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The Benefits of Virtualization for Data Protection

By Bob Spurzem, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Arcserve

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Bob Spurzem, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Arcserve

The history of VMware reads a little bit like the history of Hewlett-Packard. They were both founded in Palo Alto, CA and grew to become leaders in the technology industry; the only difference being that VMware was founded in an apartment, and Hewlett-Packard made its start in a garage. From its humble beginnings in 1998, VMware has grown to become a $6 billion company and leading innovator of server virtualization. In fact, there are numerous advances in the data protection industry that were made possible by virtualization. In this article, we will examine three areas of virtualization and how they have made a positive impact on data protection.

"The power of virtualization has many examples and data protection is just one"

System Migration

One of the responsibilities of a System Administrator is to configure new servers, which includes loading the operating system and application software for use in production, engineering, QA/testing and the like. Looking back, the original value proposition of VMware was to provide customers with the ability to run multiple systems on a single set of hardware. In the process, VMware enabled a bit of a paradigm shift with regard to system migrations. Using a data protection solution, the System Administrator can make backup images containing full virtual machines and restore the virtual machines to any target he chooses.

Consider the options available: From an original virtual machine backup, the System Administrator can restore the virtual machine to another virtual host (referred to as virtual to virtual migration, or “V2V” for short). Alternatively, the System Administrator can restore the original virtual machine back to a physical server (referred to as virtual to physical migration, or “V2P”). Finally, the System Administrator can make a backup of a physical server and restore the backup files to a virtual machine host (referred to as physical to virtual, or “P2V”). Due to the portability of virtual machine files, the System Administrator, using a backup solution, can manage migration projects more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

Cross-Hypervisor Support

VMware is the leader in the world of virtualization, V but other virtual systems and associated hypervisors exist. Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEL) are three well known examples. Different hypervisors have different file formats and are not compatible. This type of scenario is where a backup solution can help. When restoring a virtual machine to a virtual host, it is the job of the backup application to copy the virtual machine files from the backup store to the hypervisor storage volume.

In the process of copying the files, the backup host can identify the type of hypervisor at the target and convert the virtual machine file formats so it is compatible with the target host hypervisor. The benefit of this process is that virtual machines can be moved from one hypervisor to another, with the backup solution acting as a third-party to make the conversion.

Disaster Recovery-as-a- Service

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is one of the most innovative new data protection capabilities that have been made possible by virtualization. For a moment, consider traditional file-based backup. Typically, Systems Administrators perform nightly backups of servers, data bases and file shares, and they rely on these same backups to restore missing or corrupted files. Now consider a modern data center based on virtualization. Here again, the System Administrator performs nightly backups, but the content of the backups are virtual machines. Specifically, they are image-based backups of volumes that contain dozens (or hundreds) of virtual machines.

When asked to restore a virtual machine, the System Administrator can access the proper backup image and restore (copy back) the virtual machine to its original source. Nothing new here – that is the same as traditional backup. But consider what is being restored  a virtual machine. Now, it is possible to simply “turn on” the virtual machine where it is sitting, rather than taking the time to restore it to its original source.

Next-generation backup solutions have an important feature called “Virtual Standby” whereby a virtual machine stored in a backup store can be “turned-on” basically where it sits, removing the time and resources needed to copy it back to the source. Considering that the source data center may be offline due to a disaster event or power outage, this is an extremely valuable capability.

With DRaaS, disaster recovery is available to organizations of all sizes (and budgets). Using a data protection solution, backup images can be replicated to an offsite service provider or to a public cloud service (i.e. Amazon AWS) for protection against a disaster event. Here, the backup images are stored securely. And, in the event of a disaster, the virtual machines can be enabled in a traditional fail-over sense for disaster recovery.

There are many details involved in a complete disaster recovery plan, but with DRaaS, you can run your applications in a virtual environment that is always “ready to run” should a disaster occur, and for far less than the cost of building your own second data center.

The power of virtualization has many examples and data protection is just one. By adopting virtualization, organizations can leverage powerful advances to traditional backup processes in key areas of system migration and disaster recovery.

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