What if cloud computing could help enterprises avoid costly business disruptions? IBM and Marist College may soon make the "what if" a reality with a new cloud computing innovation that could keep voice and data communications services up and running in the wake of natural disasters.
When a major weather event occurs, such as last year's deadly and destructive Super Storm Sandy, data network operators may have a few hours or less to protect critical communications systems before disaster strikes. According to IBM, moving voice and data application and services to a safe location -- a process called re-provisioning -- typically takes days.
And therein lies the challenge for organizations in the path of a fast-moving storm. But this cloud computing disaster-prevention invention that IBM and Marist are testing could slash re-provisioning time from days to minutes to help enterprises and other organizations avoid costly network disruptions and outages. It is being demonstrated to clients and is expected to be commercially available in 2014.
Tapping into SDN
"A year ago, Sandy left millions of individuals and businesses in the Northeast without electronic communications for days, weeks and even months -- in some cases, data centers were literally under water," said IBM Distinguished Engineer Casimer DeCusatis. "With our invention, a data center operator could quickly and simply move data and applications to another data center outside the danger zone in minutes -- from a remote location using a tablet or smartphone."
IBM's cloud networking innovation leverages software-defined networking (SDN) technology. It's currently in testing at Marist's SDN Innovation Lab In New York. SDN enables data center operators to more efficiently control data flows within physical and virtual networks. The SDN advancement IBM and Marist are testing will enable an IT professional to remotely access and make changes to network resources via a wireless device and open-source network controller developed by Marist.
Marist's IBM-sponsored SDN Innovation Lab focuses on evaluating new technology, inventions and use cases related to SDN. The lab also supplements and supports IBM's cloud computing research efforts by evaluating new inventions and technologies, developing opportunities with clients to test inventions in real-world applications, and promoting education in the area of SDN to build a pipeline for students with the right skills to join the workforce after graduating.
We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his thoughts on the latest IBM innovation. He told us business continuity is one of the more undersold benefits of the cloud. As he sees it, with the cloud, SDN and other software virtualization trends, cloud providers should have the fluidity of resources to make faster re-provisioning possible.
"Cloud providers have the capability of moving resources around from data center to data center and we all have good visibility into weather," Kerravala said. "I've talked to a lot of cloud providers that are trying to figure out a way to get their recovery point objective down to zero. So if you were a customer subscribed to this service, as long as you have network connectivity -- and that's a big if sometimes -- you will never have downtime with respect to communications and business services."