The Zero-Downtime, Immortal Enterprise

Is there Such a Thing as the Immortal
Enterprise?
Imagine if all the technology behind your business
never died.
What if it were always available? How much more
efficient and competitive would you be if you never
suffered outages?
No, it’s not nirvana: It’s available today…
Disasterous Downtime
Natural disasters, fires, acts of violence are all
headline grabbing events that can bring an IT
infrastructure to its knees. In fact, not just your IT,
but your entire organization.
It’s hardly breaking news: Unplanned downtime can
kill your business. But organizational efficiency is
also damaged by the constant drip-drip-drip of
planned downtime. Whether it’s caused by
scheduled maintenance or upgrades, planned
downtime prevents 24-hour, cross-timezone
operations.
Both types of downtime are seen as inevitable, but
with today’s technology, they’re not.
Is your DR Good Enough?
Your IT team probably has some type of disaster
recovery (DR) plan to prevent major catastrophes.
But your plan—designed for a certain level of
problem—could be overwhelmed by real-world
disasters.
We recently saw widespread outages caused by
Hurricane Sandy catching organizations off guard—
even with extensive advanced warning. One tech
company in Lower Manhattan—that understandably
wishes to remain anonymous—was one such
victim.
The servers were set up to do real-time data
replication in case one server went down;
unfortunately the servers were located just a few
feet from each other on the 40th floor. They had
battery backups, but only two hours’ of power.
When Sandy hit, the IT staff had to drive into
Manhattan, walk up countless flights of stairs to the
40th floor, pick up their servers, haul them back
down the stairs, attempt to get out of the city, and
then find another location to get everything up and
running again.
We saw this story repeated over and over with
many businesses caught in the brunt of Sandy as
companies grappled with their overwhelmed DR
plans.
Some would say that this magnitude of disaster
just couldn’t be planned for. I disagree…
Real-Time Replication over Large
Distances
In the past, companies had to have the servers
physically close if they wanted to replicate a large
amount of data in real-time to a backup server. But
a workable DR plan needs the servers to be miles
apart. (If you don’t need real-time, you can often
have them much further apart, but what good’s a
recovery plan where your data’s an hour old?)
The latest storage technologies extend real-time
data replication out to about 125 miles. Before
Sandy, this may have seemed like unnecessary
overkill; but suddenly, it’s prudent to look into this
kind of wide-area replication capability.
Downtime is Downtime
What’s ironic is that unplanned downtime makes up
only a small proportion of the downtime that a
typical company experiences. According to veteran
industry analyst Michael Osterman, the other 75%
is actually planned: Companies routinely bring their
servers and systems offline on purpose.
For IT, this is business as usual: It’s been happening
since the dawn of the computer age. But we’re in a
different age today: An age of always on, instant
access, 24/365 global communication.
Most companies would be more efficient without
any downtime, planned or unplanned.
This is the Age of the Immortal
Enterprise
To an end user with a critical business need,
downtime is downtime, whether it’s planned or
unplanned. More and more, companies need to
address this issue to remain competitive.
Technology is now available that focuses on the
two types of downtime:
Non-disruptive operations allows
maintenance and even upgrades to happen
while the business continues to function.
Metro-area clustering allows replica DR
servers to be positioned safely away from a
potential disaster area, ready to pick up the
work at a moment’s notice. Another
technique, known as snapshot mirroring, can
place DR servers thousands of miles away.
In both cases, this is basically a problem for your
storage system to solve. With non-disruptive
operations, you can get at the data when it’s
needed, even during maintenance. A MetroCluster
stores up-to-date data simultaneously in two
locations, constantly replicated in real-time.
Plan for the Next Sandy, but also
for the Next Upgrade
If you don’t have a disaster-recovery plan, make
one. But when you’re doing the planning, think
about addressing the need to address all types of
downtime.
Whether the cause is maintenance or the flood
waters of a hurricane: To an end-user, downtime is
downtime.

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7 thoughts on “The Zero-Downtime, Immortal Enterprise

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