Archive for the ‘business continuity’ Category

If it rains this weekend, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

02/10/2009

Before I go any further, please allow me to clearly state that I am not intending to offend anyone nor be blasphemous or sacrilegious in any way. If you are easily offended, best not to read beyond this and perhaps give this Weekly View a miss.

“14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make an opening for daylight in the ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks.

17 “For My part, I am about to bring the Flood — waters upon the earth — to destroy all flesh under the sky in which there is breath of life; everything on earth shall perish. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall enter the ark, with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. 19 And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 From birds of every kind, cattle of every kind, every kind of creeping thing on earth, two of each shall come to you to stay alive. 21 For your part, take of everything that is eaten and store it away, to serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did so; just as God commanded him, so he did.

Chapter 7

1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation. 2 Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate; 3 of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth. 4 For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created.” 5 And Noah did just as the Lord commanded him. “

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

Being a data guy, I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Noah. Think about it …first the Big Guy tells our man Noah to go ahead and build a massive storage device, and even goes so far as to instruct him to make it a three tier model instead of a flat tier! That’s right readers …bottom, second, and third decks could easily be solid state drive shelves, fibre channel drives, and SATA drives …or SAN, NAS, and archive if you prefer. And then the Big Guy actually TELLS Noah not only when to expect the outage, but also how long it will last! Oh that we could be so lucky when designing business continuity systems.

But what really interests me most about the whole shebang is that our man Noah had, in essence, a data problem. Yes, I know I’m probably skipping over the more obvious and probably bigger problem of the fact that the earth …and everyone Noah had ever known …was about to be destroyed by a massive flood but hang with me as I do have a point to make here.

The reason that Noah had a data problem is because the Big Guy tells Noah to grab seven pairs of every clean animal and two of every non clean animal …not to mention birds, seeds, creepy crawly type things …the lot. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that being cooped up with that lot for forty days is going to get a bit smelly at the very least …and prolly a bit dangerous as the bigguns try to eat the littleuns and whatnot. But Noah has to grab ‘em and keep ‘em in the ark as everything he’s collected is going to be used to reproduce and repopulate the earth once it had dried out a bit. By the way, do you know what the first was our boy Noah did when he was able to leave the ark? Plants a vineyard, makes some wine, and gets royally pissed! Good man …and as some of you know, I’m a bit of a wine lover so I’ve always had a soft spot for Noah.

But I digress. I’ve often wondered if it wouldn’t have been a whole lot easier …and a lot less smelly …if the Big Guy had just said to Noah, ‘Look, just get out there and collect DNA swabs of everything and we’ll worry about how to reconstitute it all later.’

On the one hand, the Flood introduced the harshest version of data deduplication I have ever heard of …but also introduced us to the idea of the needs for good backups, a sturdy backup architecture, and stonking business continuity plan.

If only the Big Guy had let Noah use ZPR [Zero Page Reclamation] by grabbing DNA samples and sticking them in a yacht instead of having to round up the London Zoo and building a massive ark by hand.

Yet none of our customers have the pleasure of knowing when their next catastrophic event will be nor which of their systems will be affected. Some folks decide to go ahead and replicate everything from their production environments to a secondary or sometimes even tertiary datacentre ….challenge is, as data grows beyond a couple of terabytes to multiple petabytes that can get awfully expensive to maintain. Think herding two pairs of elephants from London to Manchester constantly as opposed to letting a couple of pairs of swallows fly back and forth on their own.

What to do?

Well, data deduplication of backup data can certainly lighten the load …the industry standard is a 20:1 ratio, or twenty copies of extraneous data we can get rid of for every one copy of ‘good’ data although I frequently see ratios that are much higher in the field.

Equally, given that 90% of data backed will be restored within six weeks …or not at all …it makes a lot of sense to consider backing up to a virtual tape library or to disk first, dedpuing as we go, and then clone whatever is left in six weeks to tape for long term storage.

Inevitably, however, as my dear old grandfather used to say …‘You gotta know where you are first if you want to know how to get somewhere.’ We need to understand what data we have, align it to the business importance placed on each data set as not all data is created equal, and how best to protect both the data long term and provide continuity for the business in the event of a catastrophic event or outage.

I can think of no better starting point than our Storage Assessment & Strategy Service which addresses all of these areas and gives our customers a well defined series of real recommendations which have demonstrable ROI, cost benefit, and minimised disruption to their production business.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like help in discussing your backup/recovery and business continuity strategies.

If only poor Noah had had access to the Sharpen Your Business tools from Computacenter!

