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March 22, 2012

Keeping afloat: How to ensure your business doesn’t sink under the weight of Big Data

Ratmir Timashev, CEO, Veeam Software, writes exclusively for CBR on the challenges on Big Data and why it is important to have processes in place to deal with the new trend

By Cbr Rolling Blog

As we move more of our lives online, it’s no wonder that businesses are extracting and creating more and more data each year.

Research from IDC found that 1.8 Zettabytes of day was generated in 2011 alone – enough to fill 115 billion 16GB iPads – and 0.6 Zettabytes more than was generated in 2010.

This figure is set to reach a total of 35 Zettabytes by 2020, not only through businesses generating data through the likes of loyalty cards, but also through them then using that data to analyse how many customers buy X product X times a month.

But the Big Data question is: are businesses properly equipped to ensure their IT infrastructure is kept afloat or are they at risk of sinking quicker than the Titanic?

Avoiding the ‘ship of fools’
Many enterprises today are built on a hub of data that passes across the wider IT infrastructure. With the sheer volume of data that is being generated it is critical to ensure this infrastructure is capable of scaling quickly to meet demand and here virtualisation has played a vital role by maximising the resources of physical servers at a relatively low cost.

Indeed, virtualisation gives businesses the ability to both scale server infrastructure upwards and downwards at the flick of a switch.

From a Big Data perspective this is hugely beneficial as the cost of running the infrastructure can be better controlled – imagine a shipper having to invest in new vessels to support a large cargo project and then finding the vessels are not needed after the project is finished.

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Enterprises need to better manage their IT infrastructure so that they are not making unnecessary investments that do their business more harm than good.

Implementing lifeboats
Minimal downtime is critical for any enterprise. This is all the more true for Big Data in the event of IT failure. However, most businesses do negate some of this challenge with the aid of ‘lifeboats’.

The process of server replication, unlike general backup, involves copying data to production standard hardware so that it can be brought quickly online in the event of an outage.

But CIO research from Vanson Bourne highlights some major barriers to server replication such as the high cost of hardware and replication software, and straightforward complexity.

However, the research does show how businesses that replicate as little as 26% of business critical servers estimate that the cost savings in the event of an outage to be an average of $417,391 per hour.

Nonetheless the remaining 74% of unreplicated server estate can cost a business an estimated $436,189 per hour.

Server replication is imperative for a business that generates vast amounts of business-critical data on a daily basis. It can act as a lifejacket when businesses face a systems failure by taking a snapshot of data in real-time so that even if a document is being updated constantly, none of the data is lost if the server unexpectedly fails.

However, with the use of virtualisation, businesses have the ability to replicate more of their business-critical data. With many virtual machines fitting on a single server and with each virtual machine existing only as a single disk file which can be backed up and recovered as a single image, it is much easier and more efficient to maintain a replicated environment which can be restored when needed.

Plain Sailing
As businesses increase their aspirations and goals for the future, they have the increasing need to generate more data to reach their goals. As such, businesses should be looking to adopt virtualisation and build this into their replication strategies.

With virtualisation, businesses will be able to have more scope over how much and what they can replicate: with virtual machines being squashed down to single disk files, businesses have the ability to replicate more machines in the same amount of space they’d usually replicate X amount of servers. As such, they can ensure that they have mitigated risk in more of their mission-critical server estate.

By adopting virtualisation and implementing management tools that enable them to replicate their virtual machines as single disk files, they can ensure their most critical data is constantly replicated and protected from infrastructure outages.

So instead of backing up on an hourly, daily or even weekly basis as is the current approach with physical and virtual IT, organisations can bring backup windows down so that they are near non-existent.

If businesses are looking to increase the load on their infrastructure, they also need to ensure they are increasing the data protection strategies they have in place, and virtualisation enables to do this easily, efficiently and at a lower cost.

Only then can enterprises continue to exploit vital data for analysis and expand their IT infrastructure without the fear of going under.

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