Virtualizing Business Critical Applications with Confidence

Today Symantec announced the latest release of ApplicationHA, a new solution that provides high availability for business critical applications through application-level visibility, control and recovery in VMware environments. We’re particularly excited about this new release as it addresses some key concerns shared by data center administrators as they virtualize their infrastructures.

Administrators are cautious with virtualizing their applications as their criticality grows. Symantec’s recent Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud Survey concluded that in spite of executives’ concerns, more than 59 percent plan to virtualize database applications in the next 12 months. We see that tier 3 applications are virtualized more than tier 2 and tier 2 more than tier 1. There are a few key challenges along the way and one of them is application availability.

The results of an IDC survey conducted in October 2009 indicated that 51 percent of the respondents from companies with more than 1000 employees think that ensuring application availability is their key challenge in managing virtualized servers. Some of the issues include:

  • Need to ensure both the VM and the applications are up in the VM
  • VM can be recovered, but the applications may not have been started or recovered properly
  • Need to ensure that the process is up and functional
  • Need to ensure that applications start in the right sequence regardless of the VM boot up sequence

In addition, Application admins and Infrastructure admins often have diverging goals. The Infrastructure admins may want to virtualize all the workloads while the Application admins are cautious about this transition because they need to ensure application availability. Because of the conflicting goals, data center admins make compromises which generally fall into 3 categories:

  1. The admins use OS based clustering in the guest, such as Microsoft Cluster Server. Yet these OS based clustering solutions prevent use of vMotion, DRS and DPM. They increase costs and complexity.
  2. The admins write their own monitoring tools in scripts, which require a lot of effort to create and maintain. Sometimes the ad hoc scripts can even cause the longer recovery time and root cause analysis (RCA).
  3. Or the admins simply delay virtualization which costs them increased operational complexity and inability to consolidate physical servers and end up having to pay for the energy and space utilization.

The current tools do not allow data center admins to have much flexibility and the admins constantly have to compromise between application availability, virtualization level and complexity.

VMware HA cluster is a turnkey high availability solution for virtual machines. Data center admins only have to check a box to enable VMware HA on a cluster of ESX hosts. It restarts virtual machines if the virtual machines do not send heartbeats to VMware HA. One case can be that the ESX host crashed. Yet VMware HA does not have visibility into the virtual machines, and thus it does not know about the status of the applications, nor does it have the intelligence about monitoring the applications. Symantec ApplicationHA leverages the API set made available by VMware to interface with VMware HA through application heartbeats. ApplicationHA monitors the application components and resources and provides status to the admins and interacts with VMware HA to ensure the applications are available.

With this release of ApplicationHA, administrators have another layer of disaster recovery through ApplicationHA’s integration with VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM). In the event of a failure, ApplicationHA continues to monitor the health of the applications and re-engages with VMware HA to ensure continuous protection. ApplicationHA also ensures that applications come online in the right order during DR testing scenarios and actual recovery situations.

The latest release of ApplicationHA also features new dashboard management to provide administrators a single pane of glass to centrally monitor and manage hundreds of applications inside the VM. This provides administrators with better visibility into the health of the applications while simultaneously scaling their virtual deployments in a more efficient manner.

In summary, Symantec ApplicationHA and VMware HA work together to protect against application failures, virtual machine and physical host failures. ApplicationHA integrates with customers’ existing VMware HA environments to reduce operational costs of manually managing application availability and downtime. Since its initial launch in late 2010, ApplicationHA continues to enable customers to virtualize their business critical applications with confidence by providing SLAs comparable to physical environments.