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Jun 18 2015

Enhanced Business Continuity for SMEs: ETERNUS DX100 with Storage Cluster and Remote Replication

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In this era of data-driven business models, companies cannot afford to lose even the smallest bit of information or struggle with data availability. This rule applies to all firms, regardless of industry or size – "big pharma" is just as dependent on high-quality data as the retailer next door. Sadly, storage products for small and medium enterprises often lack a number of functions that would ensure they can compete with the big boys. Fujitsu's third-generation ETERNUS DX100 all-in-one storage system provides them.

"Prevent data loss", "ensure business continuity", "assure maximum data availability" – advice like that can be found in nearly every handbook for aspiring storage admins that was published in the past 15 or so years. Needless to say, the writers of the handbooks were right: there's no safer method to literally ruin a company than being unable to deliver business-critical information to the right person or application at the right time. The problem is that oftentimes the authors of such handbooks haven't been in the field for a while and therefore only have a faint idea of how hard it is to practice what they preach. Especially if you have to work with storage systems that don't provide the quality features it takes to support near-permanent availability of systems, data and applications and almost-immediate recovery after an unplanned outage.

The above paragraph may sound a little sarcastic, but nevertheless accurately describes what we have heard from our channel partners or at customer meetings in recent years. All too often, storage administrators take great pains to strictly follow the written rules and still have to concede they couldn't at the end of the day. That's why we decided to help put an end to such frustration and enhance our ETERNUS DX100 S3 storage systems for SMEs with a number of enterprise-class functions that make a storage admin's life easier – namely, the Storage Cluster Option and Remote Equivalent Copy (REC), a feature enabling remote replication.

Storage Cluster Option
In a modern data-driven business, accurate and timely delivery of mission- as well as business-critical information is an absolute must. To achieve this, enterprises of all sizes need to build disaster-proof IT environments – there's simply no other way to keep web stores trading, transaction databases fresh, and virtual machines up-and-running. Unfortunately, disaster-proof storage configurations are usually only available in conjunction with upper midrange and enterprise systems that are unnecessarily complex to manage and whose price tags typically exceed SME budget caps. Therefore smaller IT departments frequently try to get by without such configurations if possible, thus evading compliance standards and putting their company's reputation at risk. And to make matters worse, this kind of abstinence may even affect regular storage operations and result in troubles with planned downtimes or disruptive firmware upgrades.

By contrast, the FUJITSU Storage ETERNUS DX100 S3 offers a Storage Cluster Option that enables SMEs to implement their own business continuity plan based on the fundamentals Recovery Point Objective, Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Level Objective. With this feature activated, storage admins can build 'twins' of productive systems at secondary or remote sites and store copies of all critical data in both locations. In case of a malfunction caused by power outages etc., all hosts and applications will automatically and transparently switch to the 'twin' to obtain or store relevant data in real time. Thanks to this mechanism, users can continue working without disruption, and businesses are no longer faced with the risk of data or productivity loss – a classic win-win-situation for everyone. In addition, ETERNUS Storage Clusters also support a manual failover, which is needed to take productive systems offline in orderly fashion during planned power shutdowns, disaster recovery tests or firmware upgrades and greatly simplifies restores: all the admin has to do following such an event is to copy back data from the secondary to the primary system, re-route hosts and applications – and everyone's good to go again.

Disaster-proof configurations are particularly useful in Microsoft environments and for SMEs considering the realization of small-scale virtualization projects. An ETERNUS Storage Cluster consists of two ETERNUS DX100 S3 storage systems or higher, ETERNUS SF management software and networking switches. A basic setup also requires a management server that brings the cluster function to storage arrays and serves as a control center, and a monitoring server that 'watches over' the connected systems and triggers the automatic failover when necessary. Pre-defined configurations make it easy to set up such installations. More sophisticated installations – e.g. with a failover server located at a third site and REC activated between both storage pools – are also possible, but may require a different ETERNUS model.

Remote Equivalent Copy
On certain occasions, however, building a storage cluster may be too complicated or otherwise infeasible, but remote copies and DR capabilities are needed nonetheless. For these scenarios, the ETERNUS DX100 S3 supports Remote Equivalent Copy, or REC. REC is part of the Advanced Copy functions found in every ETERNUS system and enables IT departments to replicate data between storage systems in remote locations via a direct connection, and without the need for (extra) server resources. In this context, Equivalent Copy means that synchronous and asynchronous methods are used to create and maintain a mirrored copy of all volumes in the productive system at a secondary remote site. In case of an outage, critical data can simply be restored from the remote system using high-speed FC or FCIP connections. REC works with any ETERNUS DX array, so it's not necessary to keep an identical system at the remote location. Thus, it not only provides an elegant and affordable DR solution for SMEs, but also allows larger IT organizations to replicate data from an ETERNUS DX100 S3 at a branch office to more powerful systems at the main data center.

Conclusion
With additional functions for building storage cluster and remote replication scenarios, the ETERNUS DX100 S3 further blurs the lines between entry-level and enterprise-grade storage systems – much to the delight of SME customers as well as those with larger, distributed IT environments. And best of all, the FUJITSU Storage ETERNUS DX100 S3 includes these functions from the get-go, as integral parts of the system – solutions from other vendors typically require additional, costly virtualization instances or clustering software.

Stefan Bürger

 

About the Author:

Stefan Bürger

Head of Tape Automation at Fujitsu

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