Outages, Yes! But with NonStop, No!

In times when it seems defining what’s coming next has become a sport, it’s even more important to stress what NonStop means for uptime whether total outages or simply brownouts!

Stepping into the garage and checking on our hybrid powered vehicle, it’s always good to see that it is fully charged and ready to go. Margo and I are now onto our second plug-in hybrid vehicle and it’s encouraging to see the range of our second generation extended beyond the original 12 to 15 miles to where it’s now more than 35 miles. Doesn’t sound like a lot but in the world of plug in hybrids, relying solely on electric power isn’t what it’s all about – electric power augments a traditional combustion engine thereby considerably increasing the savings in fuel costs. We have enjoyed fuel consumption dropping to where on one occasion we eked out almost 80 mpg on a trip from Windsor, CO, to Dallas, TX.

Seeing the vehicle fully charged is a not too subtle reminder that I too am fully charged. I’ve never been one for the glass half empty expectation. For me, it’s always been about expectations of more to follow. By this I mean, as a community NonStop users and vendors have known for a very long time that the NonStop systems provide an unfair advantage to those who implement mission critical applications on NonStop. Unfair in the sense that there’s really nothing more to do to ensure maximum uptime whether planned as in an upgrade to a key piece of software or even the hardware itself, or unplanned. NonStop, doesn’t stop!

There has been a lot written about the “New Normal” or perhaps the “New Abnormal.” There’s even an article I have read that discussed the “Not! Normal.” At this time I have written posts and articles on all three of these declarations so it’s not something I want to revisit at this time. However, it is worth noting that in continuing to qualify normal, it is with considerable regret that there’s little chance that we will see a return to the old ways, whatever we want to call normalcy, we all enjoyed just a year or so ago. Whatever we will face in the near future will be very different from those times now receding quickly from view and becoming nothing more than a page in our history books.

It is worth noting too that business has become even more sensitive to outages than in the past and that there is just as much written about brownouts as there is about outages. In this context, in case you missed the inclusion of brownouts in assessing true availability, it is a reference to the inability of the system and the application to adequately handle unanticipated transaction spikes. SLAs are typically written around an expectation of a certain range of acceptable response times but when subject to these unexpected spikes, response times’ blow out to where for all sakes and purposes, the system and application look like they are no longer working.

All of which is to say that these systems cannot scale-out without the user taking a hit. Scalability is once again on the radar screen for most companies and the inability of their systems to scale-out has suddenly become an issue. If you cannot scale out to handle spikes then you degrade your recorded levels of uptime. A response time of thirty minutes truly is akin to a system outage and is beginning to be reported as such. And it’s being recorded as part of the metrics included in modelling of unplanned downtime.

It is not every day that I reference IBM funded research in a post for the NonStop community. In this case, though, it seems appropriate. IBM funded Forrester to survey business to better understand “The Real Costs of Planned and Unplanned Downtime.” It was commissioned in August 2019 so it’s a pretty accurate reflection of what is now happening. The tag line that followed this heading simple read, “accelerate recovery with new technologies.” No reference to fault tolerance or even continuous availability as we know it within the NonStop community, but all the same, it’s not a bad attempt to highlight what ails business today and for a quick summary of key findings, the chart Forrester provides is worth taking a look at: 

How about that opening at the top of the key findings? Planned and unplanned downtime is common within organizations. Really? Outages just have to be accepted as part of the new normal for data center operations. Surely not! Now there’s an observation that many in the NonStop community will definitely treat as the New Abnormal. With NonStop it’s as if the rest of the world, IBM included, still hasn’t read the memo – when it comes to running mission critical applications, choosing a fault tolerant system like NonStop means you don’t have to be a light sleeper always having one ear listening for that dreaded call-out phone call.

But then again, this isn’t normal at all for the NonStop community and it’s worth stressing. NonStop is more than just fancy redundant hardware. It is the collection of hardware, software stack and the application all working together that ensures NonStop alone satisfies the IDC AL4 criteria whereby there is no observable outage for any user. None! NonStop truly does deliver zero downtime and just as importantly, with its ability to scale-out to better handle unexpected transaction volume spikes, imperceptible brownouts. So, when Forrester asked the question, “If your organization experienced close to zero downtimes, what technology benefits would you expect to see?” there were some interesting responses.

“When asked about the benefits of experiencing close to zero downtime, 50% of IT professionals indicate that it would allow them to run maintenance more frequently, addressing a top challenge for planned downtime. Forty-six percent of IT leaders indicate that less downtime would mean faster data recovery, addressing one of the top challenges of unplanned downtime.” 

With no indication by Forrester that this was all doable today with NonStop, it is so humbling for the NonStop community that such big percentages of those being interviewed were already dealing with serious issues arising from their inability to deploy systems and applications without facing some serious downtime. Not being able to run maintenance online while all else continues to be running is definitely not the normal for NonStop customers.

As Forrester concludes its findings it provides in its summary something NonStop users are all familiar with even as it isn’t something that concerns them. However, it’s something they need to be much more aware of from the standpoint that it’s a big item to champion within their IT organizations. Forrester’s findings? How about:

“Unplanned downtime is unpredictable and it creates extra costs for organizations. From a technical perspective, IT leaders are concerned with the data recovery process during unplanned downtime. From a business perspective, IT leaders are concerned with the overall loss of revenue caused by unplanned downtime.”

Phew! As a community, NonStop users certainly are dodging a lot of bullets here. We cannot stress this enough. There’s no better solution for accelerating recovery than NonStop and why? It’s fault tolerant through and through and it’s happening transparently to the end user. They see nothing and when they see nothing, there’s none of those dreaded nightly calls to senior IT management. There is always the consideration of business continuity planning involving secondary and even tertiary sites but that too is so much easier to accomplish with NonStop with the assistance of knowledgeable partners with a plethora of product offerings.

As Tim Dunne, NTI’s Senior Vice President Worldwide Sales, said in NTI’s article in the May, 2020 issue of NonStop Insider, NTI watching what’s changed: the need for social distancing and what hasn’t changed: the need for business continuity -

“The focus on Business Continuity remains as strong as ever and for good reason; no business wants to be offline as the world of business becomes a fully online business. As an industry we can debate whether it’s happening in the data center, out on the edge, or even whether it is driving business to the cloud, but the bottom line remains.

“It’s all about maximum uptime and this calls for an all-inclusive approach to ensuring there are more than one data center, cloud or service provider on the ready and fully capable of taking over the operations should anything happen.”

NonStop taking outages? I don’t think so! NonStop users needing to consider ways to accelerate recovery? Again, no sir! It’s all in hand. And with this I just have to add one final note – I am fully charged-up on this topic and it’s one we all need to champion whenever we are given the opportunity to speak up. And make sure we conclude every conversation with NonStop, a resounding No! to outages, planned or unplanned. 


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