Double-Take Software, the US company better known for its replication software, has announced the availability of its Virtual Recovery Assistant to avoid computer downtime when migrating from physical to virtual servers.

The Virtual Recovery Assistant is actually an enhancement to the company's Double-Take for Windows product, which provides real-time backup and automatic failover capabilities for physical and virtual servers.

The purpose of this assistant is to simplify the often complex process of migrating to VMware ESX virtual machines (VMs). Back in January 2007, VMware revealed its own version of migration software to help set up server virtualisation.

Traditionally, one of the major barriers to moving existing physical servers into virtual machines is the downtime associated with physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration. Double-Take claims that existing tools lack real-time data replication capabilities and often require the physical server to be taken offline for several hours while the data is moved to the new virtual machine running on VMware infrastructure.

The company says that its assistant "helps with the migration to VMware ESX VMs by automating the provisioning of the virtual environment and reducing end-user downtime associated with traditional physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration products."

Virtual Recovery Assistant's ability to replicate changes to data in real-time, means that users can continue to access production applications right up until the moment at which the workload is migrated.

The assistant also protects workloads on a physical server, by automatically shifting it over the virtual machine in the event of a server outage or site-wide disaster.

Indeed, some analysts have pointed out that organisations are now realising that they can use server virtualisation to provide a cost-effective remote disaster recovery ability. "Performing P2V- or V2V-based replication with Double-Take and the new Virtual Recovery Assistant can deliver significant improvements over tape-based recoveries, especially lowering recovery time objectives," said Lauren Whitehouse, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"Most organisations understand the benefits of moving to a virtualised environment but can't afford the downtime associated with migrations or don't have the time or resources required to move their workloads from the physical world to a virtual one," said Bob Roudebush, director of solutions engineering at Double-Take Software in a statement. "This new feature essentially eliminates the costly downtime associated with migrations. P2V migrations shouldn’t require a PhD in rocket science."

The Double-Take Virtual Recovery Assistant is available immediately as a feature of the latest release of Double-Take for Windows. Pricing details were not available and Double-Take did not respond to an interview request.

Earlier this year, Double-Take, purchased the last remaining independent CDP (continuous data protection) players, when it acquired TimeSpring.