Technology Focus: Should You Do HA/DR in the Cloud or In-House? PDF Print E-mail
Application Software - General
Written by John Ghrist   
Monday, 21 July 2014 00:00

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In the long run, it boils down to whether you prefer convenience or control.

 

It seems to be inarguable anymore whether or not an enterprise of any size needs a high availability and disaster recovery (HA/DR, also often called business continuity (BC)) plan in place. The sticking point is more along the lines of how much time and money any business concern wants to invest in the process. Particularly in the cases of enterprises that have never experienced any significant downtime or downtime consequences, or that remain convinced the stability of IBM i servers is not just legendary but permanent, it can be challenging to set aside money, personnel, and systems time to prepare for a "just in case" scenario. The upshot is that it's something that has to be done, if only to avoid how awful the consequences might be if you don't.

 

Once an enterprise commits to HA/DR, the next decision point is whether to buy HA/DR software and handle those services in-house or to hire experts to do it for you via the cloud. That's where opinions diverge.

The Benefits of In-House HA/DR

The arguments for handling HA/DR in-house are fairly well-known. You buy some software that helps you with switching seamlessly from one server to another for a license fee you actually pay only once in a while. You hand the software off to members of your IT staff who also provide many other services to the enterprise, so HA/DR personnel expenses are just a tiny fraction of their pay and benefits. You have no concerns about service fees or conditions changing unexpectedly. You plan DR drills at times when it's convenient for your production schedule, not on someone else's timetable. All these benefits hold down costs.

 

You also don't have to worry about sensitive information being intercepted any more than you do with normal backups. You decide what constitutes an adequate HA/DR plan and what information gets replicated to where. You're not reliant on outside personnel to get your systems back up if something should happen. Your in-house people get to learn and grow by developing their own HA/DR expertise. There's no chance someone with a higher priority will get faster service in the event of a widespread disaster. These benefits give your enterprise complete control over all aspects of your HA/DR plan.

 

In short, if holding down expenses and keeping control over your enterprise HA/DR plans and activities are of primary importance, handling those services in-house is the way to go.

The Benefits of Cloud-Based HA/DR

Cloud providers of HA/DR argue that the expenses of doing HA/DR are often not fully considered.

 

"In a conventional DR model, the enterprise has to invest in the hardware, datacenter, replication software, training, and ongoing monitoring and management," notes Simon O'Sullivan, co-founder and executive vice president at Maxava. "They must bear the cost of running and maintaining their own infrastructure, and the complexity of keeping two or more databases in-sync in real time, and role-swapping between them. In the Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) model, the Managed Service Provider (MSP) handles all of the infrastructure and complexity. They provide the hardware and data center. The software is provided as a service, and it's fully monitored and managed remotely."

 

Alan Arnold, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Vision Solutions, identifies the most chronic difficulties with in-house BC plans as "identifying dependencies between servers and applications, documenting and keeping the BC plan current as changes occur in the data center, and allocating time to practice and validate a complete BC plan. All three of these challenges are most effectively resolved by engaging professionals who have the best tools and specialize in BC planning and execution."

 

Arnold goes on to cite two major advantages to using cloud-based services. "First is the economies of scale that large cloud players can deliver. Those economies include not only compute, storage, and network infrastructure, but also fundamental datacenter infrastructure, including power and cooling. The second advantage is expertise. DRaaS providers specialize in DR planning and executing those DR plans. They eat, live, and breathe this discipline. Typical businesses only run DR exercises once a year, and many not even that often. Ability to recover quickly is essential to the survival of many businesses. Significant risk can be eliminated in the midst of the frenzy of a real disaster by leaving recovery to experts who focus exclusively on this critical operation."

 

O'Sullivan agrees that, in his opinion, MSPs are becoming the best choice. "Organizations should run the numbers on the total cost of ownership of an in-house solution, including hardware, software, datacenter, staff costs, and network charges, taking into consideration capital costs versus operational costs. These do add up quickly and over three years, for example, can be significant. Then they should ask an MSP to quote a monthly fee for DRaaS and compare the two. My expectation is that in most cases DRaaS will be the better option.

