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Using storage virtualization in a DR plan

As organizations become more comfortable with one form of virtualization, they don't have to make great intellectual or operational leaps to grasp the concept of virtualizing other data center domains. Often, IT organizations undertaking complete data center refresh initiatives position virtualization as a key part of the makeover and look to extract all possible efficiencies in one fell swoop by deploying virtualization in multiple technology areas. So it's not uncommon to see server virtualization combined with storage virtualization.

Like server virtualization, storage virtualization untethers data from dedicated devices. Storage virtualization takes multiple storage systems and treats those devices as a single, centrally managed pool of storage, enabling management from one console. It also enables data movement among different storage systems transparently, providing capacity and load balancing. In addition to lowering costs, improving resource utilization, increasing availability, simplifying upgrades and enabling scalability, the expected benefit of storage virtualization is easier and more cost-effective DR.

In a DR scenario, storage virtualization improves resource utilization, allowing organizations to do more with less capacity on hand. IT is

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likely to purchase and deploy far less physical storage with thin, just-in-time provisioning of multiple tiers of storage. By improving capacity utilization, organizations can reduce the amount of additional capacity purchases and more easily scale environments.

Virtualization allows storage configurations to vary between the primary and the DR site. Flexibility in configuring dissimilar systems at the production and recovery sites can introduce cost savings (by allowing existing storage systems to be reclaimed and reused), without introducing complexity. It also allows IT to mirror primary storage to more affordable solutions at a remote site, if desired.

Native data replication that integrates with the virtualized storage environment can provide improved functionality for virtual disaster recovery. Remote mirroring between heterogeneous storage systems (that is, more expensive at the primary site and less costly at the recovery site) contributes to lower costs.

Final word on virtualization

Whether used singly or combined, server virtualization and storage virtualization are making an impact on IT's ability to deliver DR, and to deliver it cost effectively. If your company has been on the sidelines, crossing its collective fingers and hoping a disaster never strikes, it might be time to investigate virtualization. And if you have virtualization in place, you should have the basic elements for an effective and cost-efficient DR environment. It's time to take the next steps.

BIO: Lauren Whitehouse is a senior analyst focusing on backup and recovery software and replication solutions at Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass.

This was first published in April 2011

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