The main purpose of advanced network architectures is to get data from one place to another quickly and efficiently. But now that business productivity, not to mention profitability, is so intricately entwined with the enterprise, many IT executives are looking to their infrastructures to boost data availability as well.
Traditionally, the ideal "Tier IV" level of 99.995 percent availability has been pursued through backup systems, power redundancy and other disaster-recovery methods. But none of that will do much good if the basic infrastructure elements -- cables, switches, routers -- aren't up to snuff.
Naturally, many are turning to vendors for answers. ADC just came out with the TrueNet System, an integrated line of copper and fiber cable, patch panels, termination blocks and management systems designed to run from the data center to the desktop. The system is designed to accommodate at least three generations of active systems to maintain reliable connectivity to critical data.
Redundancy is still a key component of data availability, even for network architectures. But what do you do in the face of a catastrophic event in which much of your wide-area infrastructure is destroyed? Some are looking to the sky. A company called Spacenet Inc. offers the Hybrid Ultra Reliability program that uses wireline and VSAT connections to keep you in business. The system is targeted at retail and hotel users, offering 99.99 percent network availability with seamless failover connectivity in case of a primary network outage.
Availability is emerging as a central issue in the virtual world as well. Businesses such as SunGuard Availability Services target management of virtual environments by supporting VMware Infrastructure elements, such as the ESX Server and the VMware High Availability and Distributed Resource Scheduler tools. The company says outsourcing management responsibilities cuts infrastructure costs and frees IT personnel for other tasks.
Ensuring that data is always available also eliminates the need for time-consuming recovery efforts later. That's the theory behind FalconStor's Continuous Data Protection (CDP) virtual appliance. The CDP is a pre-configured system that automatically mirrors to a virtual server such as the VMware ESX. The data can be instantly recovered should the physical file be lost or corrupted. It also simplifies full disaster recovery testing because data can be recovered from a virtual machine without affecting physical network elements.
If backup and recovery operations are designed to minimize downtime, data-availability systems attempt to eliminate it altogether. Just make sure that once you've got the data you need, you have the means to get it where it needs to be.