How Did We Get Here?
A few years ago, friend of mine who runs the DBA group in a large automotive corporation commented, “I remember when I was in charge of a mainframe database. Everything was so much simpler. Security was centralized, the storage system was all right there, access was clear. Why did they have to go and split this into so many boxes, layers and systems?”
I was struck by his complaint mainly because it was so different from the then accepted norm. This was well before the current trends of server consolidation and cloud computing became self evident.
Has the decentralization pendulum swung its course and is simply swinging back?
Are these moves technology driven? Is now the right time, being that the internet is now light years ahead of where it was when Netscape and Larry Ellison wanted to replace the (Microsoft powered) PC with a network computer (NC – this acronym was widely used for a while).
Or are we simply seeing economics and control plays?
Old questions revisited
Let me take you back to the early 80’s. Our jungle had several species of mainframes fighting for supremacy (dothe names CDC, Burroughs, or Honywell ring a bell?). A slew of smaller creatures, minicomputers, were threatening the hegemony of mainframes. Moreover, even smaller computers than minis, microcomputers (to be later named “Personal Computers”), started to emerge.
The minicomputers of the 80’s were no slouches. They boasted operating systems like UNIX and VAX/VMS and were manufactured by giants such as DEC and IBM (even AT&T jumped in for a while). When a company needed to decide where to house its next application, on a brand new minicomputer or on the (perhaps upgraded) mainframe, how did it make that decision?
An economic definition of a minicomputer that was popular among department managers was: “A mini is a computer you can hide in your departmental budget.”
Rather than base the definition on technology parameters, the computer was defined in terms of the conflict between centralized control and local flexibility and power.
The technical advantages of centralization did not trump the promised local control and flexibility of minicomputers. They survived and flourished until PCs became more powerful and more useful. You can find many articles from around 1990 debating a similar battle to the one we’re seeing waged now. “What is better,” the argument ran, “a powerful minicomputer with central storage and control, or a LAN with multiple PCs?”
Similar arguments were used, but the old supply and demand curves won again. Low cost PC LANs with new operating systems (do the names LAN Manager and Netware ring a bell?) found acceptance among users who could not afford the more expensive minicomputers.
That demand goes up when the price goes down doesn’t always mean you buy two for one. It often means that new customers come in at a more affordable price point.
In parallel, companies with minicomputers also bought PC based LANs for other applications. We now had three types of species roaming the IT jungle – mainframes, minicomputers (who have later been renamed to Servers) and PCs as processing platforms.
Those were joined by a fourth species: networks. The networks did not have their own processing or storage but allowed access and data sharing. The plethora of network attached storage, and their high speed brethren appeared later. The new core idea that emerged from these networks was that of centralized storage that is not “owned” by any particular processing computer. A computer was dedicated to manage the access to storage and it was given a name: a file server, and a new species was born.
Remember the computer you could hide in your department’s budget? You were in full control. No need to wait in line for IT, no need to compete with other departments. Well, the same departments that got file servers, later got web servers, application servers, you-name-it servers. Decentralization reached its zenith.
It is somewhat ironic that virtualization technology was initially adopted to help cope with testing and deployment in decentralized environments. Virtual machines “simulated” the real world out there and QA teams were able to subject applications to real world conditions. Virtualization graduated from that environment into production and provided the force needed to swing the pendulum back towards centralization.
A second force, the high speed internet, joined to provide another centralization alternative – the Cloud. Whether used as a central platform offering virtual machines as “servers on demand” or as centralized application or storage services, the Cloud is a new alternative to be evaluated.
The Network Computer, after a brief disappearance seems to be emerging under a new name: netbook. As usual, it is not the network computing ideology but rather “mundane” elements such as form factor and price point that fuel the netbooks acceptance. Later, people will ask, why can’t we use it in the office?
Evolution: Mutation or Survival of the Fittest?
