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Improving Recovery Time
FleetBoston was already utilizing EMC Symmetrix and tape libraries for the purposes of daily and weekly backups. During testing of its disaster recovery responsiveness, however, the company discovered it would take 24 hours alone to restore data from tape to disk. And it was only possible to meet the 24-hour time frame if everything went smoothly.
As a result, the company searched for a better approach to disaster recovery.
Administrators selected Electronic Vaulting Services by SunGard, in conjunction with an EMC product called Symmetrix Data Remote Facility (SDRF), a combination storage hardware and application that lets users copy data to a remote, secure location without requiring any IT downtime. In the event that backup data needs to be retrieved, SDRF can recover hundreds of terabytes of information within hours, according to EMC.
Prior to purchase, the FleetBoston auditors voiced concern about the solution being too bleeding edge an approach that lacked proven results in the real world. The company, therefore, interviewed early adopters to ascertain any problems they might run into. This brought several issues to the surface, with distance limitation and channel extension being the top concerns.
A multiplexer channel provides the physical connection that allows input and output devices to communicate with the computer. The multiplexer channel typically requires devices or their control units to be within 200 to 400 feet of the mainframe computer. Channel extension technology makes it possible to extend the multiplexer channel of the computer to anywhere in the world regardless of distance.
"Our primary data center was 120 miles away from our remote recovery center, so channel extension was necessary," says Taylor.
She evaluated channel extension products from Computerm and InRange before choosing Computerm Adaptive Copy. The use of Computerm and Symmetrix, though, meant that the company would have to use an asynchronous mode of data transfer between one site and another. As a result, there would be a delay of a few seconds between transactions being processed in the main data center and those same transactions being transferred to the remote disaster recovery site.
The combined EMC/SunGard/Computerm architecture adopted by FleetBoston was successfully implemented.
From 48 hours or more, the RTO came down to less than one hour for critical systems. During one major emergency when all systems were down at one data center, the remote site took over seamlessly. According to Taylor, this one event paid for the technology immediately since it prevented large-scale revenue loss.
While FleetBoston administrators are happy with their current disaster recovery functionality, it is still evolving. One major issue is whether the company should continue to replicate all mainframe data, or if it can apply Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) techniques to minimize the amount of data that has to be transmitted during backups and during system recovery. This could also free up bandwidth for more productive uses.
The company is also looking to increase its current rate of mirroring. Fleet now mirrors all of its data every two hours, but Taylor is investigating ways to shorten the length of time between mirrors without significantly increasing costs.
Feature adapted from Datamation.