Probably one of the most important tasks prior to even making a major hardware or software purchase is laying out the architecture for a given application designated as “mission-critical.” A program running on a server which is classified as mission-critical will usually have a recovery time objective (RTO) of about 2-3 hours or possibly even less. That is, the application must be restored after a disaster (or disruption) in order to avoid unacceptable consequences associated with a break in business continuity. To truly gauge the impact of a down critical application, it is recommended to run an appropriate risk assessment. A business impact analysis (BIA) should be completed where an RTO is established. Since data centers and their respective businesses are usually unique environments, determining the RTO will be completely dependent on that specific company.
During the planning phase a team will begin by identifying and characterizing an application and its workload. This will be where both IT engineering as well as business management take the time to understand exactly what constitutes a mission-critical application.
They will also need to answer a few questions:
- What are the goals of the application?
- Which resources are allocated to application?
- How much resources does the application require and how much will it require 6, 12, 24 months from now?
- Can we allocate more resources to accommodate peak times and temporary surges in demand?
It’s important to note that not every application is a can be virtualized. Working with the vendor or developers of that program will help answer these questions. When working with applications designated as critical, engineers must take assumptions and guessing out of the equation.
Once the engineering and business team have successfully outlined the mission-critical application, the next important step is to determine the means of delivery.
Utilizing the right hardware (and software)
Engineers will need to have a very clear understanding of the application in order to facilitate its delivery. There will be several key technological elements that have to be evaluated and researched prior to launching a critical application.
Despite the remarkable growth of virtualization technology, many engineers are still hesitant to launch applications requiring high uptime. Their fears range from VM security to I/O utilization. Although their concerns are valid, research will still need to be done as every application is unique. There are three things playing in favor of rolling out an application in a virtualized environment:
- Over the past 3 years virtualization technology has found its way into very many IT environments. Whether used in a live or a test environment, almost all new and veteran engineers have had the chance to toy around with some type of hypervisor. This should make a typical engineer much more comfortable in deploying their program on a virtual platform.
- Oracle, Microsoft, and other software vendors have taken several steps in creating virtualization-friendly applications. In fact, many databases are now optimized to run in a virtual environment. Working with a large Exchange or SQL infrastructure is no longer a concern as these databases are capable of operating very well on a virtual platform. VM failover and redundancy has also boosted confidence in utilizing this technology. A critical application running on a dedicated VM can be mirrored to a hot-site located many miles away. In the event of a failure, this application can seamlessly resume operation on a server located at a recovery site.
- Physical server-class hardware now comes virtualization-ready. In fact, processor manufactures take pride in showing metrics on how well VMs perform in either a hosted or a bare-metal environment. Note: It’s highly recommended to deploy mission-critical applications on a bare-metal hypervisors as it will eliminate a hosted operating system point of failure. I/O has become so streamlined that many VMs operate only a percentage or less poor than if they were installed directly onto a physical server.
- For firms looking to launch a mission-critical application and see reduce their hardware footprint, lower data center costs and improve ROI, virtualization will be a good road to take. A company can have multiple applications running on a physical server as VMs instead of using individual hardware for each application.
It’s important to verify with the vendor if a critical application can perform well in a virtualized environment. Many times a thorough testing phase will need to be conducted to see if a program can run in a virtual state or if it requires its own dedication hardware.
Choosing the right hardware
Since each environment is unique, selecting the proper hardware will be dependent on the requirements of the application and the business. Some engineers prefer a blade environment while others swear by rack-mounted servers. If an environment is considering virtualization for its critical applications, a blade environment can be a good investment. By using blades an infrastructure could see improvements in speed and performance. When making the decision, it’s important to analyze the overall flexibility of the IT environment , storage utilization, migration and consolidation initiatives, and networking functionality.
Is your data center ready?
A big part of the conversation revolves around legacy gear and an environment that’s “good enough.” When deploying critical applications, you absolutely need to know what you have in your environment, how well its running, and whether it needs to be replaced. Working with legacy gear not only potentially deprecates user performance – it can also negatively impact the business. Don’t let legacy gear hold you back from moving into cloud and creating new types of business initiatives.
With that in mind – conducting an install base lifecycle assessment will give you a direct look into your assets, their licenses, respective, age, and where you can deploy optimization. This is something MTM does very well – and it’s something we can help you out with. Reach out to an MTM rep to conduct an install base assessment to better understand your critical ecosystem.