 

"A significant, highly trained resource is required to maintain a minimal risk environment for your business," O'Sullivan continues. "While complex role-swap testing, monitoring, and management of the solution become the MSP's responsibility, the enterprise can focus on their equally critical day-to-day operations!"

Making a Final Choice

Clearly, it's up to each enterprise to decide which path is best for their business needs. However, following the cloud route creates a new set of challenges.

 

"The biggest difficulty for the client IT manager is selling this type of solution to upper management, and in a timely fashionnot just as some distant objective. Senior executives need to fully understand the risk vs. the cost," notes O'Sullivan. "Enterprises are keeping more data, and the old tape-based solutions are simply not effective. Our clients have found that in about 50 percent of cases, tape backups will not restore the database to the original condition. IT staff need to communicate this effectively to management: the reality is that a DR solution based on tape will probably mean several days outage and typically the loss of up to a day's data."

 

In making a decision, Vision Solution's Arnold advises, "The most significant criteria is a combination of several factors: (1) cost-of-downtime (which equates to business risk), (2) ability to leverage existing datacenter infrastructure (which equates to cost), and (3) a commitment by the business to budget/staff at a level necessary to maintain the required skills/expertise (equates to ability to execute)."

The DR/HA/Backup Market for IBM i

Whichever path your enterprise chooses to follow, numerous resources are available. Below are representative listings for major DR and HA product and service offerings for the IBM i, divided into HA/DR solutions designed to be managed in-house, those available via the cloud, and closely related general backup and recovery products and services. Please note that the brief descriptions here don't cover all the features each offering provides. You should consult the links provided for each product and contact the associated vendors for a more complete idea of what each product's or service's capabilities include.

IBM i High-Availability/Disaster-Recovery Products and Services for In-House Use

Bug Busters Software Engineering

RSF-HA

RSF-HA replicates data, libraries, user profiles, system values, network attributes, and authorization lists to a hot backup machine and automatically creates journals needed to create an HA system.

 

BCS Group

Quick-EDD

BCS Group is a U.S. reseller of Quick-Software-Line's Quick-EDD software, which provides HA and DR services on installed servers. Features include data compression and encryption moving between servers, multiple backup server options, and data-replication support for major i-supported commercial database systems. 

 

IBM Corporation

IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX

PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX is a hardware/software combination that helps users combine two or more servers running AIX, at the same or different locations, into nodes of a single cluster to provide HA/DR failover services. The product offers a graphical management interface, cluster-wide security management, and multichannel cluster communications.

 

IBM PowerHA SystemMirror for i

PowerHA SystemMirror for i is a hardware/software solution for automating high-availability and disaster-recovery operations. It offers clustering services that require no downtime to operate and HA/DR protection with simplified setup.

 

iSamBlue

iSB/RSF-HA

The iSB/RSF-HA offering provides simplified HA and DR services for IBM i servers.

 

iTech Solutions Group

High Availability/Disaster Recovery Solutions

IBM i hardware reseller iTech also offers HA/DR solutions, remote hosting and management, disaster-recovery testing, backups, and other services via the cloud.

 

Maxava

Maxava HA Datastream

Maxava HA Datastream runs on backup servers to provide a one-way, data-only replication engine.

 

Maxava HA Enterprise+

Maxava HA Enterprise+ helps automate and manage HA role swaps between multiple servers by featuring real-time replication of data and applications, the maxview Manager utility for monitoring and controlling HA activities, and a command-scripting function.

 

Maxava HA SMB

Maxava HA SMB, aimed at SMB enterprises, facilitates replication of data and objects, offers on-demand replication of data queues and data areas, and provides a unified monitoring capability.

 

Menten GmbH

Quick-EDD

Menten offers installation and remote management of HA/DR services using Quick-Software-Line's Quick-EDD products.

