Try Later—Work Later—Buy Later

Having spent the past year developing a Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity strategy for my organization, I have had an opportunity to evaluate its impact, as well as being exposed to other possible alternatives to an ‘off site’ solution.

On average, most Disaster Recovery (DR) firms guarantee access to their ‘Hot Site’ within 48 hours after their client declares a disaster. Once access is secured, there remains a period of time to restore all servers, communications links, Internet access, phone communications, etc. During my last two DR tests, the elapsed time to perform the preceding averaged 10 hours. So, there is a good possibility that full system availability would not occur for two or three days.

One possible alternative I have investigated is ‘Continuous Availability’. In addition to the unexpected ‘Disaster’, there are other real world outages, planned and unplanned, which can and will prevent users, both local and remote, from having access to their applications and data. These include scheduled backups, new hardware or software upgrades/enhancements, operating system upgrades, etc., as well as unplanned power outages, disk crashes, and major application errors.

IBM has provided many software features that allow the AS/400 user to insure a fast and sure recovery in the event of a ‘glitch’. Save-While-Active, Journaling, Commitment Control, Access Path Protection, SMAPP, and RAID are all great features to take advantage of, however, if your one and only site has been reduced to ashes, you face the immediate problem of locating a new site and securing a new mainframe.

Being aware of the major price/performance changes (price down – performance up) affecting the AS/400 family over the course of the past several years, I feel that a look at multiple systems (the basis for continuous availability) as a DR alternative has some merit.

Along with a second AS/400, appropriate software is required in order to implement a ‘total availability management’ program. Lakeview Technology has developed such software, marketed under the name MIMIX.

To get some insider information on MIMIX, I spoke to Advantage International, located in Tampa, Florida. Among its 27 employees are 18 high availability and AS/400 systems support professionals that consult and implement HA solutions. AIS has been in the midrange market for 12 years specializing in high availability and disaster recovery consulting.

Ron Venzin Executive Director of Technology Services at AIS gave his insight as to the software product and its’ installation.

“MIMIX is the one proven product that provides continuous operation for AS/400’s from e-business to banking, brokerage, and all 24x7 mission critical business operations.”“Due to the inherent complexity of a 24x7 business, ADVGROUP.COM installs less than 30 new accounts per year. The result is a professionally installed and customized HA solution with the highest customer satisfaction rating from the HA accounts. Disaster Recovery is a mandatory part of any 24 X 7 installation. Advantage International supplies a full HA site for our customers”.

The MIMIX product with “turnkey installation” varies in price from $30k to $120k. AIS is also an IBM Premier Business Partner that can offer a combined hardware and software package at substantial savings.

To the question ‘Why should a customer have AIS install the MIMIX product?” Ron responded, “The AIS reputation in HA circles is well respected. The team of consultants is certified by Lakeview but more important our consultants have hands on superiority when combined with the AS/400 systems, specifically communication and Internet complexities.”

One of its major success stories relates to Verizon and Advance Paradigm, a multi billion-dollar pharmacy claims processing business. These accounts utilize MIMIX to provide complete “uptime” without scheduled downtime for backups or software upgrades.

With some 400,000 AS/400’s located at over 117,000+ sites, and the availability of more than 20,000 vertical industry packages, along with the well known reliability of the ‘black box’, I, and many other of my contemporaries in the AS/400 writing field, are inclined to think the AS/400 is positioned to be the ‘e-commerce server’ of the future.

If you are concerned that you do not want to be the one to tell your users ‘Try later’, or your IT staff to ‘Work later’, or your customers to ‘Buy later’, perhaps a multiple system strategy bears a further look.

Bob Lewis is VP of IT at the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Cooperative (Louisville, Ky.).

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