Smart Availability - The Key for Producing Business Value Through Digital Transformation

Written By Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i (www.dh2i.com)

One needn’t be a technology expert to realize that an outage or loss of service of any type or any length of time is unacceptable for today’s business organization (of course, nonprofits and government organizations are not very keen on downtime either). Even during the wee hours of the morning, “planned” system downtime is becoming less and less tolerable, especially given today’s global economy. While most are asleep in one geography, it is prime business hours in another.
Availability has become a chief priority for most IT professionals in today’s business organizations, whether your compute resources are located onsite, in the cloud, or spread across a hybrid environment. What IT professionals are beginning to realize, is that traditional options for high availability (HA) have limitations, and that continuous operational efficiency shouldn’t monopolize an organization’s financial or personnel resources with endless testing and retesting of availability.
What would be better is a methodology that facilitates the dynamic movement of workloads between environments based on supporting the specific job(s) at hand. Accomplishing this goal requires an inherent flexibility, lack of downtime, and cost-effective approach. Basically, what's required is Smart Availability. This builds on the basic principles of HA to deliver the aforementioned advantages-and much much more.
 
Smart Availability is the future of HA and a critical element in the blueprint for producing business value through digital transformation.
 
IT Now Knows, Traditional High Availability (HA) Presents Limitations
Traditionally, the uninterrupted operation of system components and applications (i.e., high availability) has been accomplished in a variety of ways, and, has gone hand-in-hand with a seemingly unavoidable list of drawbacks.
 
One of the more well known disadvantages relates to failovers, in which data is moved to those of a secondary system for scheduled downtime or during failures. Clustering techniques are often leveraged with this tactic to make resources between systems-including servers, databases, processors and others-available to each another. Clustering is applicable to VMs and physical servers and can assist failovers to enable resilience for host, OS, and guest failures. Redundant networking and storage options may be leveraged with VMs to encompass system components or data copies.
 
The most pressing problem with many of these issues is cost, especially since there are several instances in which HA is unnecessary. These pertain to the actual use and importance of servers, as well as additional factors pertaining to what virtualization techniques are used. Low priority servers that don't affect end users-such as those for testing-don't need high availability, nor do those with recovery time objectives significantly greater than their restore times. Certain high availability solutions, such as some of the more comprehensive hypervisor-based platforms, are indiscriminate in this regard. Therefore, users may end up paying for high availability for components that don't need them. Also, traditional high availability approaches involve constant testing that can drain human and financial resources. Even worse, neglecting this duty can result in unplanned downtime. Arbitrarily implementing redundancy for system components broadens organization's data landscapes, resulting in more copies and potential weaknesses for security and data governance.
 
Achieving Digital Transformation
Many virtualization measures for HA are declining in relevance due to digital transformation. To truly transform the way your company does business with digitization technologies, you must implement them strategically. Traditional HA methodologies simply do not allow for the fine-grained flexibility required to optimize business value from digitization. Digital transformation means accounting for the varied computing environments of Windows and Linux, as well as other operating systems alongside containers. It means integrating a variety of legacy systems with newer ones expressly designed to manage the influx of big data and modern transactions systems.
 
Bottom line, it means that infrastructure must be aligned for business objectives in an adaptive way for evolving domain or customer needs. This flexibility is crucial to optimizing IT processes around end user goals. The actuality is most conventional methodologies for HA simply add to the infrastructural complexity of digital transformation, but don't address the primary need of adapting to changing business requirements. In the wake of digital transformation, organizations need to streamline their various IT systems around domain objectives as opposed to doing the opposite, which simply decreases efficiency while increasing cost.
 
Digital Transformation and Best Execution Venue (BEV)
Smart Availability is ideal for digital transformation because it enables workloads to always run on the best execution venue (BEV). It couples this advantage with the continuous operations of high availability, but takes a radically different approach in doing so. Smart Availability takes the central idea of high availability, to dedicate resources between systems to prevent downtime, and extends it to moving them for maximizing competitive advantage. It allows financial organizations to move workloads between operating systems, servers, and physical and virtual environments seamlessly with minimal downtime. The core of this approach is in the capacity of Smart Availability technologies to move workloads independent of one another, which is a fundamental drawback to traditional physical or virtualized approaches to workload management. By disengaging an array of system components (containers, application workloads, services and share files) without having to standardize on just one OS or database, these technologies transfer them to the environment which works best.
 
It's vital to keep in mind that this decision is based on how best to achieve a defined business objective. Furthermore, these technologies provide this flexibility for individual instances to ensure virtually zero downtime and a smooth transition from one environment to another. The use cases for this immediate portability are plentiful. Financial organizations can use these methods for uninterrupted availability, integration with new or legacy systems, or the incorporation of added data resources. Most of all, they can do so with the assurance that the intelligent routing of the underlying technologies are selecting the BEV to execute workloads. Once architected correctly, the process takes no longer than a simple stop and start of an app or container.
 
The Best Choice Is the Smart Choice
Smart Availability is critical for a host of reasons. It delivers the advantages of HA at a much lower cost and a higher degree of efficiency. Likewise, it provides the agility necessary to capitalize on digital transformation, enabling business organizations, as well as nonprofit and government entities, to move systems, applications, and workloads where they can create the greatest end user benefit and competitive advantage. Smart Availability ensures the flexibility needed to adapt and prosper in today's business climate, which is changing faster than ever

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About the Author

Don Boxley Jr is a DH2i co-founder and CEO. Prior to DH2i, Don held leadership roles at Hewlett-Packard where he was instrumental in sales and marketing strategies that resulted in significant revenue growth in the scale-out NAS business. Boxley spent more than 20 years in management positions for leading technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, CoCreate Software, Iomega, TapeWorks Data Storage Systems and Colorado Memory Systems.  Boxley earned his MBA from the Johnson School of Management, Cornell University.