consolidation or virtualization just yet, keep in mind to think about it in your DR plan: it might be the right time to introduce this new technology.