Top five virtualization problems: Virtualization backup and recovery

It’s hard enough to grapple with disaster recovery in a physical environment, but when it comes to virtual servers, virtualization backup and recovery become even more difficult. Fast Packet blogger Josh Stephens tells you how to handle virtualization problems.

Without doubt, virtualization is the most disruptive technology in the marketplace. Virtualization has enabled massive progress in data center consolidation, storage area networks (SANs), ultra-high speed LANs and cloud computing. I’m a big fan of virtualization technology, but virtualization has resulted in lots of issues that must be tackled. Since these are fairly new challenges, I’ve decided to dedicate a five-part blog series to identifying and rectifying the top five post-virtualization problems, starting with safety and the need for virtualization backup and disaster recovery.

Virtualization problem No.1: Virtualization backup and disaster recovery

Safety first. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Wear your seatbelt when driving and don’t play with matches (only you can prevent forest fires, my friend). But when it comes to virtualization, it’s amazing how many people put safety on the back burner and don’t address it until after they’ve been burned.

What is safety as it relates to virtualization technology and infrastructure, you ask? It’s backups and disaster recovery.

Backups in the world of server virtualization and virtualized infrastructure are quite a bit different than in the traditional world of physical server technologies. While most backup vendors now offer VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) and Virtual Disk Development Kit (VDDK) solutions, you may find that it’s either a paid add-on or requires an upgrade to their standard package. Because this technology is a lot different from a backup perspective, several new companies have evolved to provide backup solutions for server virtualization. Check out companies like Veeam, CommVault, and PHD Virtual for next-gen solutions in this area.

Why are these backups so different? Well, remember that the application server is basically one big file now. Odds are that you have several different copies of this file or snapshots, and they’re spread across one or more SANs. That’s not counting the actual data that the virtual server has stored/is using. This requires specialized software and planning.

Likewise, disaster recovery is quite a bit different when it comes to virtualized infrastructure. The subject hasn't been covered much to date, but it’s easy to see how organizations would skimp on disaster recovery planning for virtual systems since they’re naturally portable. The problem is that the configurations within the virtualization infrastructure are complex and don’t naturally lend themselves to disaster recovery scenarios.

To overcome these obstacles, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve spent adequate time planning and testing any likely disaster recovery scenarios. Look for vendors that have experience specifically with virtualization disaster recovery planning and look for help from online communities where other specialists congregate.

This was first published in February 2011

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