As any student of evolution knows, mutation and survival of the fittest are not mutually exclusive. They join together to determine the set of species that can survive in a given environment. A key factor is the pressure the environment is putting on the species (or lack thereof).
It seems prudent to realize that what we are seeing is not real centralization. Rather, it’s the emergence of new categories of computing alternatives. From the smart devices (such as iPhone) to the Cloud, with the traditional desktops, servers, clusters, virtualized servers, private networks and VPNs — are all in contention.
Who will win? Well, when mainframes become extinct, call me and I will venture a prediction.
Till then, the IT jungle seems to be hospitable enough to a variety of species that might continue to mutate and proliferate.
Green business is good business nowadays. Not only are there often cost savings associated with efforts toward sustainability and environmental responsibility, but the number of consumers who will intentionally choose a green company over competitors continues to increase.
One of the easiest steps you can take toward environmental responsibility in your workplace is to choose File Replication Pro.
You’ll cut down on paper, since you can keep your files synchronized and updated on all machines at once. You’ll cut down on the resources used to mail, fax, print out, copy, and otherwise move data around in space. And you’ll reduce energy usage compared with other data storage and backup solutions, because FRP uses the least resources for the task.
An IT guy for a major — in fact, the biggest — U.S. company’s corporate office was talking to us about backup.
FRP does a lot of things, as you can see in this blog, but the most common, most obvious use for file replication is remote backup.
“The guys on the floor know how important it is,” the IT guy assured us, “because we know how many man-hours are involved in cleaning up after problems without backup.”
We could see from his suddenly-haggard face that he did know this. We didn’t press for details of what had clearly been a traumatic experience.
“The guys who sign the checks don’t think about it,” he continued. “It isn’t always real to them, because they haven’t experienced it.”
This isn’t important only to giant multinational corporations. Government figures tell us that 20% of small to medium sized businesses will suffer a major loss of ciritical data in any five year period. And the same source reports that 93% of companies that lose their data center for 10 days or more will file for bankruptcy within a year.
The great thing about FRP is that it will do the necessary backup to keep data completely safe without additional effort on the part of either the IT department or management. Install it, configure it, and rest easy knowing that FRP will keep your data safe with the least possible use of resources.
Another great thing about FRP is that you can try it — in your workspace — for 45 days for free. No guesswork. If you’re the guy who signs the checks, you’ll know that it’ll work for you before you make the investment.
Your IT department will thank you.
As Cambridge’s Brendan Cully and Andrew Warfield put it, “Disaster-tolerant systems are complex and expensive constructions that have hitherto been the provision of only the very rich or the very scared.”
Banks can very properly be in both groups.
We’re not suggesting that banks are lacking in courage, but that they realize that even a brief problem with their information systems can have very severe consequences.
One of our clients is an IT provider specializing in banking. They serve hundreds of community banks, providing solutions for all their technology needs. FRP is used to replicate backups of systems across virtual machines for redundancy. Since FRP uses the least possible resources through bit-level encryption and bandwidth throttling, FRP makes this a practical approach.
Even for companies that are neither very rich or very scared.
Ship Equip provides all sorts of communication services to ocean going ships, from satellite TV for entertainment to broadband internet. Their clients range from cruise ships full of tourists to ocean going research vessels and oil prospecting ships which need data communications and file transfer for research. Merchant ships carrying dry and/or wet cargoes such as tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers, cargo and container ships, too.
Ship Equip provides global coverage by using lots of different locations, many of them overlapping, making continuous communication possible. Switching between spots is simple and usually done on 24 hour notice or less. With both C-band and Ku-band coverage, Ship Equip is able to keep ships in communication no matter where they’re sailing.
They use FRP to sync data files and research information from ship to shore and back again using satellite broadband while at sea in the same way a land based business with branch offices might use FRP. Because of the amazing speed and recover-ability of FRP, it can be used in less than ideal conditions such as sometimes spotty satellite access depending on location or severe weather high seas.
