"For maintenances, upgrades, firmware updates, critical patches, etc., Walz simply moves the applications away from the area being impacted by the maintenance activity," Falzarano says. "Once the maintenance activity, testing and quality control checks are complete, [we] may move the application back to that region or area."
Virtualization has actually had a bigger impact on disaster recovery than on business continuity, says John Morency, research vice president at research firm Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., although one area where there's been an effect on continuity is work area recovery.
Many companies have relied on providers of work area recovery sites for business continuity, which can cost from $15 to $25 per seat, Morency says.
"But what more organizations are doing now is having people work at home or at Starbucks or the library or wherever," he says. "The use of Citrix, DVI and other desktop virtualization technologies, in conjunction with secure tunneling, is enabling organizations to implement broader and more distributed work area recovery."
Some businesses and functions, such a branch banks and customer service call centers, continue to use work area recovery services, Morency says. But a growing number of Gartner clients are leveraging virtualization to enable people to work offsite when needed, as an alternative to work area recovery.
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Rachel Dines, senior analyst, Infrastructure & Operations, at Forrester Research in Cambridge Mass., says desktop, or client, virtualization is having a bigger impact on business continuity than server virtualization.
"Client virtualization is making workforce recovery [possible] for many companies that cannot rely on employees working from home with laptops," Dines says.
For example, at companies with highly sensitive information -- such as financial services and insurance firms or government agencies -- where employees are not issued laptops to prevent data leaks, client virtualization enables the rapid deployment of client images to disparate hardware at workforce recovery sites, Dines says.
In addition, organizations can deploy client virtual machines over the Internet and allow employees to access them via personal computers at home. "Either way, users are able to use the same environment that they are accustomed to on a daily basis, which means they will be more productive during the outage," Dines says.
Many of Gartner's clients increasingly are using software-as-a-service (SaaS) to support business processes, Morency says.
"With the use of SaaS for client-facing applications and even internal customer support applications there's a much improved means of continued availability, even in the presence of minor or major disruptions," Morency says. "You have a set of applications delivered from the cloud."
But this also imposes additional responsibilities on IT as far as being able to broker those services or provide additional problem management triage when necessary, Morency adds.
Walz Group operates a private cloud and uses cloud management tools that Falzarano says are a key to the company's business continuity initiatives. One such product the company is using is FlexPod, a data center management platform from Cisco Systems and NetApp that provides a design architecture with combined networking, computing and storage infrastructure.