 

Quick-Software-Line

Quick-EDD

Quick-EDD is software that provides both HA and DR services. Offered via French company Trader's, it provides data synchronization, dynamic monitoring between source and target systems, and optional backup to multiple machines.

 

Shield Advanced Solutions

HA4i

HA4i is an HA solution for IBM i that uses Remote Journal functions to provide a simpler, easy-to-install, and uncomplicated-to-manage alternative to larger HA systems. HA4i includes a PHP-based Web interface that lets users run everything from a single console. A version of the product for PowerFlex Systems is also available.

 

DR4i

DR4i provides a complete and working DR environment that can be populated with applications and data to provide a disaster-recovery solution for production systems. It includes a PHP-based Web interface that lets users run everything from a single console. A version of the product for PureFlex Systems is also available.

 

Vision Solutions

Double-Take Availability

Vision's Double-Take Availability provides HA services for servers running AIX and Linux, including IBM i. Providing failover protection for those operating systems, the product replicates to remote DR sites via standard IP networks.

 

iTERA Availability

Based on remote journaling, iTera Availability maintains a complete backup of production and other designated systems and switches users to the backup system on demand.

 

MIMIX Availability

MIMIX Availability replicates applications, data, and system values in real time from a production server to a backup server. Offered in three versions with accumulating features for enterprises of various sizes, the product ensures that backup systems are ready to run as needed.

 

MIMIX Global

MIMIX Global is designed to handle multiple-node HA installations. Equipped with a browser interface and available in three editions of varying capabilities, MIMIX Global provides automated help for maintaining backup systems, alerting personnel to problems requiring switchovers, and managing transitions to backup systems.

 

OMS/ODS

OMS/ODS, designed for larger enterprises, maintains exact or near-real-time images of multiple systems. Images include all applications, data, and system objects. Its multi-CPU design can replicate environments of any complexity and keep them available for failover at any time.

IBM i High-Availability/Disaster-Recovery Products and Services Available Via the Cloud

ABC Services

Managed Services

ABC's managed services for IBM i servers running i5/OS or AIX include high-availability and disaster-recovery options.

 

BCS Group

Remote Management Services

BCS offers cloud-based HA and DR administration on in-house services using Quick-Software-Line's Quick-EDD product line.

 

Frontline Consultancy

HA and DR Solutions for IBM i

Frontline offers UK-based HA/DR services through the cloud, based on Quick-Software-Line's Quick-EDD software.

 

Data Storage Corporation

IBM iSeries Disaster Recovery

Data Storage's Disaster Recovery services give users remote access to server applications and data within 15 minutes in the event of downtime or disaster. Hosted replication provides instant access to data and applications and includes optional data encryption.

 

IBM iSeries High Availability

Data Storage's High Availability services replicate data in real time to an off-site storage center for servers running i5/OS, AIX, UNIX, and Windows. The service features 15-minute recovery times, disk-based storage, and remote backup and recovery.

 

Hosting.com

Availability Services

Hosting.com's managed cloud hosting services deliver a redundant, cost-effective IT architecture to meet specific availability needs. It starts with a foundation level of availability and then adds in such services as load balancing and database clustering to achieve custom-designed availability solution.

 

IBM Corporation

Business Continuity and Resiliency Services

IBM's Business Continuity and Resiliency Services include assessment, consulting, planning and design, implementation and testing, business continuity management, and cloud disaster recovery options.

 

Key Information Systems

Business Continuity

Key's Business Continuity Service determines the resiliency and recovery requirements of any business and integrates business and IT priorities into a comprehensive continuity program.

 

Maxava

Maxava in the Cloud

Using Maxava in the Cloud, critical data and objects can be replicated in real-time to an offsite data center, offering ongoing cost predictability but without upfront hardware outlay.

