Citrix has developed disaster recovery software that uses Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization technology to help automate and speed the recovery process.
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The chief addition to the latest version of this package is a new program called Citrix StorageLink Site Recovery. StorageLink offers a single console for creating secondary off-site instances of virtualized operating environments. It also offers tools to test the failover process.
Although the market for disaster recovery software is mature, Citrix is marketing StorageLink on the premise that it is easier to use, thanks to its integration with Hyper-V. Hyper-V provides a common platform across primary and backup sites, upon which virtualized operating environments can be set up and moved around with relative ease.
"The traditional solutions available today are either complex, operationally intensive or very expensive," said Biki Malik, who is a senior director of product management at Citrix. The advantage of StorageLink, he asserted, is that the administrator can handle multiple aspects of the disaster recovery process, such as site designations or storage replication, through a single interface.
StorageLink can be run either from Citrix's own Essentials console or through Microsoft Systems Center. Citrix also offers a software development kit to access the features from other programs, by way of Web services.
In a typical usage scenario, an organization would virtualize all the operating environments it would need to keep running during a time of disaster. The virtualized instances would serve as the master copies, which then could be designated by the administrator to run from a secondary site, by using StorageLink. Both sites, which could be separated by an IP network or a local area network, would require servers running Microsoft Windows Server with Hyper-V enabled.
All the data being stored at the primary site would also be copied to the backup site, a process the administrator would also set up using the Citrix software. "StorageLink will automatically recognize the storage at the primary and secondary site. You then map your storage repositories from the primary site to the secondary site," Malik said. He noted the primary and backup storage systems need not be identical, as long as the two systems both have drivers to communicate with one another. StorageLink uses the native replication functionality of the arrays to duplicate material. The software comes with drivers for most of the storage arrays from the major storage vendors (Dell, EMC, NetApp), as well as for those from many smaller vendors, he said.
In addition to being offered by Citrix, Citrix Essentials for Microsoft Hyper-V will also be marketed by Microsoft as a component for its Systems Center.
"I think what is different about this is, unlike in the past where Citrix has traditionally built value on top of a desktop virtualization platform, this is really more of a server infrastructure play," said David Greschler, who is the director of virtualization strategy for Microsoft. "It is also based around building a solution, rather than on core infrastructure, which is something we haven't done jointly before."
The Citrix and Microsoft partnership is not the only disaster recovery offering to spring from the emerging virtualization market. VMware also offers its VSphere software as a potential disaster recovery tool.
StorageLink will be available in both the Express edition of Citrix Essentials for Microsoft Hyper-V and the full-featured Platinum edition of the software package (though not the Enterprise edition).
Using the Express edition, available as a download, users can map an unlimited number of virtual machines from two primary servers to two backup servers. For deploying on more than two primary servers, users need to purchase the Platinum edition, which has a suggested price of $3,000 per server.