Virtualization is Hurting DR Preparedness, Vision Says
December 7, 2010 Alex Woodie
A misunderstanding of the disaster recovery benefits that virtualized servers and applications provide underscores the threat of a downturn in DR preparedness this year, according to executives at Vision Solutions, which unveiled its third annual IT resiliency study today. While Vision says organizations may mistakenly believe that hypervisors possess some inherent data protection properties (it’s actually more like high availability), the study identified some positive trends too, such as an increase in the uptake of logical replication and failover capabilities.
Organizations are not as sure about their DR preparedness as they were a year ago, according to Vision’s latest state of IT resilience study. Last year, Vision reported more people had a 90 percent confidence rating for DR plans. The 75 percent confidence rating was also higher last year. In 2010, more respondents said they had 25 to 50 percent confidence their DR plans would work. The number of respondents who say they have no DR plans whatsoever also went up, which is really disturbing.
While DR preparedness is down, DR awareness is up, according to Vision’s study. In each of the categories of DR-related problems–including incomplete plans, outdated plans, and a lack of communication, testing, and coordination–the percentage of people saying they have that problem grew. Another interesting finding: the farther employees are from the data center, the less faith they have in their organization’s DR plan. In other words, the average CEO in the corner office (sometimes light years distant from the IT department) is suspicious of the steps his IT managers have taken to protect the organization’s data.
There could be several causes of the decline in DR preparedness, says Ed Vesely, Vision’s senior vice president of marketing. Some of the factors at play could be that IT personnel are losing their jobs, or that organizations are discovering their backups are unusable. Another possibility is that organizations may be getting wiser about the myriad factors and careful planning that affect a solid DR strategy, and are simply being more honest with themselves (and opinion survey takers, apparently) about their lack of preparedness.
But Vesely has another theory about the decline in DR preparedness. Based on the answers and the trends that are taking place, Vesely believes that the greater complexity that virtualization technology brings into a data center is hurting DR preparedness. “They think they have DR, but they have a flavor of HA,” Vesely says. “When they have maintenance or downtime issues, they really don’t have an offsite copy. They simply have more of an HA failover protection, but that’s not complete.”
Hypervisors do provide the capability to easily and rapidly move virtual servers (including applications and data) among different physical servers. But unless the underlying physical servers are sufficiently protected–such as through traditional DR techniques, like storing tape backups offsite, using a continuous data protection (CDP) device, or even by geographically locating physical servers so as not to be impacted by the same disaster–then organizations are fooling themselves into believing their critical data is protected.
“They have a false sense of security,” Vesely says. “There’s a greater potential the data wouldn’t be there. When they have a combination of physical and virtual, they may be good at the virtual, but they still don’t have the physical protection.” And with potentially thousands of virtual machine (VM) or LPAR environments, the scale of an organization’s problems present a considerably complex barrier that could be the source of a rude awakening the day of a disaster.
Vesely’s belief isn’t based entirely on the survey results, which simply state DR preparedness is diminishing, but doesn’t say why. (Surveys aren’t good at the why; that requires expert human intervention). But Vesely’s conclusions are backed up by a similar study that Symantec released less than a month ago. Symantec’s “2010 Disaster Recovery Study” found that 60 percent of virtualized servers are not included in their organizations’ current DR plans, an increase of 15 percent from the prior year.
Windows and Linux applications will be the most affected by the lack of DR preparedness, since those are the platforms that are most often virtualized. According to Vision’s survey, 95 percent of survey respondents said they use virtualization with their Windows servers, compared to 48 percent for their Linux servers. IBM i, AIX, and Solaris servers are virtualized only 10 percent of the time.
Overall, organizations are demanding quicker recoveries after disasters. Vision noted a bias toward shorter recovery time objectives (RTOs) than 2009, with approximately 5 percent more respondents shooting for an RTO of one to six hours, which is the most popular RTO. However, the percentage of respondents aiming for an RTO of less than one hour actually declined from 2009. This could indicate that organizations are becoming more realistic about the effectiveness of their DR strategies, Vision says.
Organizations are not as picky about how much data they could lose in a disaster, which is measured in recovery point objective (RPO) times. There was a decrease in the number of organizations who said they could not tolerate any data loss (an RPO of zero), and there was in increase in the number of organizations that would accept an RPO of a few minutes to a full day.
Vision noted an uptick in the adoption of logical replication products, which is what it sells. The percentage of organizations that reported using logical replication and failover went from about 25 percent in 2009 to about 40 percent in 2010, according to Vision’s study. The number of organization’s using just logical replication (without failover) doubled from about 20 percent of survey respondents to more than 40 percent.
Vision also found the adoption of continuous data protection (CDP) capabilities increased from about 15 percent to about 20 percent, while the percentage of respondents reporting they use clustering declined from about 40 percent to about 25 percent. Use of virtual tape library (VTL) products also appeared to be on the decline.
Vision will unveil its study, titled “Resilience in Transition,” in a webinar scheduled for today at 10 a.m. CST.
More than 6,500 people from organizations in 100 countries took the surveys, including IBM i, Windows, Linux, Unix, and mainframe shops. Copies of the survey as well as replays of the webinar will be available from Vision’s website: www.visionsolutions.com.