On September 4, 2012, Robert Reeder, CIO of The Rezolve Group, joined the Peer Incite community to discuss designing infrastructure for continuous business uptime. The Rezolve Group provides a variety of services to families of college age students, including applications and services that help families complete their FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The company also provides a variety of services for colleges and universities. For The Rezolve Group, Reeder had evaluated both the cost of downtime and the cost of slow response time. He found, that at a minimum, they resulted in deferred revenue and a damaged reputation. In some cases, downtime led to lost revenue.
Three elements characterize the demands on the IT infrastructure at The Rezolve Group:
- The number of clients is rapidly growing, which drives increased transaction load on the systems.
- The number of software applications and services continues to expand.
- Six times per year, the company experiences transaction peak-load spikes of 10X typical days.
Many companies with growing and view occasional slow response and downtime from unpredictable demands as unavoidable conditions. Reeder determined that both were unacceptable and avoidable. And, while downtime has not yet been completely prevented, The Rezolve Group is well down the path.
Getting to its nearly-always-on current state required moving applications from physical to virtual servers, enabling dynamic movement of applications from one virtual server to another, implementing a storage area network, virtualizing the storage, and going through all applications to eliminate specific IP and server calls, replacing these with DNS lookups.
The next step in the journey was to move Rezolve's two data centers from an active-passive to an active-active architecture. This required that the staff re-architect the method for transferring data from one location to another. After evaluating a variety of methods, Reeder selected the Infineta Data Mobility Switch, since it could accelerate communication between the data centers without requiring application-specific modifications. By implementing Infineta, Reeder can minimize the degree to which data in the two data centers are out of synch. In addition, the Infineta DMS can scale dynamically to support continued transaction volume growth and variability. Without WAN acceleration, The Rezolve Group would at best have a warm disaster recovery site, and more likely a cold disaster recovery site, as the data would be too much out of synch.
When asked about future directions, Reeder discussed the possibility of geographic load balancing between the two data centers, but at this time, he is content with his active-active sites with rapid disaster failover capabilities. And for The Rezolve Group, the benefit has been enormous, as Reeder can continue to support his dynamic, growing environment with an extremely lean team.
Action Item: Organizations should listen to the valuable lesson that Robert Reeder learned from his coach in high school: "On game day, you play like you practiced." Organizations that start with an assumption that they will have downtime are guaranteed to have downtime. Organizations that start with a culture that says, "All applications must be available all the time," have a true shot at delivering continuous business uptime.