Thursday 13 October 2011

My Kingdom for a Storage Hypervisor!... The Latest Woes of Research in Motion (RIM)

The old saying “for want of a nail a kingdom was lost” comes to mind while watching the latest woes of Research in Motion (RIM) and their consumer-focused Blackberry Internet Services (BIS), which apparently went down twice this week. Consumers in EMEA and South America were particularly hard hit, and the outages spread to North America. Early reports indicate that the first outage, at least, may have originated in the company’s data center in Slough, England—network carriers are denying any responsibility.

These outages come less than a month after the company’s stock hit a five-year low, due to investor worries about competition from Apple and Android phones and other concerns. Since consumers aren’t subject to the same lock-in pressures as corporations who have adopted the Blackberry Enterprise Server, this outage could well prompt more consumers to switch, especially with the introduction of the iPhone 4s.

Obviously, until RIM comes clean on the cause of these outages, we can only speculate about how they could have been prevented. But if preliminary reports of them being server-related are true, our customers’ experience suggests that a storage hypervisor might have helped. Storage is the foundation of server operations, so high-availability storage is a must-have for utterly-reliable operation. A storage hypervisor such as DataCore SANsymphony-V can create an easily-provisioned virtual pool of storage that is replicated both synchronously, for immediate, no-interruption failover, and, if desired, asynchronously, for disaster recovery. No change is required to the application servers, making a storage hypervisor an easy and cost-effective way to prevent outages.

For instance, the Ports of Auckland, through which passes 13% of New Zealand’s GDP and almost 40% of its container trade, depends on SANsympony-V to support cargo handling and logistics services on a 24x7, 365-day-a-year basis. As Lead Systems Engineer Craig Beetlestone notes, DataCore let the Ports of Auckland “design out the panic” so that while the port may run 24X7, IT doesn’t have to. “We can suffer a complete site failure and have the systems carry on running without any manual intervention, which is a huge benefit for us,” he says. “Our return to operation is literally only minutes.”

How many customers could RIM have retained if the recent outages had been only minutes? And, would nervous investors even have noticed? The costs of these outages will be nearly incalculable, but one thing seems sure: if a storage hypervisor could have prevented them, it would have paid for itself the moment it was turned on.

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