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Mission critical computing for the masses

Everyone benefits from networking advances

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The provisioning highly-available IT service, once the sole province of large enterprises, is today available to everyone.

Consider the ftServer line from Stratus. These servers contain numerous redundant components, are equipped with dozens of sensors and are shipped with “uptime assurance” software monitored by Stratus as a managed service.

Stratus claims 99.999+ per cent uptime and has entry-level servers within financial reach of most small businesses.

A whole new board game

For the do-it-yourself whitebox crowd, advances in hardware resiliency and commoditisation over the past decade have been game changing.

Chenbro, long a whitebox favourite, offers chassis with various redundant and hot swappable components.

Motherboards with integrated hardware Raid and mature lights-out management systems are available from numerous vendors. Intel, Tyan and Supermicro are well respected whitebox-friendly OEMs.

Networking advances have trickled down to common availability. The need for outdated protocols such as RIP has almost disappeared, replaced instead by much more resilient successors such as OSPF, EIGRP and BGP.

Life’s a switch

Switching features such as port trunking, spanning tree and VLANs are now tick-box options available on commodity switches from companies such as D-Link.

Support for multipath storage (MPIO) is everywhere. Although MPIO disks are still the realm of truly enterprise fibre-channel drives, network-based storage technologies such as iSCSI have brought storage redundancy and reliability to everyone.

In a great example of commoditisation, Microsoft has joined in, offering a very mature and proven software iSCSI target free to anyone with Server 2008 R2.

One download launched iSCSI from the storage appliance and deep Linux voodoo market into mainstream small-business availability overnight.

Getting a cluster running was once a black art; today, it is simple. Combine Server 2008 R2’s Failover Clustering with the iSCSI Target and Hyper-V. Your collection of Wintel machines have become a point-and-click cluster of highly available servers.

Disaster-aware software is another popular trend. It is increasingly common to find applications coded to deal with common hardware or network faults.

No omelette please

Modern hybrid cloud applications are environmentally aware , operating in different modes depending on network conditions and synchronising data between instances when connectivity is restored.

Worried about putting all your mission-critical eggs in one cloudy basket? Companies like Rightscale have you covered, offering portability across multiple clouds.

Cloud brokerage – creating a “cloud of clouds” – is becoming a viable way for organisations of all sizes to skip in-house IT all together.

On offer are the long-promised benefits of cloud computing with none of the very public risks.

The past decade brought high availability and fault tolerance to Wintel and Lintel computers near you. The result is an expanded skills base with real-world experience in mission-critical computing.

The next decade belongs to the cloud. From companies the size of Intel to your humble local sysadmin, the skills, tools, hardware and experience to manage mission-critical cloud services are everywhere.

More importantly, they are becoming highly available to all budgets. ®

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