Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
According to Nate Silver, author of The Signal and The Noise, weather forecasting has dramatically improved over the past 30 years. So why is it that the U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could be so wrong in forecasting the 2012 hurricane season? As I wrote in my post, Dodging Bullets in Disaster Recovery, NOAA in May of this year was stating that “Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season.” According to NOAA, that translates to “12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.” Instead, assuming no more tropical storms and hurricanes, the U.S. will end the season with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes, tying with 1887, 1995, 2010, and 2011 as the ‘third most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history” according to a Wikipedia post. Whether this is a long-term trend remains to be seen, but we seem, at least for now, to be in a dangerous weather trend.
Trends are not the same as forecasts, and weather forecasts have improved. But, not surprisingly, Mr. Silver reports, “the further out in time these models go, the less accurate they turn out to be.” Forecasts for a season may not be very reliable, but organizations and individuals should closely attend to near-term forecasts for a specific event. As an example, forecasts for when and where a specific hurricane will make landfall have dramatically improved. Mr. Silver wrote, “Just twenty-five years ago, when the National Hurricane Center tried to forecast where a hurricane would hit three days in advance of landfall, it missed by an average of 350 miles.” ”Today, however, the average miss is only about one hundred miles.”
Even better, predictions can be highly accurate when making a probabilistic estimate over longer periods of time, such as:
- What’s the probability of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in the eastern United States in the next 100 years?
- What’s the probability that the Lincoln Tunnel will flood again in the next 50 years?
These probabilistic predictions are even further improved, if you look at conditional probabilities such as:
- What’s the probability of a magnitude 6.0 aftershock, within 2 days of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake?
- What’s the probability of the Lincoln Tunnel flooding, if ocean temperatures increase 2 degrees?
These conditional probabilities enable us to evaluate scenarios and to plan and prepare. As organizations, we need to spend more time evaluating scenarios and looking at approaches that will mitigate the impact of dangerous events. I’ll write more on this in a later post, but, in the meantime, I’ll say it once again, “The greater the distance between your primary and disaster recovery data centers, the greater the probability that your organization can survive a catastrophic event.”
By now, many people have forgotten the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that rocked Virginia on August 23, 2011 and caused $200-300 million in damage, including damage to the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral. Maybe that’s because the earthquake was quickly followed by Hurricane Irene, which, according to the National Hurricane Center, caused an estimated $15.8 billion in damage, including $7.2 billion from inland flooding and storm surge.
Given the recent disaster caused by last week’s Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, and the Nor’easter that is expected to hit this evening and re-flood some of the impacted areas, Irene and the Virginia earthquake may soon be forgotten, except by those individuals still suffering and cleaning up from the previous disasters.
The question isn’t “Do you remember?”
The question is “What will you do differently to better prepare?”
I think everyone will agree that when nearly 10% of the world’s population loses power, that counts as a major disaster. Unlike some disasters, the recent power outage in India, that affected more than 600 million people, was definitely predictable. Penny Jones at Data Center Dynamics wrote about India’s power issues back in February 2011.
In a follow up article this week, after the blackout, DatacenterDynamic’s general manager for India, Praveen Nair, reported that
Northern India alone can suffer an average of three to four hours of power cuts a day as the government carries out load shedding.
For larger data centers, the massive power outage of the past week was not particularly disruptive, because, as Nair says,
99% of the big players are used to this condition and have adequate backup. So when the outage took place, most data centers switched to generator sets for their power needs and most are equipped to run for days”
The same can not be said for the millions of people trying to get to and from work on transportation systems that were completely shut down. In a disaster, the human factor can never be ignored, which is why we speak so frequently about the need to have a recovery location outside the disaster zone. In this case, the disaster zone was most of India, a much larger area than would be affected by even the largest typhoon, tsunami, flood, fire, or earthquake. And the best place to have a recovery facility would have been on another continent, where there would be no local human impact.
Organizations always need to prepare for recovery from natural disasters. I suspect, however, that some of the greatest challenges for organizations, going forward, will be disasters related to infrastructure failures, particularly in rapidly growing areas such is India.
Even at EMC World 2012, it’s not all business. Last night everyone had a great time shaking it up with Maroon 5. Of course, the organizers knew everyone would be exhausted from three packed days of education, information, and entertainment, so they are kicking off today with a keynote from Steve Duplessie, Founder of Enterprise Strategy Group, at 8:30 this morning. If you are in the storage industry, you know Steve Duplessie, and you know, that even if you are exhausted, he will WAKE YOU UP.
Steve will be talking about flash and how flash is shaking up the storage industry. He’ll cut through the hype and, as his blog says, give us “The Bigger Truth.” I’m sure it will be streaming live on EMC TV, so you can watch it at home, or if you are at EMC World, but can’t get out of bed this morning, you can watch from your hotel room.
Our RPO-0 solution, the Phoenix System RP, uses flash. Watch this short video clip and you’ll see us doing a whole lot of shaking. Don’t try this with your spinning disk.
