Business continuity

Business continuity

Taking continuity to the mid-market

It has long been restricted to the enterprise but falling prices, advances in technology and an explosion in the number of options has now made business continuity a viable play in the mid-market. ARN recently brought together a number of major vendors and leading channel partners for a round table discussion on how to make the most of new opportunities and get potential deals over the line.

Brian Corrigan, ARN (BC): What is the state of awareness in the market today when you talk to customers about disaster recovery (DR)?

Craig Somerville, Somerville Group (CS): The awareness is there across all of our customers. Those who are investing in it largely have compliance requirements and that is the driver. We have always talked to our customers about DR and delivered various portions of it. DR is becoming more important but it is still an agenda item rather than a budget item.

Andrew Thomas, Thomas Duryea (AT): When we talk about DR with customers, the focus is always on taking it out of IT and into a business conversation. Over the last two years those conversations have changed. Bringing virtualisation to the table has allowed IT managers to achieve a lot more without needing much greater financial buy in from senior management.

John Lin, Ethan Group (JL): My customer base is largely finance and government so cooling is a major concern, because systems fail due to heat, and also security. These are topics you see increasingly in business continuity.

Steven Boi, Dimension Data (SB): Most of the spending is currently being done by enterprise customers but levels of awareness in the mid-market [500-1000 seats] are very high. There's a lot of discussion but that's not necessarily to say that a lot of investment is being made today. There are still the traditional issues for customers like justifying investment and getting the business to buy in but our opinion is that we are at a tipping point. In the next 6-12 months, conversations with customers suggest the investment will start to ramp up for a whole bunch of reasons. Virtualisation will make it a lot easier, as will the ability to host infrastructure at third-party facilities and greater availability of bandwidth. We are investing in gearing up to take advantage of that.

Perry Delaney, Fujitsu (PD): In a lot of ways DR is disappearing off the table. It is touched upon when you talk to banks about Basel II, or to government about compliance, but the reality is that DR can be solved with business continuity solutions as long as the customer is prepared to pay for bandwidth connection between the sites and things like that. The biggest thing about DR is resource planning. If something really does take out a city then the datacentre is probably going to be the least of your worries. There might be another datacentre in Brisbane but where are the people to do the work?

Scott Janey, Juniper Networks (SJ): Some of the key trends at the moment are at the application layer. For the past decade the trend has been about building the infrastructure out to the edge of the network and sticking infrastructure into the branches because it wasn't feasible to host centrally. Bandwidth and the way applications operated just didn't allow that to happen. Technologies such as application acceleration are allowing users to pull infrastructure in from the edge and host it centrally. That obviously allows a number of things to happen in terms of things like compliance and backup of business data if everything is in one or two places - as opposed to five main datacentres and lots of regional ones. Secure and unfettered access to applications plays hand-in-hand with virtualisation because it is all about enabling companies to do more with the investments they have made to date. The DR conversation becomes a sub-set of that because it is enabling business continuity.

David Blackman, VMware (DB): As long as I have been in the IT industry, DR and business continuity have been topics of discussion. Deploying some of the new technologies is bringing things to a point where it can be done cost-effectively. Customers are not necessarily throwing more budget at the problem; they are deploying existing budget into consolidation of servers and so on. There's $US140 billion of excess capacity in datacentres today because servers are under-utilised; in the next five years, 90 per cent will run out of power capacity at that rate. Server-huggers need to let go and be open to the idea that it's just a matter of time.

Corie Marinucci, HP (CM): In the mid-market you can ask 10 people what disaster recovery means and get 10 different answers. Most businesses today have some sort of disaster recovery implemented but that might only be deploying antivirus clients or building redundancy into server infrastructure. We will continue to see these variations until we improve awareness around business continuity by educating business owners about what it really is. Only then will we get them to allocate budget towards mitigating risk. The technology is only one component; it's also about policies, insurance, facilities.

Jason Shannon, CA (JS): My view is that DR has always been there. Whether by design or pure fluke, people have been doing DR ever since the first tape drive was produced. It comes down to how a business defines business continuity. The biggest change is accessibility to the technologies that allow organisations to build DR. If you went back just five years and talked about application failover from one site to another there was a massive investment required. That was only a requirement at the top end of town in banking and finance applications but today, thanks to technology enhancements and price reductions, it is more accessible to more customers. We are close to a tipping point although I'm not quite sure what's going to push it over the edge. There have been disasters around the world in recent years but it hasn't been enough to make people rush out and start building DR infrastructure to ensure their businesses continue to run. Customers are talking about business continuity a lot more now but they need to go about it selectively. Where disaster recovery or business continuity tends to go wrong is when an IT department tries to take a Big Bang approach. Today, the business still views it as an insurance policy and an insurance policy is only as good as when you actually use it.

Stuart Ellis, Ingram Micro (SE): I wouldn't say resellers are knocking us off the stands demanding business continuity but we do an enormous amount of server and storage business. Our job is to skill up and to react to what the market will accept in terms of what is being driven by the vendors. Virtualisation brings a whole new dynamic to the business continuity theme. Whether or not that turns into commercial prosperity for all of us will depend on how well we take the message out and how it is received. By and large, our architectural work is still harnessed to consolidation with blades, storage and so on. As virtualisation breaks out from being seen purely as a consolidation technology into business continuity and other areas of the datacentre, we have just got to react.

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