 

mindSHIFT

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting services for IBM i from mindSHIFT include full-service or modified HA and DR options. The hosting services are available at data centers across the U.S. and also offer backup and restoration services, 24/7 monitoring, and other options.

 

SunGard

SunGard Availability Services

SunGard Availability Services includes cloud-based HA, managed infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), consulting, and business-continuity software.

 

United Computer Group

Vault400

Vault400 is a cloud-managed service that handles HA/DR services on IBM i servers running i5/OS or Linux. It also supports databases such as DB2 and Oracle.

 

Vision Solutions

Cloud Protection and Recovery

Vision Solutions' cloud-based disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) offers MIMIX Availability and Double-Take Availability and Double-Take Recovery Now products (see below) via the cloud, administered by Vision staff.

Backup and Recovery Products and Services for IBM i

Asigra

Asigra Cloud Backup and Recovery

Asigra Cloud Backup offers encrypted backup and recovery services for public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. It can be purchased either as software for onsite personnel to use or as a SaaS service offering managed by Asigra.

 

Champion Solutions Group

Cloud Storage Strategies

Champion's Cloud Storage Strategies provides cloud-based backup and recovery, file-sharing, long-term archiving, and disaster-recovery services.

 

Server Virtualization

Server Virtualization services include backup/recovery/data-sharing with virtual servers, server consolidation, and disaster recovery.

   

EMC

Avamar

Avamar is backup and data deduplication software for IBM i and other servers running AIX and Linux. It emphasizes full daily backups and one-step recovery processes.

 

EVault

EVault Onsite Server Backup

EVault automatically backs up multi-platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle) and physical and virtual server environments, onsite and remotely, via a browser-accessible, secure central console.

 

EVault Cloud Backup Services

EVault also offers its backup software as part of a cloud-based backup service for a wide range of computer platforms.

 

HelpSystems

Robot/SAVE

Robot/SAVE includes automatic backup and recovery, backup-tape encryption, Lotus Domino online backup, and other features.

 

HiT Software

DBMoto Cloud Edition

DBMoto Cloud Edition provides cloud-based database replication for moving data or sharing data with remote systems.

 

IBM Corporation

IBM i CBU with PowerHA

The CBU with PowerHA program offers secondary servers that can form the basis for HA and DR services for production machines.

 

iSamBlue

Blue Cloud Services

Blue Cloud Services provides cloud-based backup and recovery and HA for IBM i and open-systems servers.

 

Key Information Systems

Managed Services

Key's Managed Services include monitoring and reporting day-to-day operations and maintenance, backup and recovery, patch (PTF) management, and capacity planning. 

 

LXI Enterprise Storage

iSeries Client for Open Systems

The iSeries Open Client offering lets enterprises control backups of multiple open-systems servers from a single console. The service supports i5/OS, AIX, Linux, and Windows.

 

Information Lifecycle Management

Information Lifecycle Management includes backup and recovery management, tape management, vault management, Lotus Notes/Domino hot backup, and tape encryption products and services for IBM i, AIX, and Linux servers, as well as servers using other operating systems.

 

Pinnacle Business Systems

TRAC/400

TRAC/400 software handles backup and recovery and media-management operations across multiple servers and interfaces with virtually all job-scheduling utilities. It also provides recovery services down to the object level.

 

SonicWALL

Backup and Disaster Recovery Platform

SonicWALL's Backup and Disaster Recovery Platform is a family of backup and recovery appliances for servers and desktops running Linux and Windows.

 

 


John Ghrist
About the Author:

John Ghrist has been a journalist, programmer, and systems manager in the computer industry since 1982 and has worked with IBM midrange and mainframe, H-P, Unisys, and PC platforms. A former editor-in-chief of Defense Computing and a senior editor with SystemiNEWS, John has written and edited hundreds of articles and blogs for more than a dozen print and electronic publications. He is currently CEO of John Ghrist Agency, a marketing communications firm for technology companies. You can reach him at ghrist@comcast.net.

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Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 18:01
 
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