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Technology and business continuity in 2012

By Paddy Falls, CTO Neverfail.

Technology is widely accepted as one of the key driving forces behind modern-day business. Going into 2012, there will be a plethora of solutions options being introduced to the market that will undoubtedly optimise enterprise efficiency. Often it can prove difficult to see the wood from the trees, which is why understanding future technology trends is key to ensuring your company makes the right investments in 2012, especially with economy forecasts remaining extremely unclear.

Despite this uncertainty, business continuity solutions remain popular as organizations look to safeguard against business and reputational damage that can be caused by critical application downtime. However for many businesses the choices around business continuity solutions seem confusing. Does business continuity incorporate both high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR)? What part does virtualization and cloud play in providing business continuity?

In 2012 Neverfail sees this confusion beginning to resolve itself. Single solutions incorporating HA and DR and exploiting the strengths of virtualization and cloud are emerging which provide the underlying components for a complete and affordable business continuity plan.

Customers very much require a solution that solves availability challenges across multiple environments. We are seeing the majority of virtualization customers investing in VMware to simplify their datacentres and reduce overheads. However, this investment alone cannot deliver business continuity of both the physical and virtual environments together. This is particularly important because tier-one applications often run on physical infrastructure and are therefore key to any business continuity solution.

Virtual management tools on their own offer no automation or integration between virtual and physical environments which can be limiting for end users. This can ultimately mean that the adoption of virtualization will not deliver the efficiencies it promises. Users want a solution that can manage application uptime across physical and virtual environments, on a single interface, as the complexity and cost of managing separate tools can be off-putting. As businesses increasingly want to benefit from the capital and operational savings that virtualization can afford, 2012 is likely to be a vital year for tools which can integrate fully with popular virtualization platforms to help manage heterogeneous environments. The overall solution must also combine HA and DR to provide a complete business continuity solution that protects against all failures.

According to a recent Gartner report(1), the management of unplanned downtime can often sway customers when choosing hypervisors. Leading virtualization platforms operate with different strategies when tackling the downtime challenge and it is therefore important to assess each vendor’s strategy before choosing a solution. Virtualization solutions, such as VMware, do not offer HA and DR support for physical infrastructure. However third party vendors can add support for physical servers which can be managed via VMware’s interface. For example, Neverfail’s new Virtual Availability Director works in tandem with VMware to deliver management of application uptime across heterogeneous environments.

Cloud is also a big talking point from a DR perspective going into 2012. However prospective cloud interest is often undermined by stories of infrastructure failing in the press, such as RIM’s catastrophic service interruption in October 2011, which resulted in global damage to the business’ reputation. It is these examples which add gas to the fire of cloud apprehension, but these high-profile mistakes are allowing lessons relating to cloud resilience to be quickly learnt. For example, hosting your DR site in the cloud (or DR-as-a-Service) is slowly entering the availability arena for careful consideration.

Naturally, the main advantages of a DR cloud offering lies in the switch from capital to operational spend since the need for secondary in-house infrastructure is negated. Instead, crucial savings are delivered via sharing infrastructure with other cloud users. Cloud DR is a good example of an ‘elastic cloud application' which means you can pay only for the infrastructural resources that you use on an intermittent basis – a simple pay-as-you-go model. A common contractual measure with cloud providers is that customers only pay the full cost of switching to applications on the DR site in the event of a disaster, proving beneficial to the balance sheet.

While hosting your DR site in the cloud might appear to be accompanied by a certain level of risk if that cloud hosting provider fails, this risk is much less than having your live applications running in the cloud. In practice, the cloud provider is likely to have higher availability than at an internal DR site, but at a fraction of the cost. So cloud DR is a win-win from a cost and availability perspective. This does pave the way for cloud DR as a firm service option and will certainly be a heavy discussion point in 2012.

2012 promises to unfold more virtualization and cloud computing options which will further benefit both the organizations and end-users which operate in extremely competitive environments. With an uncertain year ahead from an economic perspective, companies need to primarily ensure business priorities are addressed and handled. Utilising the next wave of business continuity solutions based on virtualization and cloud technologies offers an opportunity to protect business critical processes while continuing to reduce IT costs.


•Date: 26th January 2012 • Region: World •Type: Article • Topic: ICT continuity

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