Availability the New Beachhead in Service Delivery

Veeam Pty Ltd
By Nathan Steiner, Head of Systems Engineering ANZ, Veeam Software
Monday, 03 October, 2016

As the Census failure showed, IT leaders need to critically assess whether they can meet SLAs and the expectations of internal and external stakeholders alike.

The 2016 Census may prove to have been a watershed moment in how Australian government departments come to view the availability of public-facing digital services. Within a short period of time on that night in August, those trying to complete the census online were frustrated by error messages. It took only moments for social media to come alive with the hashtag #censusfail as participants vented their frustrations publicly and in real-time. The failure pose many questions for the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as its partners tasked with maintaining availability of the census website.

While lots of analysis and finger-pointing has already taken place in the aftermath of the chaos, the situation has also thrust into the spotlight the issue of robust service availability planning and recovery in case of a downtime event.

Trust underpins all online transactions. Technologies such as SSL help maintain confidence that data won’t be stolen while accessing applications via a browser or mobile app, and there’s an expectation that when a user enters a .gov.au URL into a browser that services will be available securely and promptly. Members of the public trust that when they visit a website or other government-run digital service, it will be available and will ‘just work’.

When a system goes down or becomes otherwise unavailable — be it a critical internal system or public-facing infrastructure — there’s a risk of a negative reputational impact. In a business context, this can translate into lost sales as customers turn to competitors. In the case of not-for-profit organisations or government departments, the impact of downtime is similarly reputational and economic.

Research conducted by IDC suggests that the median cost for an organisation experiencing application downtime exceeds US$100,000 per hour. However, for some large, complex organisations that rely solely on providing services online, the cost can be substantially higher. And that’s not taking into account the reputational damage — or in the case of government departments, the cost of official enquiries and implementation of recommendations if required.

When — not if — a downtime event takes place, it’s critical that businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government departments are able to restore services quickly and maintain data integrity. As more and more services move into the digital space, application availability is becoming the raison d’être for modern IT departments, within both the public and private sectors.

IDC has conducted interviews with senior IT leaders in more than 1,200 organisations deploying Veeam’s availability solutions across the globe. According to the research, IT departments are choosing to prioritise technology investments that help ensure systems avoid downtime and maximise availability.

Availability can make or break IT careers

Cost is a factor when evaluating availability solutions, but it is less important than ensuring delivery of services and minimising disruption to operations. Senior IT leaders may have some flexibility in their budgets to deliver against organisational objectives, but absolutely must meet availability targets in order to be successful.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for modern IT departments to be measured on recovery point and time objectives (RTPO), giving them less than four hours to restore services in case of downtime. These service level agreements (SLAs) will become more critical in coming years, such is the importance organisations place on application availability.

As IT systems become more complex and more organisations continue to move towards virtualised environments, it’s critical that IT systems are designed from the ground up to align virtual infrastructure with data protection and recovery solutions to meet RTPO requirements and ensure that potential downtime is minimised. It’s no secret that virtualisation, while not yet at saturation point, is all but ubiquitous. According to IDC’s research, nearly 70% of x86 systems ran in a virtualised environment in 2014 (with that figure expected to slowly climb to exceed 71% by 2018). A commonly held belief is that organisations adopt x86 virtualisation primarily for cost reduction, but IDC’s data shows that speed of recovery was at the top of the list of benefits of shifting to a virtualised environment.

The IDC study analysed data collected directly from Veeam’s customer base and looked into the relationship between VMware ESXi hypervisor deployments and Veeam’s suite of availability solutions. It found that the main drivers of adoption of virtualisation were to simplify operations, help meet availability SLAs and the opportunity to align and integrate infrastructure with data protection capabilities.

Perhaps more importantly, the survey pointed to reduced recovery time when relying on Veeam’s availability solutions in conjunction with VMware’s hypervisor. In fact, recovery time was more than halved compared to environments that just rely on VMware for data protection and recovery, helping exceed organisational RTO (recovery time objective) requirements.

Benefits of Veeam’s availability solutions are even more pronounced when it comes to RPO (recovery point objective) measurement, with businesses being able to point to a ten-fold improvement when using Veeam instead of relying on VMware alone. This symbiotic relationship between software suites helps exceed SLAs across the board and ensures that trust can be maintained between application users and the organisation making services available.

As organisations ratchet up the pressure on IT departments to ensure application availability — both for critical systems and public-facing infrastructure — IT leaders need to critically assess whether they can meet SLAs and expectations of internal and external stakeholders alike. Simplifying IT infrastructure and focusing on availability needs to be a key priority for any modern organisation. After all, your reputation might just depend on it.

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