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If at first you don’t succeed: fail, fail and fail again...

Jim Preen of Crisis Solutions wonders if the best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly.

AT&T’s findings in their annual business continuity survey make for interesting reading and while the report is inevitably US based, it will ring bells with a European audience.
One area of the survey that jumps out at the reader and could stand a second glance is cloud computing.

When asked what new technologies their company would be investing in during 2011 nearly a third of respondents said that cloud computing was on the list and over half said that they already use or are considering using cloud services. For these purposes, cloud computing most often provides data storage (42 percent), application servers (37 percent) and web servers (30 percent) for disaster recovery use.

Cloud computing is a game changer and a technology that’s favoured by many as it appears to offer a robust and cost effective IT solution. But can it be trusted?

Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon, a company that knows a thing or two about cloud computing, suggests the only way to test the true robustness of a system is to ‘pull the plug.’ In other words the key is to design an IT infrastructure for the possibility of failure.
Netflix, a cloud infrastructure user, who work with Amazon, has created a process called ‘Chaos Monkey’. This randomly knocks out services to make sure the overall system continues to operate.

Netflix cite this example on their website: If the Amazon recommendation system is down Netflix will display popular titles instead of personalised picks. The quality of the response is degraded, but at least there is a response.

Netflix’s John Ciancutti says: “If we aren't constantly testing our ability to succeed despite failure, then it isn't likely to work when it matters most - in the event of an unexpected outage.”

He goes on: “The best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly.”

Implementing failure-resilient systems isn’t easy, but Michael Crandell, CEO of Right Scale, says: “The secret sauce really comes in how your architecture is operated. What parts of the system can respond automatically to failure, what parts can respond nearly automatically, and which not at all?”

He goes on: “Achieving (the correct) level of automation requires your system design and configuration to be easily replicable. It’s this automation that gives organizations the life-saving flexibility they need when crisis strikes.”

Crandell, whose company offers cloud computing services, believes that with the right architecture, cloud-based services can provide unparalleled disaster protection and business continuity. Others urge caution.

Although cloud computing isn’t new, its full capabilities are yet to be realised. It needs to be tested and observed. SMEs are rushing to use cloud technology largely because it works and it’s cheap. But companies shouldn’t rely on it exclusively.

Cloud computing is in its infancy – don’t bet your entire company on technology that has yet to reach maturity. That would be childish.

Author: Jim Preen, Crisis Solutions.

•Date: 7th June 2011 • Region: UK •Type: Article • Topic: Cloud computing

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