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One of the most interesting use cases for virtualizing storage is for disaster recovery. Imagine if you could leverage storage virtualization to bring up a warm data center by replicating storage between remote locations using storage products from two different vendors. Virtualizing storage solves the technical challenge of desperate storage solutions, allows you to use a storage array built from generic x86 hardware at the warm data center and brings advanced capabilities – such as snapshots – to older platforms.
Replication isn’t overly complicated. The basic requirements are that the product is able to do continuous or scheduled replication over a wide area network. Normally, this will be block-level replication, possibly with the ability to throttle replication based on schedule or available bandwidth. Advantages of virtualized storage can bring new levels of flexibility to the data center.
To virtualize production storage, a product must first attach natively to the production storage area network (SAN) as a client node. This means that whatever connectivity approach you use in the production system must also exist on the hardware used to virtualize the storage array.
The next requirement is the ability to “see” the volumes to be replicated. This is probably the most complicated part of using storage virtualization for replication. When you are replicating between two arrays from the same vendor, you can use their products to do block-level replication. However, this isn’t an option when using a storage virtualization product as a proxy.
One option is to use the storage virtualization product as a production controller. You can provision all available physical storage to the virtualization platform and then provision the production storage from the virtual storage platform. This works when you want to create a single virtual SAN from a pool of disks on different arrays. But, in our case, we are looking to take an existing production setup and replicate it without impacting production.
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