Heading Off Failures

Veritas, EMC extend disaster recovery to business continuity.

While maintaining base-line server failover and recovery practices, some enterprises are evolving their disaster recovery efforts to encompass preventive measures around the way they deploy and run software.

Responding to the trend, Veritas Software Corp. and EMC Corp. are each readying offerings that extend disaster recovery to the more encompassing realm of business continuity.

Veritas this week will unveil Application Saver, a monitoring and analysis application that will complement the Mountain View, Calif., companys i3 application performance management software. Application Saver aims to improve server utilization and prevent—weeks or months in advance—common intermittent software faults, such as slow memory leaks, improper thread management and buffer overwrites, from becoming major problems, officials said.

The new software, due this week, ensures application reliability by taking line-by-line snapshots of execution histories through its Forensics mode to construct a sequence of events that could lead to failures. It monitors applications on heterogeneous platforms and prompts administrators to apply on-the-fly fixes.

A Forensics Viewer allows users to walk through a Windows, AIX, Linux or Solaris applications usage history via a GUI to uncover trend information and recurring problems that have not been corrected. In addition, the GUI enables users to examine application code written in C, C++ and Java.

Keeping IT in business

Analysts update ITs business continuity priorities

  • Shift business continuity focus to software, rather than adding more hardware for failover
  • Allocate risk assessment tasks to development and operations organizations
  • Identify and remove single points of failure in software
  • Redesign applications to make them more resilient
  • Build in processes for graceful degradation of service so that failures in an environment with fragile, tightly integrated applications do not cascade through the entire system
  • Disperse work to personnel in different geographies
  • Improve management of IT configurations, software releases and changes to the IT infrastructure, particularly in distributed computing environmentsSource: Gartner Inc.

Application Saver enabled beta tester Michael Roberts, lead server developer at online gaming company Artifact Entertainment Inc., to track memory usage within a large, distributed application. Thats a pivotal capability in ensuring that Artifacts business continues to run, Roberts said.

"Weve got an essential problem in the fact that our code is so CPU-intensive, if you try to apply any [software] to it to detect errors, it generally slows the execution of the server down to the point it no longer functions," said Roberts, in Mesa, Ariz. "Were very timing-sensitive because we have to simulate to a certain degree what someone would normally experience in reality."

Roberts said other application monitoring suites used for similar purposes caused failures when logging on to the application or rebooting a server due to timing inconsistencies.

Veritas plans to augment Application Saver to automate the recovery of failed applications and integrate that functionality with its cluster technology. This will allow notification of administrators when a failed application is ready to return to service and should be recycled for more organized recovery.

Sources said Veritas will soon announce a major upgrade to and integration of its clustering and replication technologies to enable customers to better plan and prepare for disaster recovery and data protection scenarios. Veritas officials declined to comment.

An application-centric approach to business continuity is resonating with customers shifting needs, said William Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

"This is business continuity not in the traditional sense where you have disaster recovery and failover replication like an EMC model; this is true business continuity," said Hurley, in Milford, Mass. "If a server goes down, an application goes down, some type of query or script hangs in the machine—this new Veritas Application Saver visualization of the application will reappropriate and redirect."

Even EMC, which has long been a proponent of setting up redundant storage devices for failover, is beginning to take seriously the implications of software management for business continuity.

The Hopkinton, Mass., company last week rolled out an upgrade to its NetWin200 hardware and software bundle for business continuity. The offering adds the RepliStor replication software from Legato Software, which EMC acquired late last year. The bundle also includes Microsoft Corp.s Windows Storage Server 2003 management software running on an EMC Clariion CX network-attached storage server.

The goal of the package is to lessen downtime risk and potential outages by consolidating customers disparate storage systems at remote facilities onto EMCs and Microsofts bundled storage wares, then providing automated remote backup to a centralized data center location through Legatos replication software.

EMC could be hitching a ride into better software availability management with its inclusion of Windows Storage Server 2003, analysts said.