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Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:56

The Traditional Data Center is Dead: 5 Ways to Build a Better DR Environment

Written by  LAZ VEKIARIDES

Vekiarides1In today’s cloud era, there’s no good reason for a company to build a secondary data center when they are considering a data infrastructure and disaster recovery (DR) strategy. But, somehow, I still talk to CIOs who go through the process.

They might have seen the opportunity to acquire land in a remote part of the country, seeing it as a business opportunity due to the area’s real estate and utilities. There might be one network carrier serving the area and its connectivity levels promised to support the data center facility. Only after the building process was completed did the organization realize something critical: the facility’s cost-effective location put it out of range from certain services and offerings, ultimately building a fence around the company’s potential growth.

Clouds and colocation sites have completely changed the data center game. From carrier diversity to advanced disaster recovery services, the path to improving data center ROI hinges on accessing the latest and greatest breakthroughs in the space – and building a new physical site won’t lead a company down that path. Below are five ways to avoid building a new data center infrastructure and use hybrid DR options to the fullest extent.

1. Leverage carrier diversity to increase your options and avoid lock-in

Hybrid cloud is high on the priority list for most CIOs and IT professionals, but many companies get stuck with strategies still in progress. As a result, “hybrid” has a different definition at nearly every organization – a company may have moved some workloads to the cloud, but faces roadblocks in migrating the rest of its business. It’s critical for IT teams to know their organizations’ individual.

For example, the cloud is a remote IT resource. It requires working with a private network that can promise bandwidth, resiliency, and support for an entire data center.

Carrier diversity is a critical consideration for a successful data center. Carriers run fiber to data center facilities, meaning the data center’s physical location determines its access to different carriers. Remote locations are often serviced by a single telecom provider, as they lack the competition that results from a crowded market. However, if your data center relies on a single carrier, you might get locked into a relationship that bars your organization from seeking other connectivity and service options, even if they become available. From a disaster recovery standpoint, such as a natural disaster or hardware failure that interrupts data center operations, a lack of options for data center resources can complicate or delay a backup plan.

2. Tap into the connectivity options in colocation ecosystems
While a lack of telecom carrier competition results in single carriers serving wide remote areas, metro locations benefit from high competition taking place between carriers. As a result, colocation facilities situated in major cities are becoming a standard in the data center industry. Metro environments are a smart economic choice for colocation site customers. As carriers wrestle with one another to gain new customers, they tend to offer groundbreaking services, a wide variety of options and competitive prices.

Of course, even within a metro area, partner options are paramount to the success of any colocation site. Customers should carefully analyze the carriers with a presence in any given colocation facility, their offerings and the service providers that can offer additional solutions. For example, consider your top three IT priorities for the next year and whether the resources present in a certain colocation site can help achieve those goals. Thinking in this manner helps your colocation strategy directly support wider IT initiatives, such as hybrid cloud transformation.

3. Ensure your DR has the resources it needs to succeed
For many organizations, disaster recovery is the first step toward the cloud. It’s also one of the most important parts of any business – if you’re not prepared to resume operations and recover data following an interruption, your company’s survival could be at stake. Secondary data centers are the traditional option for disaster recovery, but they come with high maintenance costs and the complexity of managing redundant software licenses, network lines and management. Many organizations are tapping the cloud for DR solutions.

With hybrid DR, data is backed up or replicated to a public or private cloud. In the event of a disaster, data and applications are restored in the cloud and hosted until the primary data center comes back online. Recovering with cloud-based DR offers organizations options such as restoring data directly to the company’s compute platform, mounting VM images on backup storage and activating data on a live volume. DR in the cloud also comes with some clear advantages over traditional DR: organizations don’t need to pay for or equip a secondary site. The secondary site might be able to assist with recovery and it’s relatively easy to test DR scenarios.

However, cloud-based DR isn’t without its challenges. Networking issues may arise during recovery. It can be hard to predict the time frame in which an organization will return to operations, as the time to move data from backup to production storage must be considered, as well as the amount of simultaneous recoveries taking place. It can also be difficult to predict performance after the failure, and the method might simply be more extensive than an organization needs to withstand a site, server, or storage disaster.

To ensure your DR plan has the resources it needs to be successful, organizations should focus on cutting down latency by moving applications to the cloud, leveraging edge computing strategies and considering how the cloud can support primary storage functions, as well. Every company likely has a balance of public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises storage that works best for the data in question – it’s just a matter of mastering the equation.

4. Keep RPO and RTO in mind as you measure DR success
Following a disaster, recovery time objective (RTO) represents the maximum amount of time that IT resources can be offline without incurring serious business losses or risks. Secondary sites and other conventional DR solutions can take days to replicate data and bring it back online, resulting in high RTO rates. Recovery point objective (RPO), on the other hand, measures the window of time in which recovery can take place. Hybrid DR offers the ability to make data constantly available, meaning it can bring RTOs and RPOs far lower than traditional backup and DR methods could imagine.

5. Stop making excuses for the enterprise storage treadmill
As organizations across industries prioritize initiatives like business transformation and hybrid cloud data access from anywhere, there’s pressure to cut down IT infrastructure – not build it up with secondary sites and physical infrastructure. With core functions of IT available as a service, such as cloud-based DR and even primary storage, there’s no longer a need for companies to continually rip and replace expensive hardware. As colocation sites deliver competitive offerings from various carriers in metro areas around the globe, such services are widely available.

Before making a major decision about your IT strategy, it’s important to evaluate your company’s needs, goals and realistic access to resources. However, it’s also critical to compare the ROI of your DR plan and colocation sites with the cost and maintenance associated with secondary data centers. Add the performance and potential of the cloud into that equation, and there’s a good chance the choice is clear – the secondary data center is dead, and the future of IT is brighter as a result.

Vekiarides Laz1Lazarus Vekiarides is the chief technology officer and co-founder of ClearSky Data, the global storage network that simplifies the entire data lifecycle and delivers enterprise storage as a fully managed service. Previously, Vekiarides was a member of the core leadership team at EqualLogic and an executive at Dell. He is an expert in data storage, virtualization and networking technologies.