Multi-Hypervisor, Multi-Use Application Availability

In an ever changing IT landscape, business owners and data center managers are finding it increasingly challenging to ensure that critical business information is not only adequately protected, but that the underlying system infrastructure is resilient enough to withstand outages from a variety of threats while remaining operational.

Server virtualization and cloud computing have introduced additional layers of abstraction that increase agility but also have the potential to further complicate disaster recovery (DR) and business continuance processes. On the one hand, virtualization simplifies server resource provisioning, but on the other hand, rapid configuration changes may result in gaps in the DR infrastructure. In fact, many organizations apply one or more data protection technologies into their environment to address the various recovery point (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) requirements of their business systems.

As such, recovery capabilities can range the gamut from highly available geo-clustered solutions which provide for near zero downtime and zero data loss, to simple nightly backups, which only enable a restoration to the previous day’s data and require an extended recovery window.

Given the highly dynamic nature of today’s computing environment, IT planners need to seek out recovery and high availability (HA) solutions which are multi-purpose, fully automated and capable of eliminating the complexity and guess work out of managing disparate, heterogeneous infrastructure resources. This is particularly true where operational staff and IT budgets are highly constrained.

Neverfail has a unique, business recovery software suite which can be utilized in a variety of ways, from enabling non-disruptive migration of application workloads across physical and/or virtual servers to providing automated critical application DR fail-over within or between individual data centers and cloud-based computing environments.

Virtual Legacy

As an OEM partner of VMware, Neverfail has a history of providing software-based recovery solutions for virtual environments. In fact, VMware utilizes Neverfail’s Heartbeat Failover Engine technology, rebranded as vCenter Server Heartbeat, to ensure that vCenter resource tools are continuously available.

Neverfail also supports application availability on any Windows server running in a Hyper-V or Xen virtualized infrastructure, or on physical servers. This allows the increasingly common, multi-hypervisor data center to consolidate on a single disaster recovery tool.

Neverfail’s approach to business service availability is to comprehensively address all facets of the recovery process and above all, ensure that there is minimal to zero disruption – both from an application availability standpoint and a data loss perspective. The central components of Neverfail’s design is continuous data replication of the application, constant application health monitoring and automated fail-over recovery.

Neverfail is deployed in an active-passive configuration between two hosts (physical, virtual or a combination thereof) via a dedicated network channel to create a “heartbeat” connection between the two systems. Data is asynchronously replicated between the two machines and in the event of an outage or a degraded application performance condition, the system heartbeat will initiate automated fail-over to the standby unit.

As an example, if Microsoft Exchange locks up, the physical or virtual server system hosting the application may still be operational and thus appear as available, however, the application is functionally unavailable to end users. Neverfail is intelligent enough, however, to detect that the application has gone down and will immediately fail-over to the standby Exchange system.

When the primary system is once again available, the application administrator can simply initiate a fail-back and the normal active-passive relationship will be re-established. Replicated system pairs can be configured in a local cluster or across two separate sites for DR purposes. Optionally, a tertiary standby unit can be deployed, in the cloud for example, to provide an even higher level of availability.

Multi-Use Application Availability

IT managers can derive further value by offloading data protection processes like data snapshots and nightly backups to the standby system, thereby offloading the primary host from performing these tasks – potentially providing greater virtual machine density if it is installed on a hypervisor host.

Neverfail supports dissimilar hardware configurations between the active and passive hosts so users can easily re-purpose existing equipment to keep DR project costs in check.

In addition to providing seamless business continuity protection, Neverfail can be used to conduct frequent DR testing without impacting production. This is perhaps one of its most valuable capabilities as virtualized server environments are subject to frequent change. By scheduling weekly DR tests or testing the environment following a series of production related configuration changes, application owners and especially managed service providers, can empirically demonstrate that they are meeting system availability and business recovery service level agreements. Neverfail’s ability to conduct DR tests quickly and easily, makes weekly testing a viable option.

Another application of the Neverfail technology is to enable non-disruptive migrations from physical server environments to virtual server infrastructure. By simply utilizing the asynchronous replication technology embedded in the product, virtual server administrators can port applications off physical server infrastructure to virtual machines in their own data center or to a service provider facility to enable cloud based computing.

Conclusion

IT decision makers often find themselves in a quandary when trying to determine how to cost effectively implement high availability and business continuity for critical business applications. Historically, business continuance solutions have carried a high cost both in initial capital outlays as well as in ongoing operational expenses. Furthermore, the added burden of managing all the complex inter-relationships to keep primary and secondary environments in synch make it questionable whether the DR solution will even work when it is really needed.

Solutions like Neverfail provide a comprehensive web of protection by continuously replicating critical production data, proactively monitoring the host environment and automatically initiating system fail-over when production outages take place. Easy to use and manage comprehensive DR tools like Neverfail are the order of the day in an ever increasingly complex IT environment.

Neverfail is not a client of Storage Switzerland

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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