Opinion: Replicate data to protect servers

Many organisations are adopting virtualisation in their data centres to better use hardware, reduce power consumption and simplify management.

Many organisations are adopting virtualisation in their data centres to better use hardware, reduce power consumption and simplify management.

The reliability of the infrastructure is critically important but what is the best way to protect virtual servers and keep them highly available?

A virtual infrastructure has a single point of failure: shared disk space. An organisation that relies on tape to protect this environment will struggle to provide the infrastructure with the protection and availability it needs, as it can take days to restore virtual systems from tape, if it is possible at all. Some virtual products come equipped with a snapshot-based technology that sends data in periodic chunks. However, the flexibility of this technology is limited and it does not provide the protection, availability and disaster recovery a business-critical virtual infrastructure warrants. No matter which vendor's systems are deployed, independent data replication products make virtual infrastructures available far more effectively than tape, greatly increasing native protection and providing data centre managers with a very useful management tool. 

If an organisation uses data replication in its business continuity plan, it might be flexible enough to be used in virtual infrastructures. Datacentre managers are likely to maintain a variety of hardware on which they host virtual servers so the high-availability solutions need to be flexibile to work in any hardware environment. Host-based replication is an asynchronous technology that replicates at the server level and streams replicating changes in real time as they occur, and compiles them on target servers in the order the operations occurred. Host-based replication is hardware-agnostic and ideal for heterogeneous environments. It has the flexibility to protect typical virtual infrastructures. 

It also provides data centre managers with a simple virtual infrastructure migration and management tool. Many organisations already have a disaster recovery facility or satellite office where they send back-up copies of data for disaster recovery. Having a live duplication of the virtual infrastructure in those places provides the best level of protection and recovery in a substantial site disaster. Host-based technologies replicate over any distance, so provide organisations managing virtual infrastructures with the best possible protection for business-critical physical and virtual environments. 

Virtualising servers is only the first step in modernising a datacentre to take advantage of the benefits on offer. Virtual infrastructures are business-critical so organisations need to make sure they are highly available. Host based data replication products not only provide high availability but can also help data centre managers better maintain virtual systems by having the ability to provide, convert and migrate systems near and far.

Ian Masters is UK sales and marketing director at Double-Take Software

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