By RICHARD DOLEWSKI
Is your disaster recovery plan set up for “virtual” success or a “real” nightmare? Traditional disaster recovery planning is critical to an organization but not easy to implement. In most production data centers today IT is forced to manage
a mixed environment of heterogeneous hardware and software
platforms. With business leaders focused on continuous improvement, IT managers are forced to tighten capital expenditures and
contain costs while delivering a highly available, resilient, and
agile IT infrastructure. In this highly demanding environment,
IT staff must also demonstrate disaster recovery capabilities that
meet the ever-changing business continuity metrics.
Why do so many traditional disaster recovery (DR) technology strategies under-perform and under-deliver? The simple
answer is that a recovery plan using a physical server deployment
that is equivalent in number to the production data center can be
very complex. Delivering repeatable disaster recovery solutions
with non-standard hardware and software platforms with already
over-utilized human resources has never been more difficult.
The difficulty is exaggerated when you add additional business
applications that require new underlying infrastructure. As companies adopt new business strategies, they often jump directly to
a new technology initiative. While such moves often make business sense, they often don’t leave time for realizing the impact to
the disaster recovery strategy. Traditional DR strategies require
these changes are accompanied by planning, budgeting, and
buying twice the required IT capacity. Yes, two of everything!
It’s clear that continuous improvement directly impacts capital
expenditures for traditional disaster recovery planning.
Traditional Barriers to DR Implementation
1. Cost of solution. The biggest barrier to implementing a solid
DR foundation is the prohibitive cost of matching production HW
components; e.g. a one-to-one system ratio. This capital expenditure
can be difficult to justify. Even when the benefits are clear, these are
expensive solutions for any business.
2. Infrastructure complexity. The number of systems to provision can
consume valuable recovery time and funding. This is due in part to
supporting numerous hardware components with dual maintenance
challenges including the need for base metal restore.
3. Reliability and repeatability of solution. Complex solutions are
hard to test primarily due to the difficulty of provisioning sufficient
equipment to re-create all servers that need testing. Because complex
solutions are difficult to test, they are typically not tested frequently,
which should leave the business questioning the reliability of the
Relying only on a traditional physical server DR approach can
prove to be out-of-reach for many cost-constrained businesses. In
a many cases, it can lead a company to compromise on its disaster preparedness – a risky strategy. Instead, companies can chose
a DR solution where the costs of implementation and delivery
efforts reflect the intrinsic business value of the applications.
Can A Virtual DR Strategy Work For You?
The concept of server and storage virtualization is receiving
broad support from enterprises in nearly all market segments.
Most IT organizations are embracing virtual server infrastructure
technologies as a means to cut costs in their production data centers. This technology is compelling in more than consolidation
and server deployment activities; it also holds great promise for
making DR a cost-effective and reliable deliverable. By implementing virtualization, you can minimize the number of physical
servers needed for DR, which in turn allows for reduced complexity and cost by lowering power and rack space requirements.
Virtualization can create significant improvements in the speed
and simplicity of disaster recovery and is capable of further reducing recovery time objectives for mission critical applications.
Here are some underlying advantages that server virtualization
provides when applied to meeting your disaster recovery requirements:
1. Reduced direct costs. The biggest cost benefit comes from
significantly reducing the quantity of physical production servers
required for recovery. With virtualization, this becomes a many-to-one
ratio. Consider anywhere from 10-40 virtual machines to one physical
server ratio, depending on the type of workload.
2. Effective hardware utilization. With virtualization, you avoid the
large capital expenditures currently required to deploy under-utilized
servers that lie idle in a traditional DR server setup.
3. Standard hardware. All operating systems would see the same
virtual hardware, allowing ease of migration between physical
systems for maintenance or capacity management purposes.
4. Standby operations. With physical to virtual (P2V) capabilities,
virtual machines can be pre-provisioned with the operating system,
application and system state ready for data to be restored.
5. Easier testing/proven recovery. The simplified DR environment
deployment equates to more frequent and thorough testing of the
applications. Concluding a successful test, server configurations are
maintained and ready for next use.
6. Easier manageability. Recovery of your DR setup and delivery
begins with key strokes and mouse clicks allowing for recovery from a
7. Reduced indirect costs. In addition to space and power savings,
there will be a meaningful reduction in needed human resources to
deliver in a DR scenario.
8. Handles tougher RPO, RTO. Additional capabilities exist to improve
recovery objectives as business needs justify the additional expenditure.
There are, however, some disadvantages to consider with a
1. Learning curve to implement a new technology. Server, storage
and network teams are impacted, creating a potential conflict in
traditional administrative paradigms.
2. Initial cost and maintenance of virtualization software and