Ben Newton, Senior Manager in Solutions Marketing is a passionate advocate of exploiting data center automation. We began the conversation around the subject of automating disaster recovery (or business continuity as Ben prefers). “If you plan thinking only about disasters, you’re talking about dealing with FEMA and limited situations like that. What we really want to do is to design a plan to keep businesses running, no matter what problems occur. And to start, you need to define what you are trying to accomplish. Simple requirements lead to simple solutions, but simple solutions don’t necessarily accomplish your goals”
He notes that it isn’t just about getting bits and bytes to a new location. Even if you blindly copy data over to the new location, there is no guarantee it is going to work. In most cases, you need to be up in hours, if not in minutes – so you need to be confident that you stand the recovery site up quickly. And there is so much more to business continuity than the data. Ben also notes that virtualization has changed the nature of the game. Virtualization makes it much easier to blindly copy data to a backup location, but will those images work? What state are they in? To obtain the lowest cost, quick time to value, and accurate failover capability, you need to build a robust plan. It begins understanding the business; which applications/systems are mission-critical? What is your configuration management process? How do you migrate applications? How current can you keep your data? What is the sequence of events needed to recover systems? Ben sees a robust DR strategy as a catalyst to move to mature data center management.
As an example, less mature plans don’t understand the implication of different IP spaces. You could no more move Waltham houses wholesale to Houston than you can move most networked systems to another IP space. The solution to this challenge is to understand your configuration and develop full stack provisioning for mission-critical applications. In other words, automate the end-to-end build of your most important systems, so you can quickly stand up new systems – while taking into account the environment they are in. And you also need to understand your application release process, and make sure that the DR site is always up to date with the latest versions of your custom applications.
Ben had personal experience with this while designing a DR plan as a consultant before BMC. From a BMC perspective, he says that you can start with the Bladelogic suite of products. BMC Network Automation ensures the ability to port your network, no matter how complex. BMC Server Automation rebuilds your OS and configures it, BMC Middleware Automation builds your complicated middleware applications, like WebSphere or WebLogic. BMC Database Automation helps you recover your databases. As an example, Ben has seen this product help you stand up Oracle RAC clusters in 2 hours. Assess your capacity needs for this with BMC Capacity Optimization. Understand your resources and relationships with BMC Discovery and Dependency Mapping then use BMC Atrium Orchestrator to pull together the sequence and scripts of automation. Get application release management underway with Release Process Management. Then, include BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management – this turns your business continuity strategy into a private cloud. By thinking bigger – automation is good for every aspect of data center management – you can get business backing to obtain the benefit of cloud, as well as the benefits of better day-to-day management AND disaster recovery.
“Use this opportunity to do more than just DR – otherwise, it is just a wasted opportunity. Move to a private cloud and solve multiple challenges with one effort.”