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Bullet proofing disaster recovery with virtualisation

01 Jul 2011

Recovering from disaster has been at the forefront of our minds in the last months. Witnessing the result of what nature can throw at us changes the way we think about how we will react if it happens in our communities. 

For a business to survive a disaster, the steps are not always quick and easy. There are practical decisions that can be made around how to best protect staff, but ensuring key business systems can continue running, or can at least be recovered, is a process that takes some time and requires a vendor who enables partners to take their disaster recovery offering to market quickly and cost effectively.

The best disaster recovery strategies are able to simultaneously do two things: get as much of the system architecture back online as possible and in as little time as possible. However the actual application of disaster recovery plans is most often about finding a balance between the two rather than achieving the best possible outcome.

Virtualisation has been increasingly put to the test in effectively creating disaster recovery strategies. Initially, server virtualisation was about consolidating workloads onto fewer physical machines, thus allowing for considerable savings in hardware, power and maintenance costs. This creates an effective platform for disaster recovery.

There are significant revenue opportunities for partners in deploying virtualisation technology for their customers. A prominent retail power company with a significant amount of its server fleet in Christchurch was in the process of transitioning to a virtual environment when the earthquake on February 22 made their data centre unreachable. Using virtualisation technology, Fujitsu was able to quickly restore from backups what were once physical servers, into a quickly and efficiently built virtual environment, allowing the business to be back and operational very quickly.

In another case of virtualisation playing a significant role in disaster recovery, an education provider was not able to access their data centre, and used virtualisation technology to restart all of their critical business applications in CCL’s data centre, using the virtualisation platform to expedite recovery and continue to provide access to students. The key component to the effective recovery to business as usual for the power company was their confidence in the automated systems they had in place, to know the exact state of their environment prior to the earthquake, and know the dependencies each application had on underlying infrastructure. This was critical to knowing which elements to bring up first, and provided the ability to bring up entire applications simultaneously.

There were many other lessons learned in the practise of disaster recovery as a result of this event, and business processes are being modified, improved and made more robust so that future disasters will have less effect.

The portable nature of the virtualised server, the inherent redundancy provided by a virtualisation platform and the ability to quickly and cost effectively provision a new environment, all help ensure a business survives a disaster.

In the same way we now all think about how we will react in a disaster to protect ourselves and our families, businesses are adopting virtualisation as their disaster recovery strategy to put them in a better position to maintain business continuity in the face of catastrophic systems shutdown.

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