By Fadi Albatal
As virtualization enters the mainstream and continues
to spread across the data center to reach into primary workloads and
applications, data protection has become one of the highest priorities of IT
managers responsible for VMware deployments. But backing up and protecting
virtualized servers has caused headaches and heartache for data center
Standard backup applications and concepts not only
fail to address the data protection needs of virtualized environments, they
also exacerbate the availability and recoverability of such deployments.
Traditional backups depend on patch jobs executed on a daily and weekly basis
to copy data to secondary resources, such as disk or tape. These jobs require a
fair amount of CPU and network resources that the virtualization infrastructure
has already optimized for its utilization.
In a physical server infrastructure,
the utilization rate of server and network resources sits at an average of 20
percent, which leaves plenty of available CPU cycles and network bandwidth to
satisfy the needs of compute- and network-hungry backup processes. In a virtual server environment, the
abundance of resources doesn’t generally apply; in many cases, the
consolidation and density of server infrastructure increases the server and
network utilization rate to up to 70 percent, leaving little room for
backup. Therefore, the process that
typically took a long time to finish in the past will take much longer in a
virtualized environment – and may not even be possible.
In addition to resource optimization, there are two
factors that are seriously affecting the way we look at backups. Today’s
businesses are transforming the way they service their clients; online services
are allowing them to continuously reach their customers and to break the
geographical barriers that they may have had in the past. From banking to
shopping to education, the Internet has transformed the way we cater to
This new 24/7 business model can only be enabled through new
technologies and the transformation of our IT practices. In such a model, the
concept of a backup window (the time available for a business to perform system
backups) does not even exist. Therefore,
a new method of data protection must be applied to ensure the continuous
availability of services. The second factor is that the natural data growth in
the data center is exercising added pressure on the existing backup window, and
many organizations today are not able to finish their backups on time.
For all the benefits VMware offers the data center
pursuing virtualization, it requires an adequate data protection solution to
overcome the resource requirements of traditional backups. A transformation of
data protection processes should make backup effortless, reliable and
fast. There are six questions you should
raise with any vendor before selecting a third-party solution for VMware data
protection and backup.
- Is the
technology ready to protect operating systems and applications in a
virtual machine with full VMware integration?
integration within a VMware infrastructure should enable more efficient
operations and better data consistency, accelerating backup processes and
offloading many operations to the storage layer to minimize the effect that
backups may have on running applications.
- Does it
protect physical and virtual servers simultaneously, so you can protect
workloads that are partially virtualized?
Not all servers and
workloads are virtualized today; it is likely that you’re still running many
applications – and probably most of your critical applications -- on a physical
server infrastructure. To improve data
protection and recovery efficiency and reduce management overhead, select an
efficient data protection solution that covers all workloads in the data
center, especially when you have partially virtualized applications.
- Can the
solution meet your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point
It’s all about recovery.
Any data protection solution that you’re looking at should meet your service
level agreement (SLA) requirements. It’s a balancing act between budget and
aggressive RPO and RTO goals. Solutions that provide continuous data protection
(CDP) can deliver compelling RPO and RTO at a reasonable cost.
- Does the
solution ensure granular recovery of virtual machines, mission-critical
databases, messaging data, files and even entire systems?
The ability to recover
data at a granular level will further improve recovery time and recovery point
capability. Recovering a single file, e-mail or database instead of a whole
system is much less disruptive to the business and improves operational
- Are the data
protection and recovery processes automated to minimize administrative
tasks and human error?
The speed and accuracy of
recovery is dependent on how automated the recovery process is. There is always
a compromise between the level of automation and granularity of recovery
operations that must be evaluated based on your needs.
- Can I
leverage my existing infrastructure, and will the solution work with
technology I purchase in the future?
Investment protection is
a long-term strategic goal to run a lean but efficient IT operation. Try to
find a solution that is not hardware-dependent, can leverage legacy
infrastructure, and can still carry you into the future.
VMware has made virtualization a reality for
businesses of all sizes, in all industries.
However, as these organizations
mature their virtual environments and pursue aggressive data backup and
recovery targets, they soon realize the need for tools that provide global data
protection and recovery capability across different platforms. In order to fully capture the return on
investment in virtualization, these businesses should ask some key questions
and investigate the kind of continuous data protection technology that will
guard their most valuable data assets and ensure continuous data and system
Fadi Albatal is the vice president of marketing at FalconStor Software. With more than 12 years of
senior level management in the IT market, Albatal has substantial experience
with large scale storage systems.
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