How to multiply the uses of your Business Continuity Infrastructure

Ian Master, sales and marketing director UK, Double-Take Software

Business continuity (BC) infrastructure is typically thought of as a means to get data offsite. IT managers don’t necessarily realise that the BC infrastructure they are building can provide much more. A well thought through deployment can provide the ability to move information technology systems anytime, anywhere, for whatever purpose, without interfering with ongoing operations. Whether recovering from a disaster, simplifying routine server maintenance or even migrating whole data centres, a good deployment can provide a dynamic infrastructure that ensures effective business continuity planning as well as making the data centre manager’s life a whole lot easier.

A day in the life of a data centre manager
To state the obvious, data centre managers don’t spend their working lives exclusively worrying about large-scale disasters. Their day-to-day experience is more likely to include managing smaller business continuity and infrastructure issues. How can they maintain full service when they know a shared disk is starting to malfunction and needs to be swapped out? How can they replace a physical server because it is no longer performing optimally? What happens when entire clusters of servers need to be moved because the nodes lack disk or processing ability? What happens if the entire data centre needs to be moved to a different location?

Building a dynamic infrastructure
Data replication solutions, which copy data in real time from one server to another to create a complete duplicate on a live backup system, provide very high levels of data protection and availability. However, data replication is just that; it only protects an application’s data, not the application itself. In the event of a disaster, system administrators will have to hope that all of the application backups are valid and can be restored, because if not, they’ll have no choice but to find the installation disks and sometimes even that isn’t an option. To overcome this, the more sophisticated data replication solutions provide byte-level replication for application system states so that administrators have the ability to provision an entire server at the touch of a button and keep business critical applications up and running.

Another tool used to reduce hardware costs and manage infrastructure more flexibly is virtualisation. Virtualisation provides data centre managers with the ability to move servers “dynamically” to a different virtual machine where more processing power or disk space may be available. However, the process of moving virtual machines is limited to the virtual infrastructure and sometimes only the same physical server where the technology is hosted. By combining data replication that moves data and the application system state, virtualisation, WAN accelerators, operational monitoring and security tools, you now have the ability protect and dynamically manage your entire data centre, regardless of the situation.

Dynamic infrastructure in operation
Using host-based replication allows you to replicate data and operating systems, independent of hardware and in real time, while systems are still in production. Administrators are able to replicate from physical to a virtual environment or vice versa, physical-to-physical or virtual-to-virtual, all while the end users are accessing the data.
Data centre managers are using dynamic infrastructures to move entire data centres without end users even being aware, easing operational management as well as meeting the most stringent business continuity requirements. If a server is in need of maintenance, the data centre manager isn’t committed to a 2.00 am Sunday morning change control window just to tweak a configuration setting or perform a reboot. The operation of that server is dynamically moved to another without interruption, allowing the technician to take as long as needed to perform maintenance or repair that server. Maybe the part from the vendor won’t be available for 10 days? Operations continue uninterrupted and the maintenance window is open to whenever it is convenient.

If you have the ability to move systems anywhere, anytime, for whatever reason, without interruption to users, you have just exceeded a rather large piece of your company’s business continuity requirements and, more importantly, maximised data centre uptime. Dynamic infrastructures are providing the ability to restore business operations after a disaster not only to a functional level but also to the level of service that your end users expect, as well as providing the ability to seamlessly manage data centre operations.

Source: StoragePR