Virtualization is a useful tool, but it’s not a silver bullet. It creates new problems and exacerbates some existing ones. Here are some things to watch out for when considering virtualizaton as part of your disaster recovery strategy.
“Virtualization lengthens the rope for a company to hang itself,” says Gregory L. Smith, senior product architect at DR vendor SunGard Availability Services. “A poorly set up virtual environment or one with a sub-optimal recovery strategy may leave a client in a much worse position than prior to the virtualization.”
It’s vital to know what virtualization can – and cannot – do for DR efforts.
License Agreement Snafus: Virtualization can’t magically change license agreements. “If your licenses are tied to specific hardware or not supported on virtual systems – as many are – you may be out of compliance using virtualization for DR,” says Andi Mann, vice president of Product Marketing at CA Technologies.
Customized Hardware and Compliance Issues: If you have systems and applications requiring very specific or customized hardware with high resource consumption (CPU, memory, etc), you may not be able to use virtualization for all recovery systems. “Certain clustering and load balanced scenarios may be better enabled with physical systems, as well,” explains Dave Shackleford, a security and virtualization consultant and a 2010 VMware vExpert.
“Organizations with extremely sensitive security or compliance requirements may opt to use physical systems for recovery to ensure the maximum possible segmentation or separation between systems, applications, and data,” he says.
Near-term Budget Issues: It costs more to buy virtualization products and services than it does the traditional alternatives, although total cost of ownership for virtualized products is significantly lower. Additionally, the front-end costs are dwarfed by the value of saving the enterprise from complete failure or lengthy delays caused by a disaster. Still, you’ll need to spend some money upfront for virtualization.
Virtualization Doesn’t Replace Backup and Storage Needs: “IT managers will need to make sure there is ample storage for the VMs and provision sufficient resources (memory, CPU, bandwidth),” advises Koka Sexton, manager of business development at Paragon Software Group, a global data security and storage software developer. “Make sure you build virtualization into your DR plan with regular backups and redundancy as you would with any other DR plan used.”
Virtualization Won’t Address Priorities for You: There are as many levels of DR as there are IT infrastructures. There is data you’ll need to recover instantly and data you’ll need later. Risk acceptance also varies by department and data set. All of these priorities must be determined at onset of virtualization. Otherwise, virtualized sprawl will complicate recovery efforts. Unfortunately, internal politics can make prioritizing a more complex issue than simply weighing data value. “Determining the appropriate technology is actually the easy part,” notes Jeff Nessen, practice director of Platform Virtualization at Logicalis, an international provider of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions and services. “An often more difficult challenge is negotiating internally what levels of risk different departments within an organization are willing to accept for their applications and data.”
Virtualization, like any other technology, is a tool, not a goal. In this case, however, the tool is exceedingly handy and its uses are numerous. Still, use virtualization only if you have a real reason to – otherwise leave it alone.
Remember, as Mann puts it, “Virtualization is not a silver bullet, for DR or anything else.”
But then again, was a silver bullet the thing you were looking for – or did you just want to make DR a little faster and easier? Go into it with open eyes and practical approaches, and virtualization will deliver.
Related Information From Dell.com: A Smarter Path to Virtualization.