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The Facts About Cloud High Availability and Disaster Recovery
Understanding the facts about HA and DR in the cloud can help you make informed decisions
By: Jerry Melnick
Apr. 21, 2014 11:00 AM
Enterprises are moving more and more applications to the cloud. Gartner predicts that the bulk of new IT spending by 2016 will be for cloud computing platforms and applications and that nearly half of large enterprises will have cloud deployments by the end of 2017.1
The far-reaching impact of cloud computing is summarized in a recent McKinsey report on disruptive technologies: "Cloud technology has the potential to improve productivity across $3 trillion in global enterprise IT spending, as well as enabling the creation of new online products and services for billions of consumers and millions of businesses alike."2
For many organizations, moving applications that can tolerate brief periods of downtime to the cloud is a straightforward decision with clear benefits. However, concerns about how to provide high availability and disaster protection in the cloud may make this decision more difficult for business-critical applications such as SQL, SAP, and Exchange. Understanding the facts about HA and DR in the cloud can help you make informed decisions about moving applications to the cloud, while ensuring the important business operations that depend on them are protected from downtime and data loss.
Fact #1: You need high availability protection in a cloud.
For business critical applications, the redundancy that you can get with some cloud solutions, such as Windows Azure, is not enough. When you consider the cost of a minute of downtime for applications, such as SQL Server, Oracle, and SAP that may run many of your key business processes, it becomes clear that you need true high availability and disaster recovery protection. You need to ensure that end users have immediate access to data and applications in the event of a local failure, a regional disaster or anything in between.
However, the traditional way of providing high availability protection is to build a cluster using two identical servers - a primary server and a standby server - with shared (typically SAN) storage. If the primary server fails, the application operation is moved to the standby server, which has immediate access to the same storage. The problem is that SANs are not only expensive to buy, manage, and maintain, they are simply not an option in public cloud offerings. There are, however, high availability solutions that can be used in a cloud that do not require a SAN.
Fact #2: You can build a cluster in a cloud.
Fact #3: You can have geographically separated nodes for DR in a cloud.
One effective method is to build a SANLess cluster within a cloud and extend it for disaster recovery by adding another node(s) in an alternate data center or a different geographic region within the cloud. Unlike traditional clusters that require you to have identical hardware and software in every node, a SANLess cluster allows you to mix physical, cloud and hybrid cloud configurations. The benefits of a DR configuration are clear. For example, simply adding a third, geographically separated node to your SANLess cluster in a Windows Azure cloud can give you a recovery point objective (RPO) of near zero data loss and a recovery time objective (RTO) of just about one minute.
Fact #4: You can create a cluster that mixes cloud and on-premises nodes.
The objective of having a "hot" standby DR site is to have standby servers up and running as quickly as possible in the DR site with access to a copy of the most recent application data. In the event of a disaster, recovery is automatic and immediate. A multisite cluster is an effective way to implement a hot standby DR site. In this case, the SANLess date. In the event of a forecasted disaster, such as a storm or a flood, applications can be moved to the cloud before potential disaster strikes. In the event of an unexpected disaster, applications can be recovered manually or in some cases automatically, depending upon the quorum configuration. This mix of cloud and on-premises nodes gives you an excellent RTO and RPO with minimal investment in infrastructure.
Fact #5: HA and DR in a cloud can be easy and highly cost-effective.
Second, you can realize hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings with a SANLess by eliminating the total cost of ownership (TCO) associated with a SAN. The savings in TCO include the SAN hardware acquisition costs; the power, cooling, and data center floor space costs; and the ongoing labor cost of specialized SAN administration.
If you are thinking about moving your important applications to the cloud, you need to consider how you will protect those applications from downtime and data loss. While traditional SAN-based clusters are not possible in these environments, SANLess clusters can provide an easy, cost-efficient alternative. These clusters not only provide high availability protection, but also enable significantly greater configuration flexibility and potentially dramatic savings in both licensing costs and SAN TCO.
2 Manyika, James and Michael Chui, et al, "Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy," McKinsey Global Institute (May 2013)
3Whittaker, Josh, "Amazon Web Services Suffers Outage, Takes Out Vine, Instagram, Others with it," ZDNet, (August 26, 2013)
4Mackay, Martin, "Downtime Report: Top Ten Outages in 2013," Business2Community.com, (December 2013)
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