The 21st Century Data Center: Are Your Apps Mission Critical or Mission Trivial?



by Mark Welke, Senior Director Product Marketing


Determining how crucial a given application is to an organization depends greatly on the type of company it is and its business goals. Clearly, the relative importance of any one particular “app” varies from organization to organization.


For example, a small retailer might be okay with a brief outage in a collaboration suite such as Microsoft SharePoint. Whereas a large engineering firm that’s relying heavily on collaboration to complete major building projects on deadline might have zero tolerance.


At the same time, the types and volume of business applications also vary enormously among different organizations. Smaller businesses are likely to have fewer applications than large enterprises, and those applications are apt to be less complex. Large organizations with global operations will likely be the opposite, with a huge inventory of apps, some of which are highly complex.


Regardless of the applications scenario, it’s becoming more difficult for companies to differentiate between critical and trivial applications.


As research firm IDC pointed out in the recent white paper, “Enterprise Storage: The Foundation for Application and Enterprise Availability,” whether organizations deploy common database applications such as Oracle, SAP or SQL to support ongoing business transactions; email and messaging apps such as Microsoft Exchange; or general file-sharing or directory services, the distinction between critical and trivial applications continues to blur.


Categorizing applications as ‘must haves’ and ‘non-essentials’ today is a bad idea. Organizations need to treat all of their enterprise apps as if they need to be available all the time. That means more than ever they will be relying on highly resilient and available storage systems when they build a data center infrastructure to support their business applications. It’s more about careful planning and choices not necessarily more cost. Choosing a storage platform designed to meet your needs today with the ability to evolve as your business demands change.


To ensure the data center supports business applications in the face of changing demand, organizations need to ensure that the storage infrastructure scales linearly as more applications are deployed, and that it can deliver predictable performance as storage utilization increases.


Enterprises that have a shared, densely virtualized infrastructure must ensure that they’re meeting service levels for all of their business applications. Highly scalable platforms that host mixed workloads need to deliver predictable performance as specified on an application-by-application basis.


For any type of business application, continuous access to data is essential. The loss of data or loss of access to the data means downtime for most applications, and this can have a direct and negative impact on the business. As a result, the availability of primary as well as secondary storage systems that store, manage, and protect application data is vital.


Modern storage solutions that are designed to work well with specific applications can provide performance, availability, reliability and ease of use advantages to companies. According to IDC, storage vendors can tighten the relationship between applications and the storage solutions they use through integration with storage provisioning workflows, high availability software, monitoring and management instrumentation, and snapshot backup APIs.


For many organizations, the loss of business applications is costly. According to IDC, Microsoft Exchange, Oracle, SharePoint, SAP, business intelligence and certain industry-specific applications commonly top lists of companies’ most critical applications. And the firm’s survey data shows that the cost of downtime for these types of environments varies between $225,000 per hour for smaller businesses (1,000 to 4,999 employees) to $1.65 million per hour for large enterprises with more than 10,000 employees.


Regardless of size, industry and other factors, companies are realizing that when it comes to availability and reliability, they can’t be overly discriminating about business applications. Sure, some apps are more essential to business operations than others. But as the relative importance of a many different applications continues to increase, the main point is to deploy storage technology that will support all of these important platforms. Users expect these systems to be available all the time. More important, companies need these systems to be available so they can most effectively leverage all their important business applications.

Seems that NetApp has the opportunity to create and distribute "availability" report cards for the business application owners. This would have a "time value of data" calculation associated with it so they could track the true business value of their storage infrastructure.