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Monday, 29 October 2007 00:47

IBM's Announcement Heralds a New Level of Credibility for Recovery Services

Written by  Michael A. Bragen
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For those of us that have been waiting, the other shoe finally dropped on April 5, 1989 with the announcement of IBM’s Business Recovery Services. The disaster recovery industry, gathering momentum since the early 1970s, is now poised to become a major market force as we enter the next decade.

To the vendor, changes will be manifested by a sizable increase in volume and competition. What this means to the contingency planner is no less dramatic. Upper level management, even outside the MIS area now regards business recovery planning as an essential component of business. We can expect this trend to accelerate in the future, leading the way toward widespread acceptance of contingency programs.


It is useful to have a sense of the disaster recovery and contingency planning industry. Commercial disaster recovery services have been around since the mid-1970s, the earliest of them riding the crest of the centralized data center wave. By and large, the industry evolved in response to customer demand: a means of countering the growing level of exposure for data security risks. Today, the companies which provide services in the realm of Disaster Recovery and Contingency Planning tend to fall into three distinct categories:

Independent Service Vendors
Companies that specialize exclusively in disaster backup/recovery sites, and contingency planning services or software.

Other Service Providers (OSPs)
These are systems manufacturers who offer disaster recovery or contingency planning services as a sideline, or an extension to the maintenance/service contract.

Contingency Planning Consultants
These are consulting firms that have particular expertise in the design and creation of contingency plans. The products and services offered by vendors tend to fall into the following three categories:

1) Classical recovery services, including providers of alternative “backup” processing sites.
2) Contingency planning and related management consulting services.
3) Packaged contingency “solutions”, represented chiefly by PC based software systems.
The largest and most prevalent of these is the alternative backup site.


The legitimization of disaster recovery (now commonly referred to as business recovery) reached a new height with the “Blue seal of approval”, announced in April, 1989. In addition to gaining acceptance as a profitable enterprise, business recovery services have garnered an integral position in the data center arena.

Although not yet considered an industry leader, IBM’s offering is indicative of the type of services now available. The purpose of the BRS program is to give access to IBM customers a systems environment ready for them to transfer operations to in the event of a disruption. In general, the customer is entitled to receive all of the support services that are provided by IBM under normal conditions.

Access to the hot site environment is provided under contract for up to six weeks. If the customer requires more time at an alternate site, IBM can provide access to the Extended Support Facility--a 5000 square foot cold site. (The customer must provide his own equipment and telecommunications at this point).

Recovery Locations

IBM offers two sets of facilities for data center recovery: one for large mainframe customers and one for mid-range customers. For mainframe customers, there are currently two centers. The first, located in Tampa, Florida has a 4381, 3081, 3084, and a 3090-600E. The new Franklin Lakes, New Jersey facility, scheduled to open in the third quarter of 1989, has a 3090¬600.—The two “mid-range” centers are located in Atlanta and Detroit. These sites have System /36 and System /38 capability, as well as AS-400 Model 20 and Model 60.

The notification procedure followed by the customer in the event of an outage is straightforward, and comparable to that of most other services. Upon declaring a disaster, the customer calls the main IBM service number to arrange for the facility to be made ready. The customer provides all of the required systems software, key applications and staff for operation at the recovery center.

Equipment and Physical Facilities

The Business Recovery Service Centers are equipped with tape libraries, vault, additional personnel work space, printer and microfiche facilities. Site security is maintained through a badge access system and guards. Each facility has a UPS as well as multiple central office access; and halon fire protection system. (Both of the facilities, in addition to providing alternative backup sites, serve as internal IBM operations centers, and as such are accorded a high level of security.) In addition to the data center facilities, the Franklin Lakes Center has a cafeteria and other common areas and amenities.

Telecommunications capabilities include dial-up (40 ports), 3725 and 3745 controllers. Leased lines can be dropped in as required. Line capabilities include 56Kb switched network and T-1.

Service by Subscription

IBM offers the Business Recovery Services to customers on a subscription basis, for contract periods of one, three or five years. Subscriptions for equipment are “granular”: tailored to each customer’s specific needs. The service covers any type of IBM or OEM equipment.

Recovery Center Staffing

The Recovery Centers are staffed by IBM’s internal information systems organization. These individuals are experienced in the building and migration of applications and database, and have a uniformly high level of technical expertise. There are approximately 50 staff at each facility.Upon arrival at the center for either testing or actual recovery, the customer is assigned a Customer Coordinator, who is tasked with resolving problems and easing the transition.


IBM considers testing to be an essential and integral part of the contingency planning and recovery process. Service contracts normally provide for a standard of 72 hours of test time, which can be used in any combination of 8-hour increments. If more time is required by a customer, accommodations will be made.

Testing is carried out with specific objectives identified, and a detailed debriefing is arranged following the test. The customer’s systems engineer is often invited to participate in the testing process as an observer. A debriefing is conducted following the test period in order to identify areas for improvement.

Multiple Disaster Capability

Because of its size, IBM is able to offer rather unique solution to the problem of oversubscription. In the event of a major catastrophe affecting an entire region, the recovery capacity of most vendors is likely to be overwhelmed. This phenomenon occurred in the Hinsdale disaster, when the outage of a telephone company central office affected hundreds of area businesses.

In order to counter this threat, IBM has a plan to utilize its various production facilities across the country as recovery operation sites. In the event of a large-scale regional disturbance (such as an earthquake) these locations can be called upon on an ad hoc basis. This arrangement, explicitly planned to provide vast emergency infrastructure, is unique in the industry.

Future Growth

IBM plans to open a new, West Coast center for mainframe customers in the near future. Facilities for the mid-range customers will continue to expand as well, with several more scheduled to open by the fourth quarter of 1989. In general, the exact nature of the expansion depends heavily on the requirements of customers. This includes the implementation of state-of-the¬art services such as televaulting. Although there are currently no scheduled plans to offer this, IBM is prepared to provide the capability to meet demand.


Management stances toward the need for business recovery planning and facilities vary considerably by industry.

In retail or manufacturing firms, where the primary business activity may not be perceived as being dependent on automation, an attitude of complacency surrounds the issue.

Senior management complacency, or lack of commitment to the time and expense required, is the chief hurdle faced by disaster recovery managers.

A large part of the job has traditionally been educating the corporate environment as to the level of vulnerability.
Since the payback for disaster recovery expenditures is only demonstrable in the wake of a successful recovery, it is not unusual for bottom-line management to show resistance.

To counter this, data must be portrayed as a corporate asset which must be insured. Through increased awareness and further legitimization of the industry, the job will be made easier.


The future of business recovery comprises both new vendor offerings and improved strategies for in-house efforts.

With the entry of IBM to the market, and the continuing growth of existing market leaders, these services are becoming more tenable as a vital component of business operations.

As it becomes easier to justify expenditures in this area, MIS directors will find that state-of-the-art services such as electronic televaulting will become increasingly accessible. In the end, it is the corporation that benefits.

Michael A. Bragen is an independent industry analyst and consultant in the areas of high technology and telecommunications.

This article adapted from Vol. 2 No. 3, p. 14.

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