Is Your Primary Storage DR Ready?

User and organizational expectations are higher than ever. They want high performance access to massive amounts of data and in the event that something goes wrong they expect IT to resolve the situation instantly and cost effectively no matter how severe the problem might be. To keep pace with these expectations, IT professionals are using a number of data protection schemes ranging from replication to snapshots to more traditional backups. Despite their best attempts, IT is falling behind. IT needs help! The best source of that help is the primary storage system itself, which needs to be DR ready. It seems counter intuitive but let’s find out why.

What is DR Ready Storage?

Storage that is DR Ready aids in the data protection and disaster recovery processes without compromising traditional primary storage performance and features. It does this through a combination of its own capabilities (snapshots, basic replication as well as multi-site and synchronous replication) and by complementing or enhancing existing backup solutions – but not replacing them. While many storage systems have replication capabilities, DR Ready storage differs in the implementation of those replication tasks, the number of locations that can be a part of that task and the monitoring of those tasks to ensure successful completion.

Simplicity is Key

A first requirement of DR Ready Storage is to simplify the process – organizations want 100 percent assurance of its recoverability status 100 percent of the time – yet IT professionals are stretched too thin to have time to deal with DR solutions that are difficult to implement. In addition, and potentially more importantly, these solutions need to be simple to monitor in order to make sure the disaster recovery sites updated quickly to meet recovery point and recovery time objectives.

Move Beyond the Basics

The second requirement of DR Ready Storage is that it more than cover the basics. Features like snapshots, clones and replication have been available for years. The DR Ready system should not only have these capabilities, it should enhance them. There should be support for a high number and frequent snapshots. Within virtualized environments the primary storage system should enable instant recovery of VM as well as file level recovery within a VM. It should also integrate with the data management capabilities provided by the hypervisor vendors that make local and remote recoveries more seamless.

The replication feature for many primary storage systems is surprisingly limited, often offering only asynchronous replication to a single secondary site. The secondary site is updated periodically based on a snapshot schedule. A few vendors support replication to multiple sites and that should be a required capability. The goal of the multi-site replication is to further insulate against a broader range of disasters or to distribute parts of the workload to multiple offices.

Data centers with extremely strict RPOs and RTOs have an entirely different need, very rapid recovery with zero data loss. Meeting these objectives requires synchronous replication, a capability more rare than multi-site replication.

Another basic to cover is the level of granularity at which the storage system can operate. Many storage systems are limited to the LUN or volume level. Since it is common for virtualized environments to have many virtual machines per LUN/Volume the DR Ready storage system needs to define policy at the VM level not the LUN/Volume level. This VM awareness brings great flexibility to the organization and can speed DR readiness as well as reduce DR site costs.

Integration with Existing Protection Processes

Finally, DR Ready storage has to be careful not to overreach and attempt to replace existing backup solutions for reasons like different storage media, database log management, long-term data retention and more. The dividing line between the two is becoming a bit fuzzy. Generally, primary storage is focused on recovery of the most recent copies of data. However, snapshots and replication can also fulfill the point-in-time capabilities of backup solutions. That said, backup still has a role to play in the recovery of old versions of files and as a recovery of last resort.

StorageSwiss Take

It is time for primary storage to do more of the heavy lifting when helping organizations recover data, especially from a disaster. While there are third-party solutions you can add to a primary storage solution, these often increase the cost and complexity of the recovery process. Instead IT professionals need primary storage that integrates advanced disaster recovery techniques making DR preparation, monitoring and testing something that the IT generalist can manage.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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