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

11 September looking back …and forward.

11/09/2009

I try not to ask too much of people, but as you read this could you please stop for a moment and think …where were you exactly eight years ago today?  I can tell you that, at 13:46, I was sitting in my flat waiting for the the landlord and plumber to come round and fix the shower in the master bathroom which hadn’t been quite right since I moved in when the phone rang.  I had been working on a project in Dublin with colleagues from Atlanta when one of them rang me …instructed me to turn on the telly …and he would wait on the phone.  We both watched the single Tower burning for a few minutes …I hung up with him and, moments later …the second plane struck the second Tower.  My father in law was on business in NYC and I rang him to ensure he was okay …thankfully he was at a meeting in Connecticut …and next tried to ring my sisters who live near NYC.

By this time the lines between the USA and UK were saturated, so I got no response …and I was thoroughly convinced of two things …we were at war, and the Towers were coming down.  I will never forget just how helpless I felt watching this happen real time and remotely …I had already made the decision to live in the UK permanently ….knowing that many people were losing their lives and there was precious little I could do to help.

Hours later I was finally able to get through to my sister and, after we shared the shock of the day’s events, she told me something that chills me still …she was watching the local NYC television stations who were repeatedly broadcasting a banner message which read ‘If your parents have not returned home, please dial 1-800-XXX-XXX and someone will help you.’  With a three year old PL Junior, it pains me to think of what some of those children went through with their parents either stuck between Manhattan and them …or not coming home at all.  I went to bed feeling exhausted and raw…an exhaustion that would take some time to subside …but woke in the morning to understand that we weren’t at war and that, whilst tragic, the events in NYC, Washington DC, and western Pennsylvania were thankfully isolated.  With better than 3,000 aeroplanes airborne at the time of the attacks, no one had been quite sure just how far or how many targets the terrorists had targeted.

A few days later I did the only thing I could really think of to ‘help’ …I drove past Buckingham Palace with her Union Jack at half mast to visit the US Embassy in London to observe the moments of silence mandated by the UK government.  As Big Ben began to toll in remembrance, the entire city seemed to stop.  Buses stopped, people got out of their cars to bow their heads, it was the loudest silence I had ever heard …until the silence was pierced by the mournful singing of Ray Charles ‘America the Beautiful’ which played from an open top BMW stopped next to the embassy.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

Firstly, forget for a moment what this has to do with technology.  I’ll come on to that in a moment.  Take a minute and tell your kids, wife, parents …whomever is precious to you …that you love them and how much they mean to you.  If they’re not next to you, ring them.  Life is too short and there are no promises …so don’t delay thinking that you’ll do it later.

Done?  Great, me too and I feel better for it.

Now, technology had …and still has …a very real part in helping to heal the events of 11 September.  Whilst the loss of human life was indeed tragic, what could have been even more tragic would have been an inability to assist the families of the better than 3,000 murdered.  That companies in the Towers were able to stay in business post 11 September  is one of the unsung elements of 11 September, and one of the principal ways that these companies were able to help the families of those lost.

How did they stay in business?  Business continuity is the short answer, although it is slightly more complicated than that.  Folks sometimes (okay, oftentimes!) confuse disaster recovery with business continuity.  Disaster recovery systems, such as tape backups and the like, are designed to recover data in the event of a catastrophic event.  That’s great, but just how long would it take to recover the data?  Well, that all depends on how you are backing up data …when you are backing up data …are you sending tapes off site? …do you have systems ready to be loaded with the data from tapes? …and so on.  See, I told you it could be complicated!  Indeed, major technology consultancies such as IDC and Gartner believe that most major organisations would take 72 hours or more to recover …if at all …and statistics show that 90% of organisations who suffer a catastrophic event will be out of business in under a year.  What to do?

This is where business continuity comes into play.  Business continuity systems, generally comprised of data replication and related solutions, are designed to ensure that a business can continue to operate immediately following …in some cases during …a catastrophic event.  In the case of 11 September, some of the businesses within the Towers were replicating their data …real time …to London and other cities.

One such business, located on the top three floors of the north Tower, was responsible for 25 percent of the $3 trillion U.S. government bond business on any given day and could ill afford any data loss.  Their systems were designed to send any transaction in NYC to London immediately …and not ‘commit’ the transaction in NYC until the data was acknowledged and written in London within milliseconds.

They lost people …but no data.  And, as such, were able to stay in business on 12 September …and in fact, still are in business …they are Cantor Fitzgerald, and data storage and protection allowed them to help the 700 Cantor Fitzgerald employee families of the victims of 11 September.

The Computacenter Storage Assessment and Strategy Service [SaSS] is designed in part to help customers understand how best to leverage their existing storage infrastructures and build bona fide business continuity systems in a cost efficient manner.  You can find out more about the SaSS by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact me if you require assistance in helping to understand how best to leverage business continuity solutions.

Have a great weekend.

-Matthew
Click here to contact me