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Wayne, Pa. Virtualization technology has changed the landscape of IT and data centers, delivering substantial benefits to not only production environments but also in disaster recovery. However, while data centers are becoming increasingly virtualized, most IT operations are a mix of physical and virtual systems – a hybrid environment. According to Gartner, “as of early 2012, 50 percent of all installed workloads were running in VMs.”*


While newer applications may run exclusively on virtual workloads, there are still many mission-critical applications running on a combination of mainframes, Windows servers, Linux/Unix systems and virtual machines. And managing a recovery site requires enterprises to purchase a whole new set of costly application software licenses for the secondary location.


This reality has created an IT issue that is still flying “under the radar” of many IT organizations: How to best protect and recover applications in hybrid environments – and do it a way that works within business and cost constraints?


“The challenge of recovering production operations that support heterogeneous mixes of business applications, virtual and physical computing platforms, supporting middleware, storage systems and database managers, all of which have complex interdependencies upon each other, is an extremely complex one,” said John Morency, research vice president, Gartner. “Ensuring that the entire recovery execution is 100 percent consistent with the operations restoration expectations of the business across all recovery tiers raises this bar even further. Currently, there is no one single technology that completely addresses this challenge. This means that world class execution, coupled with the right set of technologies, will continue to be required in order to make recovery management both effective and sustainable.”


The three top challenges for enterprises looking to recover hybrid environments are addressing their needs to:

  • Recreate a multi-layer, multi-platform hybrid stack for each mission-critical application.
  • Recover mission-critical applications within the time requirements needed to avoid unacceptable consequences to the business (recovery time objective – RTO).
  • Avoid busting the IT budget on CAPEX for building a secondary site for recovery and OPEX for maintaining the site.

Why Recovery in Hybrid Environments is So Difficult


To better understand the complexity and difficulty in managing recovery in hybrid environments, let’s examine a typical three-tier web application – for instance, an e-commerce application. The application may have a database layer that runs on two different systems – a Linux system running Oracle and a Microsoft Windows server running SQL. Next, the middleware – or business logic – of the application could be on a Win2K server running WebLogic, and its job is to aggregate data from the Oracle and SQL servers. Lastly, the application has a web layer on an ESX server running Apache.


Add into this scenario some of the hardware supporting the application. For example, the web and middleware tiers are stored on an EMC SAN device, with the Oracle database on a NetApp SAN device and the SQL server on a Dell storage device.


Here is what this enterprise faces: multiple storage platforms, multiple compute platforms, multiple operating systems, and a mix of physical and virtual environments. So when a disaster or outage hits, if the enterprise has not created the identical physical and virtual stacks in its recovery environment to accommodate all three layers, the recovery will fail.


If the enterprise has the wrong version of VMware’s hypervisor running in the recovery environment, the recovery will fail. If it has the wrong hypervisor running in the recovery environment (say, Xen), the recovery will fail. If the enterprise only has the ability to recover the database layer by itself, or both the database and middleware layers without the web layer, the recovery will fail.


And now add in another level of complexity. The previous scenario is just one application. What if the organization has 50, 80 or even more than 100 applications to recover?


As enterprises examine the challenge of recovering a large number of important applications – all with aggressive recovery time objectives – the reason why recovery in hybrid environments is so difficult becomes very clear.


SunGard Availability Services recommends organizations address the following set of questions when developing a recovery strategy for hybrid environments:


  • Is your production environment 100 percent virtualized, or do you run a hybrid environment with multiple platforms, operating systems, hypervisors and storage technologies?
  • Do you have a full understanding of your recovery environment? Is it compatible from a platforms, operating systems, hypervisors, storage and application data point of view with your production environment? Do you understand all the interdependencies within your mission-critical applications?
  • Do you have the diverse skills and the automation technologies to be able to recover all of your applications in an application-consistent way and be able to meet the RTOs and recovery point objectives (RPOs) for all of your applications?
  • Have you created the processes and procedures to recover your hybrid environment? Have you tested your ability to meet your RTOs?
  • Is your disaster recovery runbook current? In particular, have all production configurations been captured in the recovery environment – addressing change management?

What’s Needed to Achieve Recovery in Hybrid Environments


In order to support recovery of a hybrid environment, an enterprise needs to have in place:

  • The right technologies for each platform and operating system at a secondary site.
  • A well-documented disaster recovery playbook that contains all recovery processes.
  • The right staff and expertise (a multi-discipline team skilled in VMware, Oracle, Windows, storage technologies and more) – trained and tested in running the playbook.
  • Change management processes in place so all changes in production configurations – which happen frequently in enterprises – make their way into the recovery environment.


The challenges created by the complexity of applications-based recovery of hybrid environments often drive enterprises to turn to specialized assistance, such as SunGard Availability Services. SunGard has unmatched operations staff expertise to plan, implement, test and operate recovery processes in multi-layer, multi-platform hybrid environments.


SunGard Site Recovery Manager-as-a-Service is a new SunGard offering launching in Fall 2012 that delivers VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager as a service to provide vSphere Replication or storage-based replication of applications to a secondary SunGard site.


SunGard Recover2Cloud is a Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) offering that delivers cloud-based managed recovery services backed by guaranteed service levels.


“As a company which has successfully recovered thousands of environments in the last thirty years, we've seen the range of things that can go wrong, and we try to plan ahead for future issues,” said Michael de la Torre, vice president of product management for recovery services, SunGard Availability Services. “Today, we're seeing the need to recover multiple applications running in complex production environments, on both physical and virtual workloads, across multiple geographies, with multiple interdependencies, within specific RTOs, is the primary challenge. Our ability to recover complex, hybrid environments is absolutely a key differentiator for us.”


* Gartner, Inc., Top Five Trends for x86 Server Virtualization, Thomas J. Bittman, March 22, 2012.


About SunGard Availability Services

SunGard Availability Services provides disaster recovery services, managed IT services, information availability consulting services and business continuity management software.  With approximately five million square feet of datacenter and operations space, SunGard Availability Services helps customers improve the resilience of their mission critical systems by designing, implementing and managing cost-effective solutions using people, process and technology to address enterprise IT availability needs.  Through direct sales and channel partners, we help organizations ensure their people and customers have uninterrupted access to the information systems they need in order to do business.  To learn more, visit www.sungardas.com or call 1-800-468-7483.  Connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.


About SunGard

SunGard is one of the world’s leading software and technology services companies.  SunGard has more than 17,000 employees and serves approximately 25,000 customers in more than 70 countries.  SunGard provides software and processing solutions for financial services, education and the public sector.  SunGard also provides disaster recovery services, managed IT services, information availability consulting services and business continuity management software.  With annual revenue of about $4.5 billion, SunGard is the largest privately held software and services company and was ranked 480 on the Fortune 500 in 2011. For more information, please visit www.sungard.com.