Storage and disaster recovery have been allies for a very long time. Many disaster recovery plans include redundant and replicated remote storage that protects organizational data in the event of a disaster. More recently, virtualization has worked its way into these plans as a way to enhance the recovery potential when disaster strikes. In addition to improving an organization's disaster recovery potential, shared storage and virtualization can also improve the availability of the services hosted in the data center.
Already, VMware Virtual Infrastructure, when used in combination with a shared storage pool, provides higher levels of service availability than just running VMware on its own. VMotion, for example, provides a mechanism by which production virtual servers can be migrated between ESX hosts on the fly and without loss of service. This is particularly useful when maintenance needs to be performed on a single ESX host. The service load can be transferred to other hosts in the organization to avoid services outage.
VMware has upped the ante with the release of VMware Site Recovery Manager. According to VMware, "VMware Site Recovery Manager is a pioneering product that uses virtualization to provide end-to-end disaster recovery management and automation across your entire data center." In a nutshell, Site Recovery Manager uses Virtual Infrastructure 3 in order to help an organization create disaster recovery plans for a data center assuming that the organization has a remote location in which a hot site can be located. Site Recovery Manager takes advantage of your storage solution's replication capability — a feature found in many (but not all) SAN solutions, both iSCSI and Fibre Channel.
VMware Site Recovery Manager provides high availability capability between data centers. If a crisis strikes one data center, a combination of your storage infrastructure's replication feature, Virtual Infrastructure 3, and plans that you create, make it possible for DR plans to be executed automatically and for server loads to be transferred to your hot site.
Site Recovery Manager is extremely dependent on the particular storage hardware that you use and it will not work with every vendor out there. VMware is working with EMC, EqualLogic, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, Lefthand Networks, and Network Appliance in order to develop this new product. All of these vendors provide powerful solutions that include replication between different physical hardware devices. As the crux of the new VMware product, if a SAN is in your future and you're considering virtualization as a component of your DR plan, stick to one of VMware's close partners to make sure that you're not left behind.
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Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.