Two Clicks and You're Out: Managing ERP Disaster Planning

Until recently, if a system went down due to natural or man-made disaster, the business could work around the failed system until it was up and running, which usually took up to a week. However, with the growth of integrated ERP systems that affect every corner of the business, a system failure could be disastrous.

With this in mind, IBM Global Services announced a suite of continuity services for planning and reviving mission-critical ERP applications. These new services help provide continuity for ERP applications across multi-vendor, networked data center environments.

IBM Global Services' Business Recovery Services (BRS) unit plans to deliver its new ERP continuity services at intervals over the coming year, with the first services for SAP's R/3 system available immediately. One customer, Phillips Petroleum Company, has been working with IBM to develop its ERP continuity plan for its worldwide SAP implementation. "Our SAP-supported business processes are highly integrated and therefore interdependent," says Marshall McGraw, manager of IT architecture and strategy for Phillips Petroleum. The company has been working with IBM BRS to develop a plan that will minimize the impact of disruptions to the SAP system.

IBM is also planning to roll out services and support for J.D. Edwards sites in the near future, says Stephen Higgins, marketing director for IBM BRS. "J.D. Edwards is a key focus area for us. First, we want to come out with a proof point, so we can demonstrate that the solution is ready to go, with live customers behind the announcement."

Work around the J.D. Edwards solution will center on the AS/400 disaster recovery center opened in Rochester last year, Higgins adds. "We're being very methodical about how we're approaching this marketplace. We're making sure we can develop the proper scripts and methodologies to help us support this very complicated and very important application set."

Higgins explains that ERP systems are extremely complex to get back up and running in a short time. "It's no longer a situation where we can have a machine up and running after it breaks," he says. "You have to have the skills in place to bring up applications."

IBM's new ERP offerings include consulting, outsourcing and application continuity services. IBM's BRS unit assists companies in deploying continuity plans designed based on their ERP requirements. ERP continuity plans include business impact analysis, test and recovery procedures, WAN and LAN recovery topology, and ongoing test and recovery management.

IBM BRS has changed its focus to concentrate more on building business continuity processes into the systems development process up front, as opposed to simply providing hot-site services. However, for many companies implementing ERP, disaster planning is still an afterthought, Higgins points out. "Many customers that we've been working with are already in post-production," he says. "They come to us after the fact and say, 'okay, we need to recover.' That's okay, we can do that, but the process is heightened, especially if they have a huge terabyte-size database." Ideally, business continuity should be a part of the application implementation process right from the get go, he adds. With proper up-front planning, a typical SAP system can be restored in a matter of hours, he adds.

"The time a company can withstand a disaster and stay in business has shrunken dramatically," Higgins continues. "Your ERP application may be looking for a management or call center application. If one of those is down, you can't service your customers, or get to your suppliers to order your next set of resources. Today, your competitor is only two clicks away."