Smart Availability — The Financial Organization’s Key for Producing Business Value Through Digital Transformation

You need not be a technology guru to recognize that an outage or loss of service of any type or any length of time is simply not acceptable for today’s financial organization. Advance notices of planned system downtime, even during the wee hours of the morning, are less and less tolerated, especially given today’s global economy. What is the middle of the night in one geography are prime business hours in another.

FinTech Weekly
Aug 29, 2018 · 5 min read

by Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder, DH2i

Availability has been and continues to be at the top of the priority list of most IT professionals in financial organizations (and most other verticals, too). What financial organizations are beginning to realize, however, is that traditional options for high availability (HA) have limits, and that continuous operational efficiency should not monopolize an organization’s financial or personnel resources with endless testing and retesting of availability.

What would be better is an approach that would allow IT to dynamically move workloads across environments based on supporting the particular job(s) at hand. Accomplishing this goal necessitates an inherent flexibility, lack of downtime, and cost-effective approach. Basically, what’s required is Smart Availability. This builds on the fundamental principles of HA to deliver the aforementioned advantages — and even more.

Smart Availability is the future of HA and a critical element in the blueprint for producing business value through digital transformation.

Established High Availability (HA) Limits
Historically, the uninterrupted operation of system components and applications (i.e., high availability) has been accomplished in a variety of ways, and, has been accompanied by a variety of drawbacks.

One of the more well known drawbacks relates to failovers, in which system components are moved to those of a secondary system for scheduled downtime or failures. Clustering techniques are often leveraged with this tactic to make resources between systems — including servers, databases, processors and others — available to each another. Clustering is applicable to VMs and physical servers and can assist failovers to enable resilience for host, OS, and guest failures. A degree of redundancy is involved with failovers, which necessitates maintaining HA by involving backups of system components. Redundant networking and storage options may be leveraged with VMs to encompass system components or data copies.

The most pressing problem with many of these issues is cost, especially since there are several instances in which HA is unnecessary. These pertain to the actual use and importance of servers, as well as additional factors pertaining to what virtualization techniques are used. Low priority servers that don’t affect end users — such as those for testing — don’t need high availability, nor do those with recovery time objectives significantly greater than their restore times. Certain high availability solutions, such as some of the more comprehensive hypervisor-based platforms, are indiscriminate in this regard. Therefore, users may end up paying for high availability for components that don’t need them. Also, traditional high availability approaches involve constant testing that can drain human and financial resources. Even worse, neglecting this duty can result in unplanned downtime. Arbitrarily implementing redundancy for system components broadens organization’s data landscapes, resulting in more copies and potential weaknesses for security and data governance.

Realizing Digital Transformation
A number of these virtualization measures for HA are declining in relevance due to digital transformation. To truly transform the way your company does business with digitization technologies, you must implement them strategically. Traditional HA methodologies simply do not allow for the fine-grained flexibility required to optimize business value from digitization. Digital transformation means accounting for the varied computing environments of Windows and Linux, as well as other operating systems alongside containers. It means integrating a variety of legacy systems with newer ones expressly designed to manage the influx of big data and modern transactions systems.

Bottom line, it means that infrastructure must be aligned for business objectives in an adaptive way for evolving domain or customer needs. This flexibility is crucial to optimizing IT processes around end user goals. The actuality is most conventional methodologies for HA simply add to the infrastructural complexity of digital transformation, but don’t address the primary need of adapting to changing business requirements. In the wake of digital transformation, organizations need to streamline their various IT systems around domain objectives as opposed to doing the opposite, which simply decreases efficiency while increasing cost.

Smart Availability
Smart Availability is ideal for digital transformation because it enables workloads to always run on the best execution venue (BEV). It couples this advantage with the continuous operations of high availability, but takes a radically different approach in doing so. Smart Availability takes the central idea of high availability, to dedicate resources between systems to prevent downtime, and extends it to moving them for maximizing competitive advantage. It allows financial organizations to move workloads between operating systems, servers, and physical and virtual environments seamlessly with minimal downtime. The core of this approach is in the capacity of Smart Availability technologies to move workloads independent of one another, which is a fundamental drawback to traditional physical or virtualized approaches to workload management. By disengaging an array of system components (containers, application workloads, services and share files) without having to standardize on just one OS or database, these technologies transfer them to the environment which works best.

It’s vital to keep in mind that this decision is based on how best to achieve a defined business objective. Furthermore, these technologies provide this flexibility for individual instances to ensure virtually zero downtime and a smooth transition from one environment to another. The use cases for this immediate portability are plentiful. Financial organizations can use these methods for uninterrupted availability, integration with new or legacy systems, or the incorporation of added data resources. Most of all, they can do so with the assurance that the intelligent routing of the underlying technologies are selecting the BEV to execute workloads. Once architected correctly, the process takes no longer than a simple stop and start of an app or container.

The Best Choice
Smart Availability is essential for numerous of reasons. It creates the advantages of HA at a much lower cost and a higher degree of efficiency. Furthermore, it delivers the agility required to capitalize on digital transformation, enabling financial organizations to move systems, applications, and workloads where they can create the greatest end user benefit and competitive advantage. Smart Availability provides the flexibility needed to adapt to today’s business climate, which is changing faster than ever.

Don Boxley Jr is a DH2i co-founder and CEO. Prior to DH2i, Don held leadership roles at Hewlett-Packard where he was instrumental in sales and marketing strategies that resulted in significant revenue growth in the scale-out NAS business. Boxley spent more than 20 years in management positions for leading technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, CoCreate Software, Iomega, TapeWorks Data Storage Systems and Colorado Memory Systems. Boxley earned his MBA from the Johnson School of Management, Cornell University.

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