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The events of September 11, 2001, put business continuity into the trade and public press. We have discussed availability of systems to tolerate single faults, and disaster recovery to deal with multiple, catastrophic physical failures, but
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Byzantine in this context refers to a theoretical computing problem known as the Byzantine generals. In this exercise, an army commander sends out his generals to scout the enemy. Some don t return, and some return compromised by the enemy as spies. The commander s task is to devise an algorithm that allows him to determine which generals are lying and which generals are telling the truth. Practical applications of this idea aren t plentiful, but voting algorithms for reliability are based on the same ideas.
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business continuity is a strategic planning element. Business continuity is related to disaster recovery: DR describes the IT mechanisms for bringing a functioning system back online, while business continuity describes the policies and processes for keeping things running while you re executing the DR plan. Business continuity covers a wide range of topics, such as the following:
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Delegation of responsibility and decision-making authority in case key executives are affected by a disaster. Regulatory requirements for reporting, data preservation, and auditing capabilities while operating from a DR site. Putting bounds on the recovery times and systems capabilities for a DR site; business continuity becomes the requirements analysis for a DR plan. Relationships with suppliers, distributors, and other partners, such that the business is able to function (even at a reduced level of output).
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Business continuity makes sure the enterprise is capable of running after any number of large-scale failures. Disaster recovery ensures there are IT systems to run that business. And availability planning keeps the IT systems running through smaller-scale failures. As we become adept at solving problems at one level of complexity, the issues get larger and more abstract.
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Key Points
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Technologies evolve over time. Each new trend carries some impact on your availability planning. Adopt a portfolio management approach to emerging technologies, prioritizing the benefits, risks, and impacts of a new trend. Venture capitalists make many bets on companies, hoping that one or two generate large returns. You have the same responsibility to do prudent investigation of applicable technologies, exploring the one or two with most promise in more detail.
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CHAPTER
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Parting Shots
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Say good night, Gracie. Good night, Gracie. George Burns and Gracie Allen
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There is a very interesting and not unexpected side-effect to spending your time designing high availability into systems. You gain a much better overall understanding of many of the aspects of the systems that you are responsible for. Whether you are a hands-on system administrator, a manager of system administrators, or a corporate technical officer, as you move through the discipline that is high availability, you quickly learn about system capabilities, disks, networks, backups, personnel issues, best practices, and all of the other topics that we have covered in this book. You learn the value of spending a little more money for high quality when it is needed. This information will make you more successful at your job.
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How We Got Here
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In the Introduction and again in 3, The Value of Availability, we discussed the concept of an availability index, which is no more than a fancy way of saying that the higher the level of availability you need, the more money it will cost you. That money is an investment in the continuing operations of the systems that make your business work, and in turn your business. Failure to
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put the right money in the right places could, in the end, cost you and your business dearly. The money that you spend on protecting your systems is really spent on protecting your applications. Your applications in turn run your business. Spending money (and time) to design HA into your systems is an investment in your business. You almost certainly have a life insurance policy that will protect your family in the event that something happens to you. You have property insurance on the physical plant that makes up your business s facilities. But most businesses do not carry insurance on their systems and applications, and they fail a lot more often and for a lot more reasons than buildings or people do. High availability in all of its forms is life insurance for your business. You wouldn t raise a family without insuring yourself, and you shouldn t run a business without insuring it and its systems. Life insurance salespeople sell life insurance as an investment, not as a simple expense. HA is the same thing. If your income is $35,000 per year, would you get $1 million in personal life insurance Probably not, although you might. If your income is $250,000 per year, would you buy $25,000 in life insurance Again, probably not. You buy insurance according to your personal needs. As your needs change, you reevaluate your insurance needs. If your downtime costs $100,000 per hour, is it worth an extra $25,000 to shorten every outage by 30 minutes Of course it is. But the same $25,000 solution may be a complete extravagance for a small business whose outages cost $500 per hour. Every business is different. Every business has different requirements. The trick is to spend appropriately for your business s needs and to reevaluate that spending as your needs change. Ultimately, it all comes down to figuring out how much your downtime actually costs you (factoring in any government or industry requirements and the potential for civil action or legal penalties) and then balancing the amount you spend against that. There is no single set of rules that applies to every business, just as there is no single insurance policy, or even type of insurance, that applies to everyone. Once you know the cost of downtime, and the cost of eliminating that downtime, you can measure just what you re getting for your money. What are the users experiencing, and how is that related to the areas in which you ve made investments Correlate the user-visible aspects of the system to those that you ve made most available, and you have a closed-loop process. Whether it s Total Quality Management (TQM), six-sigma methodology, or the latest process promoted in the Harvard Business Review, you re going to have to work with data. Many sources for inspiration and skills transfer are available from noncomputing fields. Stewart Brand chronicles Danny Hillis s endeavor to build a
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