Virtualization and the Impact of Recovery in the Cloud

Dan Witteveen, Director, IBM and Craig Poole, Subject Matter Expert, Resiliency as a Services Solutions and Global Center of Competency, IBM
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Dan Witteveen, Director, IBM

Virtualization technology is possibly one of the most important evolutions in IT and has completely changed the computing industry. The continued awareness of virtualization technology is having a significant impact on many economic factors that drive businesses today, such as scarce resources, competition, speed to market and regulation.

Virtualization can simplify IT operations and allow IT organizations to respond faster to changing business demands. A server administrator will use an application (hypervisor) to divide one physical server into multiple isolated virtual environments. One of the biggest challenges in this environment is what to virtualize.

There are many factors in determining which systems to virtualize such as how a business application or database uses system resources (CPU and RAM), and how this same application accesses storage and application performance expectations and, of course, the user experience. This task is not new to IT, but the demand for “always on,” coupled with near zero tolerance for downtime, is causing a significant shift in how we think about virtualization. In today’s mobile and socially connected world, users expect to connect wherever and whenever they want, across multiple access platforms and multiple locations. 

For business continuity and disaster recovery, virtualization technology can help provide high availability for critical applications, deployment and migrations. Caught between the two extremes of low-cost disaster recovery solutions and high-cost replication, many organizations are embracing cloud models as a more affordable way to meet requirements for rapid recovery of systems and data.

  â€‹Many organizations are embracing cloud models as a more affordable way to meet requirements for rapid recovery of systems and data  

The cost and effort of maintaining resiliency infrastructures tips many organizations beyond traditional disaster recovery technologies into cloud resilience (mainly Disaster Recovery as a Service). With the capacity for quick failover, a cloud solution can help ensure near continuous application and data availability no matter how geographically dispersed the organization’s systems and users may be.   

Virtualization allows many benefits such as replication, snapshots and clone capabilities for critical applications. So it's important for businesses to understand the benefits of going virtual. Typically you would need to justify the move to a virtualized environment to a manager or CTO with the 'why' question and not the 'everyone seems to be doing it' answer.Craig Poole, Subject Matter Expert, Resiliency as a Services Solutions and Global Center of Competency, IBM

So for an organization to mitigate risk and to maintain continuous availability, what are the impacts of virtualization with recovery in the cloud?

Disaster recovery fully relies on data. Without data, recovery is impossible. Organizations’ physical hosts “on-premise” can continually be synchronized via replication and recovered in the cloud to a similar environment. This allows customers to spin up compute within the cloud for testing or fail over activity at any given time, and more importantly, customers only pay for that compute when they are actually using it, by the hour or month.  

Recovery in the cloud offers much more flexibility with globally dispersed cloud centers delivering high performance inter-connected networks that allow organizations to choose a cloud recovery site in or out of region or country - and let's not forget none of this would be possible without virtualization capability and flexibility. 

Virtualization allows the ability to take an organization’s VM disk file or files and move, copy or replicate them between cloud recovery centers to a hypervisor (that's hardware independent) capable of supporting the VM image and simply 'spin' up as and when needed. Considering what virtualization brings to organizations for both disaster recovery and recovery in the cloud, the shift in IT, has businesses re-thinking and re-evaluating their own business continuity strategies, planning and practices.

With server virtualization, the time to recover can be reduced to hours, typically, 1-4 hours, if not less and this speedy recovery time is achieved because it is not necessary to rebuild servers, operating systems and applications. The virtual backup or virtual image can exist elsewhere and merely be pointed to from an appropriate hypervisor. 

As hypervisors and virtualization technology evolves and becomes increasingly integrated, they become more capable of delivering efficient and robust replication and recovery methods with added flexibility providing faster recovery. 

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) providers can play a crucial role on behalf of an organization, ensuring the target or recovery infrastructure, software stack including the hypervisor is well maintained, kept up-to-date, monitored and ready for the disaster recovery service - and more significantly, do it in a very cost effective manner that balances the risk versus cost equation.

DRaaS solutions that incorporate the latest virtualization technologies can help an organization more quickly and accurately recover servers, applications and data. By eliminating many of the complex, manual steps required by traditional recovery solutions, managed cloud solutions can help organizations bring workloads back online within minutes after an outage, with disk volumes and data that are only seconds old at the time of the outage.

Whether migrating workloads to cloud-based platforms or pursuing a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) model, cloud requires a fundamental shift in thinking about integrated enterprise risk management. While there is a pervasive lack of resiliency planning in most cloud implementations today, better up-front assessment and planning can help organizations realize the enormous potential cloud offers for improved, agile resiliency to strike the right balance between business service availability requirements and tolerance for risk.  

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