EMC World 2012 is next week in Las Vegas. The Axxana team will be there in force, including our CEO, Eli Efrat, and CTO, Dr. Alex Winokur. It’s a huge event with plenty of options as to how to spend your time, so careful planning helps you make the most of the days.
As a company that has done deep technology integration with EMC’s RecoverPoint, you will find us at many of the RecoverPoint sessions. There are now twelve. To find the sessions, just go to the EMC World Scheduler and search on RecoverPoint.
If you are a VNX or VNXe customer, I recommend you attend the session by Jonathan Meltzer, entitled “VNX and VNXe Data Protection: Recovering from Disasters – Large and Small.” He’ll be presenting on both Monday and Tuesday.
If you are responsible for disaster recovery or IT budgeting, you should try to connect with Lynn Osborn, Director of Engineering Services at The Pinnacle Group. He’s the individual that helped Animal Health International achieve a zero-data-loss IT environment on a budget that any mid-sized company can afford. You can hear Lynn discuss his experience with Axxana in this short video on our YouTube channel. Stop by Booth 728, and we’ll help connect you with Lynn.
As an EMC Select Partner, we are very pleased to have a cameo presentation at the Select Theatre on Wednesday the 23rd, at 1:30pm. Don’t miss it. At the presentation you will learn how to transform asynchronous replication to synchronous replication.
Finally, if you can’t attend EMC World, consider watching the live streaming video that will be coming from theCube. As always, the folks at SiliconAngle and Wikibon will be providing great coverage and interviews with EMC executives, EMC customers, and EMC partners.
We hope to see you in Vegas!
What’s worse than losing your data?
Losing your data and having no backup.
What’s worse than having no backup?
Having a backup that restores inconsistent data.
That’s precisely the concern that Josh Kirsher raised on the April 10 Wikibon Peer Incite. A lot of people are buying insurance, in the form of snapshots of application data, and they leverage consistency groups, thinking this will insure that the data is application-consistent. It’s the application-consistent snapshot that companies use as source-volumes for off-site backups and asynchronous replication, and as on-premise application recovery points. And it’s consistency groups that enable applications to be restored in minutes rather than hours or days. Unfortunately consistency groups only work when procedures are perfectly designed, when they are perfectly followed, when they are constantly maintained, and when no one makes an error.
In today’s dynamic environment, where the servers on which applications run are virtualized, where applications are frequently moved from one physical server to another, where LUNs are quickly created, and volumes are added to and removed from LUNs on a daily basis, the probability of developing a perfect consistency-group process that is precisely followed and continuously maintained, without introducing any human error, is very low. That means that, when you need to call upon your insurance, which is the snapshot or the backup that you assume is application consistent, the probability is very high that the data will in fact be inconsistent and the time to restore consistent application data from paper source documents will be measured in days, not minutes or hours. And, for companies that primarily transact business electronically, they may not be able to reconstruct the data at all. This is the scenario that Tim Hays, of Animal Health International, avoided when he made the decision to protect everything. After all, if he could affordably protect everything, he didn’t have to worry about what he might miss.
Market research firm, IDC, recently released revenue estimates for the disk storage systems market. In 2011, the market grew over 8% and exceeded $31B. Given that the price we pay for a terabyte of storage continues to decline, that means that the growth rate of data is much higher. For many organizations, the growth rate is greater than 40% per year. The flood in Thailand that disrupted disk drive manufacturers’ supply chains notwithstanding, thanks to manufacturing innovation, the suppliers have been able to keep up with companies’ almost insatiable demand for more storage resources.
Time is a very different resource. There’s no factory that makes time, so we can’t make more. We can only decide how we use time. In the world of business, we are increasingly deciding to use our time to be open and available for our customers. That means that there’s less time to protect the data that we use to process orders, run our factories, and communicate with our suppliers.
Faced with a challenge like this, we have had to transform our thinking. In computing, over the past couple of decades we have gone from doing one thing at a time to doing everything at once. We used to turn on our accounting and order-entry systems in the morning, bring up terminal services, process orders, shut down systems at the end of the work day, bring in an evening shift to run analysis, print reports, and then back up the data. Now we process orders all day and all night, seven days a week. Terminals have been at least partially replaced by PCs, mobile device applications, and browser-based applications, but they need to be available throughout the day as well. The reports still need to be run and the data still needs to be backed up, and though reports and data backups may still occur at night, they are no longer being done in “off hours,” because there are no off hours.
This challenge is just one of the challenges that Tim Hays, VP of IT at Animal Health International, solved when he installed the Axxana Phoenix System RP and EMC RecoverPoint. Because RecoverPoint provides application-consistent snapshots of data, which can then be used for processing reports and as sources for backups, restores, and data replication, there’s no need to worry about the limited supply of time. Thanks to RecoverPoint, production systems can continue to operate, with only a brief pause, while the snapshot is taken. And thanks to Axxana, the data that is changed or created between the application-consistent snapshots is maintained and protected. This is critically important, because as Tim Hays said in his recent presentation on Wikibon’s Peer Incite, in a world where most transactions are electronic, if you lose your data, there’s no way to reconstruct the transactions.
