Recovery in the cloud
By separating virtual servers, networks, and storage capacity from physical hardware, virtualization gives users many more choices in disaster recovery strategies. "When you recover a virtual machine, it doesn't matter where we put it," says Kurtis Berger, IT manager at Provider Advantage NW, a healthcare software and services company in Beaverton, Ore. "At each of our data centers, all of our VM servers are pretty much the same. [Almost] any old box will handle the prescribed load, and it'll be good enough to recover some VMs onto."
Disaster recovery is also being transformed by fast, easy-to-use replication software that copies data between primary and recovery sites in near real time. One such offering, Double-Take software from Vision Solutions, allows users to sync data among servers and establish failover protection in about 20 minutes, says Joseph Pedano, senior vice president for data engineering at Evolve IP, a provider of cloud-based IT services in Wayne, Pa.
Martin Mazor, Ingram Micro's director of global information assurance, wouldn't discuss which products he uses, but he says replication allows his company to recover systems much more quickly than the full day it would take to ship tape offsite. Ingram Micro has also invested in tools that provide a single performance dashboard for all of its worldwide operations, and it has offered employees training in areas as operational management and the handling of incidents and problems.
Evolve IP uses VMware virtualization technology, and Pedano says backup and recovery tools now feature improved VMware integration, making it easier to replicate and restore not just servers, but also their associated databases and security systems.
To successfully restore a business service like email or order entry, IT must recover the application server as well as associated components (such as an Active Directory server that contains user information or a database that holds inventory records), and it must do so in the proper order. Taking these dependencies into account is a major area of focus for vendors.
Symantec, for example, recently announced that enhancements to its backup products combine more granular backup and recovery of VMs with the ability to account for dependencies among VMs. The enhancements, found in products for businesses of all sizes, also make it easier to use multiple public or private cloud backup services , and to convert a physical server at a production site to a virtual server at a recovery site, says Dan Lamorena, director of product marketing for Symantec's storage and availability management group.
Continuity Software's RecoverGuard software is designed to automatically check all critical infrastructure components, such as the file system and virtualization components, and identify vulnerabilities that could cause downtime and data loss. It looks for vulnerabilities using a database of "signatures" similar to the ones antivirus tools use to identify malware. The database is updated by the vendor's researchers and its users, says CEO Gil Hecht.
Other products with those capabilities include VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, which also supports custom scripting and automation to ensure that VMs are brought up and reconnected in the proper order across multiple sites, says Gaetan Castelein, VMware's director of product marketing.