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Disaster recovery planning trends and technologies for 2009

Disaster recovery (DR) planning remains high on the priority list for many IT and storage managers in the new year. This tip highlights some of the key technologies that will help support IT recovery in 2009.

The current economic climate gives a renewed sense of doing more with less, but at the same time, recent events have also contributed to the rising awareness around the need for disaster recovery (DR) preparedness. This creates special challenges because DR planning is not a task that is typically justified by a ROI calculation, and therefore is often viewed as a cost center.

To that end, DR technologies that can be leveraged beyond recovery will be favored over those focused solely on recovery. Let's take a look at some of the disaster recovery technologies that can be expected to shine in 2009.

Server virtualization and disaster recovery

Server virtualization has been gaining the most interest as a data recovery solution, and it will continue to be a very popular option in the year ahead. Interestingly enough, it was not initially developed as a recovery strategy. Server virtualization is a good disaster recovery option based on the ability it provides to deploy an alternate recovery environment at a fraction of the cost of the physical equivalent.

Server virtualization is a prime example of the type of technology that is leveraged beyond recovery. In fact, the technology is primarily used to improve server utilization and reduce the physical server count, which can translate in significant reductions in terms of hardware acquisition, maintenance and management costs as well as power and cooling costs. Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenServer, the new Microsoft Corp. Hyper-V and VMware Inc. and are some of the key players server virtualization.

Desktop virtualization

Surprisingly enough, end-user access to recovered applications is often overlooked or one of the last elements considered as part of a DR strategy. Desktop virtualization has been around for a long time and is already leveraged by many companies with technologies such as Citrix (XenDesktop), Microsoft Windows Terminal Services and VMware VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (now VMware View) as a desktop cost-reduction aid. The technology has also proven to be a valuable disaster recovery option for desktops due to its portability without depending on the deployment of physical workstations. Because of its close integration with server virtualization, we can expect to see a growing number of DR strategies that include virtual desktop technology.

Virtual network resources

A relatively new addition to the virtualization world, technologies such as Cisco Systems Inc.'s VFrame, which is part of the Cisco Data Center 3.0 strategy, enable the pooling of network-based resources like virtual servers, network storage and networking for quick provisioning. This is the foundation to a Service Oriented Data Center, which allows redistributing of the allocation of preconfigured computing resources only when needed to meet increased demand. This is another example of cost efficiency by limiting oversizing while also increasing the resilience of the infrastructure. Expect to see this technology gain in popularity, especially in larger IT environments where availability and rapid deployment to an alternate site are often part of the DR strategy.

Data archival solutions and disaster recovery

With all the progress made in reducing the footprint and the power utilization of servers through virtualization while providing increased deployment agility and resilience, data growth still remains a major challenge from a recoverability perspective.

Data volumes keep growing and the implementation of server virtualization for disaster recovery combined with data replication at an alternate site only exacerbates this problem. This situation, combined with ongoing operational cost reduction efforts, is forcing many organizations to reexamine data categorization. This is especially true with archival options that reduce the amount of data in production, which translates into less data to backup or to replicate offsite and ultimately, less data to restore in the event of a catastrophic failure or disaster. We can expect to see an increased interest in data archival solutions in the year ahead and beyond. EMC Corp.'s EmailXtender and DiskXtender, Evault (now part of Seagate), and Symantec Corp. are some popular software products, with Barracuda Networks, Quest Software Inc. and Mimosa Systems Inc. providing other options.

Unified communication

User connectivity and communication is key for most organizations and, once again, efforts to reduce operational costs have promoted telecommuting to a new level. With that, the increased use of instant messaging, email, IP Telephony and video conferencing are creating a demand for a consolidated approach to communication to reduce cost.

This approach also ties in very well with server and desktop virtualization for disaster recovery through portability. Because unified communication solutions are software based and not necessarily dependent of specific hardware (e.g., phone, fax, etc.), they can be rolled out quickly at an alternate or recovery workspace and provide users with the connectivity and communication tools they are familiar with. The implementation of unified communication solutions can be expected to increase in popularity as both a cost-cutting and recovery strategy.

Overall, the growing popularity of the technology options mentioned in this piece are all contributing to the development of what is often referred to as "cloud computing" or "computing as a service." In general, virtualization, including storage virtualization, are all IT elements that are contributing to increasing resilience while driving a major shift in the way we view, design and implement disaster recovery solutions.

About the author: Pierre Dorion is the Data Center Practice Director and a Senior Consultant with Long View Systems Inc. in Phoenix, AZ, specializing in the areas of business continuity and disaster recovery planning services, and corporate data protection.

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