Ensuring Business Continuance via High Availability SANs


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The highest priority of any IT organization should be business continuance through effective data protection. During a time of unparalleled growth in the enterprise, centralized data protection in the form of a Storage Area Network (SAN) is the clear answer for safeguarding corporate data. SANs offer an enterprise-wide solution to business continuance challenges, enable more reliable and frequent back-ups, allow for more rapid access to data across the enterprise, and provide true, enterprise-wide system management at the core.

Over the next decade, the three trillion dollar IT industry will commence re-architecting to bring "data" to the core of its enterprise, thereby facilitating the transformation to information-driven business. According to IDC (a leading IT industry analyst), protection of and access to that data will drive new architecture strategies. The enterprise must take extraordinary measures to ensure that the most valuable enterprise asset, its data, is well managed and always available.

The highest priority of any IT organization is business continuance through effective data protection. While the most innocuous collapse of protection merely impacts careers, in the worst case, data loss due to failed or missing backups devastates profitability and opens the company to potential litigation. An absent data protection strategy united with a "defining" moment will undermine the enterprise. Until recently, very straightforward solutions were employed for data protection -- a tape device or library with sufficient capacity was usually attached to the server and well-known procedures were implemented to ensure the execution of the backups.

The volume of data demanded during normal enterprise operations has increased dramatically due to the combination of plunging storage costs and growing online enterprise practices. With the advent of client-server computing, company data has become widely distributed throughout the enterprise, making it nearly impossible for IT management to express absolute confidence that every server is regularly and reliably backed-up. In a 24x7 operation, individually managing each of these distributed backups has become prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.

Dependence on data access for routine operations has become increasingly prevalent as nearly every aspect of the enterprise is now automated. The backup window traditionally has been defined as "off hours" -- overnight; whereas now, application data is expected to remain available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, effectively closing that window. Also, as enterprises expand their operations globally (owing to the Internet), it becomes increasingly difficult -- if not impossible -- to shut down any part of the enterprise, which drives the requirement to sustain the ability to scale without interruption. Naturally, as the backup window is shrinking (or is non-existent in some cases), backups are demanding more and more time due to ever-increasing data volume.

It has been estimated by the Gartner Group that backup costs comprise 34% to 56% of total storage investments, a figure that is rising as IT organizations increasingly mandate round-the-clock availability. The repeated implementations of hardware and the personnel performing the backups are also significant components of this cost. In most cases, this is still completed one server at a time.

Solving the Data Protection Challenge

Several technologies must be integrated to solve such complex data protection challenges. An effective, efficient means of centralizing the backup hardware and management is required, and a separate data transport is necessary to isolate the backup traffic from the Local Area Network (LAN). Additionally, sophisticated software is necessary to allow centralized backups of distributed servers to occur while applications remain online. Finally, there are the experienced enterprise-class storage integration professionals who are vital to the success of the solution.

The incorporation of a new means of data transport with speeds greater than those currently supported by the LAN would be the optimal solution and would have the added benefit of being uninhibited by the distance limitations of directly attached Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) devices. A centralized data protection scheme becomes practical through the development of this model.

Furthermore, the centralization of storage and backup tape resources is facilitated by the implementation of a Storage Area Network (SAN). Most significantly, rather than contributing to congestion of the LAN, all data and backup traffic is transported over the high-speed SAN. Ultimately, this improves LAN performance by isolating the data traffic from the command and control traffic and by freeing the LAN from carrying backup data.

During a time of unparalleled growth in the enterprise, centralized data protection is the clear answer for safeguarding corporate data. All of this comes at a lower total cost of ownership, plus a central backup mechanism ends up improving reliability, speeds recovery, and ensuring better protection.

Page 2: The Interoperability Challenge

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