Let’s face facts. Data backup, data protection, and disaster recovery are difficult. There are more data and more applications to protect and less time to do it. And there are a growing number of risks against which you have to protect your data and applications. Thanks to application and data growth and the integrated nature of applications that support today’s business processes, old data protection and disaster recovery methods simply won’t work. There’s too much complexity and too little time.
Thankfully there are new approaches and new technologies to solve data protection and disaster recovery challenges. Innovative suppliers, like Axxana, are eager to win your trust and win your business. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you don’t have the time to evaluate all of the new technologies and all of the new suppliers to figure out what works and what doesn’t and who to trust and who not to trust.
Faced with a challenge like that, what do you do? If you are like most people, you talk to the people you trust the most. Your larger, long-time suppliers are a logical choice. They have a lot to lose, if they guide you down the wrong path. That’s one of the reasons we chose to partner with the leading information infrastructure supplier, EMC. EMC stands behind the rigorous tests conducted in their ELab, so you don’t have to wonder if our Phoenix System works.
Another logical choice is your peers. What makes peer groups so helpful is that your peers have no financial interest in your decision. They’re not the incumbent supplier, and they’re not the new kid on the block. Their interest is in preserving and enhancing their reputation, which will only be damaged, if they steer you down the wrong path.
We are very pleased to tell you that one of your peers, Tim Hays, VP of IT at Animal Health International, will be talking on a Wikibon Peer Incite, on Tuesday, April 10 at noon Eastern Daylight Time. His topic is how he implemented an affordable zero-data-loss disaster recovery solution; one that eliminates the need to classify data, but instead protects all of the company’s production data. Not only will he be presenting, but he’ll be available to answer your questions. If you are thinking about re-architecting disaster recovery, building a second data center, are concerned about the cost of ensuring data protection, or simply can’t figure out how to affordably protect all of your production data, I encourage you to attend.
Dial-in instructions are below. No registration is required.
Date: Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm ET (9:00am – 10:00am PT)
I hope you have already had a chance to watch the video of Tim Hays, Vice President of IT at Animal Health International talking about why he chose Axxana. If not, please stop reading now and go watch it. Here’s the link.
If you listened to Tim, you’ll know that he chose Axxana because of three factors:
- Axxana improved his recovery capabilities
- Axxana integrated with his existing EMC CLARiiON, VNX, and RecoverPoint infrastructure
- Axxana cost him less than historical methods of synchronous replication
Animal Health International is representative of thousands and thousands of cost-conscious organizations. They know how large, global institutions are protecting their data, but in Tim’s words, with these traditional methods of synchronous replication, “The cost of the equipment, the cost of the telecommunications for synchronous I/O were just not at a cost level we were willing to support.” And with Axxana, Animal Health International gets an even higher level of data protection at a dramatically lower cost.
Tim recognizes that some companies have already made a very large investment in traditional synchronous replication. Often those companies chose an expensive synchronous solution, because at the time of the decision, there were no lower-cost alternatives available. Besides, many were require by law or regulation to have the highest levels of data protection, as, for example, in the financial services industry. For those companies, Tim says, ”Here’s an opportunity…to reduce those costs.”
The fact is, these organizations already have their processes in place, and few organizations like to disrupt a process that is working, even if it is costly. That’s OK with us. Eventually, those organizations will recognize the our approach not only lowers cost, but provides superior disaster recovery capabilities. In the meantime, we’ll be plenty busy serving the needs of organizations like Animal Health International.
Having two data centers, especially when they are separated by a significant distance, brings so many advantages, it’s difficult to name them all, but here are just a few:
- The ability to increase the frequency and quality of disaster recovery testing
- The ability to perform site maintenance and upgrades, while maintaining application availability
- The ability to rapidly restore applications and continue operations in the event of a regional disaster
Some organizations have eliminated tape and migrated to disk-based backup methods, leveraging various techniques for creating application-consistent snapshots. This approach can dramatically improve recovery times, but again, requires that the 3rd-party recovery location have all the necessary equipment and software in order to run the applications, once the applications and data are restored. And, again, the location must be unoccupied.
The reason organizations use 3rd-party disaster recovery service providers is, in part, because they don’t want to absorb the full cost of having a second location sitting idle, just in case a disaster happens. It is cost prohibitive for most organizations. But forward-thinking companies have recognized that application development and test environments can be re-purposed for production applications, when a disaster occurs. In this way, no infrastructure is wasted, and no systems are sitting idle. A two-data center architecture, with development, test, and disaster recovery in one location, and production in the other, provides the ideal approach for both resource efficiency and resiliency.
The biggest challenge for organizations may be to determine the best way to get all of the current application data from the primary production location to the development, test, and disaster recovery location. Asynchronous replication is clearly the approach of choice, in terms of cost and flexibility for locating the secondary site, but it ensures that some data will be lost. Many of you saw our recent announcement about Animal Health International becoming an Axxana customer. The approach that Animal Health took, combining asynchronous replication with disaster-proof protection of the synchronous lag, is precisely the approach that organizations should take. The combination gives organizations a complete solution that is both affordable and flexible.