Missing standards, scant automation, and weak management tools make this next step beyond server virtualization a challenge.
Master Disaster Recovery Is Elusive
At first, it surprised us that automated disaster recovery was rated as the third-most-important feature. Currently, only VMware offers a reasonably mature product in this area, through Site Recovery Manager. Even that product, while it does provide an integrated "runbook" that can provide the status of some data center operations that you'd need to know during a disaster, won't fully automate disaster recovery without a serious implementation and integration effort.
Then it hit us: Rising demand for automated disaster recovery speaks volumes about what IT expects from next-generation virtualization. VMware's offering tries to address the big picture of disaster recovery automation by integrating tightly with every component in the DR stack, starting with storage replication. VMware's goal is lofty: to provide fully managed and automated failover to a secondary site. That includes managing the state of replication, the virtualization infrastructure, connectivity, and the myriad other variables involved in a successful failover. VMware hopes to improve the already excellent value proposition of virtualization for disaster recovery and business continuity by increasing automation.
Unfortunately, a big problem is the lack of standardization. While VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft all have APIs for their diverse virtualization portfolios, a lack of standards and protocols means it's difficult to integrate across hardware and software API boundaries.
Worse, there's no clear road map for an automated, pervasively virtualized infrastructure. Who makes your hypervisor? Storage arrays? Servers? All of these vendors inject additional complexity and make supplying reliable cost numbers for automation projects nearly impossible. Setting up true automation becomes a nightmare of unbudgeted expenses, internecine warfare, and unforeseen roadblocks as software development and data center professionals try to integrate diverse hardware platforms, hypervisors, and application stacks into a resilient and, in theory, hands-off infrastructure.
The good news is that vendors are starting to build in software API mechanisms to make automation possible. The bad news is that the cost of developing a fully automated infrastructure remains outside the reach of all but the largest companies, even if you can afford centralized storage, virtualization, load balancing, and high availability. Still, automation is an essential element of the ultimate goal: private clouds.