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Using Hyper-V Replica to help SMBs with disaster recovery

One of the most promising new features in Microsoft Hyper-V 3.0 is the ability to create virtual machine replicas, which can create new revenue opportunities for VARs.

The Hyper-V Replica

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feature makes copies of individual virtual machines (VMs) on alternate Hyper-V servers, either on-premises or off-site. In the event of a catastrophic loss of a host server, VM replicas can be used to ensure business continuity. There are three ways VARs can grow their businesses around Hyper-V Replica: implementation, offsite connections and maintenance contracts.

Setting up Hyper-V Replica

The most obvious way that VARs can profit from Hyper-V Replica is by offering consulting services to their clients. It isn't really all that difficult to set up, but there are several important steps that need to be taken so that VM replication is successful. For example, in some situations it might be necessary to write a script to inject static IP addresses into VM replicas.

Providing Hyper-V Replica connections to an off-site data center

Perhaps the biggest new opportunity for VARs exists around replicating VMs to off-site data centers. Prior to Hyper-V 3.0, this task was an enterprise-class feature that was well beyond the reach of small and medium-sized businesses. However, Hyper-V 3.0 changes everything.

The Hyper-V replica feature makes it possible to replicate VMs across the Internet using HTTP. There is no need for specialized hardware or high-speed connectivity. The primary requirement is simply a target server to which VMs can be replicated. In fact, the target server doesn't even necessarily have to use server-grade hardware. Depending on a customer's needs and budget, a high-end PC can get the job done.

Prior to Hyper-V 3.0, replicating virtual machines to an off-site virtual data center was an enterprise-class feature that was well beyond the reach of SMBs.

Business continuity is important for large and small businesses alike, and up until now having a standby data center was totally out of the question for smaller organizations. With Hyper-V 3.0, VARs can offer customers a capability that they have never had before, for a very reasonable price.

Replicating VMs to an off-site server using low-end hardware and a modestly capable Internet connection isn't going to provide the same level of performance as an enterprise-grade multi-site cluster, but it does provide an economical way of storing VM copies safely off-site and temporarily operating from the off-site replicas in the event of an emergency.

Hyper-V Replica maintenance contracts

Another way that VARs can profit from Hyper-V replication is by offering maintenance contracts to their customers. For example, a VAR might charge clients a monthly fee for monitoring and maintaining the Hyper-V infrastructure to ensure that it remains healthy. There are actually a number of different services that could potentially be offered under a maintenance contract, so a VAR might even offer a tiered maintenance program (a silver, gold, and platinum maintenance package, for example). Some of the services that could be rolled into such a maintenance program might include:

  • Monitoring Hyper-V and the VMs using System Center Operations Manager 2012;
  • Performing failover testing;
  • Managing cluster-level patches;
  • Conducting server hardware maintenance (such as replacing aging hard drives);
  • Performing optimization services.

It is easy to assume that Hyper-V features such as Replica that are designed to improve an organization's overall reliability would be bad for a VAR's business. But the complexity of the products and what customers can do with them makes the opposite true.

About the author

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in August 2012

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