"We have leveraged virtualization for DR significantly," Ciali says. Using virtualization technology from VMware, Teradyne can seamlessly fail over to redundant blade servers in the case of hardware problems. It can also use the technology to move workloads from its commercial data center to its research and development data center in case of disasters.
"This has taken our recovery time from weeks [or] days under our former tape-based model to hours for critical workloads," and saves $300,000 per year in DR contract services, Ciali says.
Marist College has deployed virtualization, and one of the benefits is avoiding system unavailability. "We do all we can to avoid any event that would cause users dissatisfaction, loss of access or loss of functionality," Thirsk says. "To do so, we utilize massive virtualization of our processors, our network topology and our storage."
Because Marist IT can now provide a virtual server and a virtual network, as well as spin out storage, "our systems assurance activities move along at a very rapid rate," Thirsk says.
"If at any point of testing something goes horribly wrong, we can decide to trash it and start over or continue forward, all without much trouble at all on the system side."
On the whole, server virtualization has made DR a lot easier, Dines says. "Because virtual machines are much more portable than physical machines and they can be easily booted on disparate hardware, a lot of companies are using virtualization as a critical piece of their recovery efforts," she says.
There are lots of offerings in the market that can perform tasks such as automating rapid virtual machine rebooting, replicating virtual machines at the hypervisor layer with heterogeneous storage, and turning backups of physical or virtual machines into bootable virtual machines, Dines says.
"Ultimately, virtualization means companies can get a faster RTO [recovery time objective] for less money," she says.
On the downside, the popularity of virtualization has led to virtual machine sprawl at many organizations, which can make DR more complex. "Companies have the [virtualization] structure in place that gives them the ability to create many more images, including some they do not even know about or plan for," Silverstone says. "And they can do so very quickly."
Another potential negative is that virtualization might give organizations a false sense of security. "People may fail to plan properly for disaster recovery, assuming that everything will be handled by virtualization," Silverstone says. "There are certain machines that for various reasons are not likely to be virtualized, so using virtualization does not replace the need for proper disaster recovery planning and testing."
Mobile devices in the workforce
From a disaster recovery standpoint, the growing use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets facilitates the continuation of IT operations and business processes even after a disaster strikes.
"People will carry their mobile devices with them," says George Muller, vice president, sales planning, supply chain & IT at Imperial Sugar Co, Sugar Land, Texas, a processor and marketer of refined sugar.
"I might not carry my laptop wherever I go, but if all of a sudden we've got a disaster I've probably got my BlackBerry in my shirt pocket. Anything that facilitates connectivity in a ubiquitous way is a plus."