Server virtualization has become a popular trend in enterprise IT. When migrating from a physical to a virtual environment, IT professionals need to ensure that their company's data is protected, current and readily available. Knowledge Center contributor Brace Rennels explains the steps to take to protect your company's data during a virtual migration.
that Microsoft has officially entered the hypervisor market, it's even
easier for companies to make the jump from a physical to virtual
environment. For every company that has already made the jump, there
are dozens of others missing out on the convenience, flexibility and
ROI of virtualization.
If you're one of the laggards, the holdup might be because you're
wondering, "How can I ensure that my company's data is protected,
current and available if we convert to a virtual server?" or "Do I
convert manually or use an automated P2V (Physical-to-Virtual) product
that streamlines the setup and configuration process, and keeps my data
current and readily available?" These are important questions. The good
news is, with the technology available today, the answers might be
easier than you think.
Selecting a hypervisor
The first step to consider is selecting a conversion process
compatible with your selected virtualization product. Contact your
virtualization vendor for recommendations and customer references.
Whether it is VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, XEN or Virtual Iron, most will
provide you with direction on how to accomplish the process. And if
native P2V tools are not available, the vendor likely has software
partners that provide this functionality. Having a list of questions to
ask about the process will help get you started. Seven important
questions to ask are:
Question #1: Does the virtualization vendor have a native P2V process?
Question #2: Does it require downtime of my production server, and if so, how much?
Question #3: How long will the conversion process take?
Question #4: Will I have to reinstall the application on the virtual machine or will it do that for me?
Question #5: How will I keep data changes current once the conversion process starts?
Question #6: Will all my network and application settings remain?
Question #7: What happens if the process fails before it completes? Do I have to start over?
Considering backup and recovery
The next step is to back up every server you plan to convert and
review your recovery plans. Some processes will require lengthy
downtime of the production server and/or preparation of the
applications on the virtual machine, which you should figure into your
There should not be any additional risks to the production server
during conversion. But, if the process fails, you should be able to
bring that physical server back online and start over. However, if
there is a more severe failure in the middle of the P2V process,
execute any existing backup or high availability procedures you have in
place. The length of the recovery process will depend on the severity
of the failure. Below are three examples of types of failures you could
Failure type #1: Site failure
If there is a site failure due to a power outage, fire or a
weather-related event, you have a bigger problem on your hands than
just the fact that your P2V process failed. So you won't exactly be
concerned with recovering just one server as much as you will be with
implementing your business continuity plans to get business-critical
servers operating to a functional level as quickly as possible.
Failure type #2: Hardware failure
A hardware failure is less severe than a site failure, but it will
still delay your virtual conversion process--unless you have a
high-availability solution in place. As long as it isn't a shared disk
array in a clustered solution, you may be able to continue with your
virtual migration from the remaining active node. If you have a
high-availability solution in place with a redundant server, you should
also be able to continue the process while you fix the failed server.
Failure type #3: Disk array failure and data loss
If you have a storage array failure with data loss, you will likely
need to recover from whatever backups you have in place before
proceeding with the P2V process.
You can't avoid a disaster scenario, but you can have a recovery
plan readily available if your P2V conversion process is interrupted.
One solution that helps prevent data loss during a migration is high
availability, in which a local redundant server with duplicate data
helps keep the P2V process moving. This really is the best way to
protect your data during the conversion.
Another option to consider is backing up the server. Whether or not
you have an availability solution, always back up before you start any
type of migration and/or maintenance of your servers.
Some disaster recovery solutions have the ability to convert
physical to virtual machines. If you use one of those products, you may
not have to start all over with the P2V process and just re-mirror from
the last bit of converted data sent. Some of these products also
provide real-time replication, minimizing bandwidth utilization and
eliminating downtime requirements for the conversion. Then you aren't
limited to a scheduled outage on a weekend to complete the migration.
Your challenge won't be how to protect your data, as much as it will be
how to keep users online and data current during the process.
Whatever method you choose, you should always have a recovery plan.
That way, if something goes wrong with the process, you have the
ability to recover from different scenarios.
Reaping the benefits
Once you have finalized the conversion, and the P2V process is
successful, the last step is to make sure you include testing before
you roll into production. Once testing is complete, you can immediately
reap the benefits of your new virtual environment, including the most
important one: reclaiming your weekends.
Brace Rennels is a Professional Services Project Manager at Double-Take Software,
and a Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP). He has been
involved with over 1,600 disaster recovery installations at Double-Take
Software. He is responsible for managing the message of the
professional services organization, the partner channel/OEM-related
services activities, and the implementation of new service programs to
drive Double-Take Software's sales.
Previously, Brace was Manager of Technical Consulting Services at
OpenPages, Inc. There he worked for one of the fastest-growing content
management systems for multiple channel publishing. He trained staff on
how to conduct and develop Risk and Business Impact Analysis for
clients. Additionally, he was a Solution Architect for designing
enterprise publishing, print and Web solutions based on customer
business requirements. He created the business model, methodology and
mission statement for the Technical Consulting Services.
Before OpenPages, Brace worked for General Data Services
(acquired by EMC Corporation in 1999) as a Senior Systems Engineer.
There he performed Business Impact Analysis to assist architects for
enterprise-wide solutions involving hardware, software and business
processes. He was awarded the Professional Services Contributor of the
Quarter award for outstanding efforts in FY99. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.