FRP’s lean use of broadband makes a difference here, too.
If FRP can do this for Ship Equip, just think what it can do for your office!
As an addition to their line of services to customers, A UK graphics solution provider uses FRP to do cross platform disaster recovery.
As is so often the case for graphics work, the clients often use Macs rather than PCs. Disaster recovery plans don’t always include options for Macs.
With FRP, the company can replicate their critical data to Windows machines in leased rackspace servers at a data center.
This makes it possible for the company to offer disaster recovery at a low cost to small and medium businesses.
Not only are they offering an essential service to clients who otherwise might do without, they’re also able to smooth the oscillations in their cash flow that often affect their industry.
Good for the reseller, good for the clients, and disaster is averted.
Realtors use an MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, which gives each listed home a unique number. Some Realtors may use a number of different Multiple Listing Services. Through the power of the internet, each Realtor has access to millions of listings.
A very large MLS software and hosting provider hosts over 100 MLS systems worldwide each of which has up to 8,000 member offices. With millions of real estate pictures and listings on the company servers, they have been using RSYNC to backup offsite.
However, with over 300,000 directories to be traversed RSYNC just can’t keep up. In trial runs FRP demonstrated serious speed gains over RSYNC in the initial replication and a huge difference in followup replications keeping the files up to date.
With bit-level replication, FRP only replicates the data that has changed, rather than copying entire files over and over. The difference in efficiency is striking. This means that real-time replication can be achieved without excessive use of resources.
The MLS software and hosting provider — and all their end-users — can get the full benefit of the MLS systems now, thanks to FRP.
See what FRP can do for you — download your free trial today.
A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that both IT and management decision makers believe that availability of information is of high importance to their businesses — 78% of the businesspeople and 83% of the tech guys took that position.
The gap between IT and non-tech businesspeople widened, though, when they were asked whether disaster recovery and continuity were important. 74% of the IT crowd found that important. Only 49% of business executives agreed.
Think about that for a moment. Less than half of the business executives thought it would be important to be able to recover their data in case of a disaster. Not even half of them — notwithstanding the increasing number of natural disasters we’re experiencing — felt that continuity of their data was important.
We’re even more surprised that a quarter of the IT executives thought it wasn’t that important.
No one wants outages. No one wants the loss of consumer confidence that comes from lost data. No one wants the effects on productivity that downtime brings.
Business leaders still may not realize that a failure to plan for disaster is itself a recipe for disaster when it comes to data. They may not realize, either, how simple a solution can be. FRP will keep your data safe, with minimal use of resources, including staff time. Business executives may not know about FRP.
We’re not sure what the IT executives’ excuse might be.
Imagine a company providing business communication services, with offices in 50 cities on four continents.
Certainly, they’re translating documents in a variety of languages. But they also provide a full range of language and business services including translation,interpretation, website globalization, subtitling, voiceovers, multicultural marketing, diversity and inclusion consulting, deposition services, and litigation support to multinational companies.
A large volume of text documents and voice files have to be transferred every day among the offices, and to and from hundreds of clients. The recipients may not be able to understand the language of the document — and therefore can’t be expected to catch file transfer errors.
This is a situation in which you have to be able to trust your file transfer solution.
Fortunately, FRP is absolutely trustworthy. This company is able to use FRP to transfer documents of all kinds with complete confidence.
FRP really does alleviate suffering. We can even prevent it.
According to government reports, 93% of companies which lost their data center for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately.
Secure offsite backup for your data can certainly prevent that kind of suffering. That’s why some companies that make file replication software illustrate their ads with guys in suits mourning over their servers. You can see the misery, and you can just guess the reason.
Not FRP. We really aren’t just about disaster insurance. That may be why you try us out. But once you have FRP, you’ll find that there are many, many ways FRP improves your working life. Greater productivity, less stress, and increased convenience are the reasons to choose FRP.
Life isn’t just a series of disasters.