Thursday, 28 November 2013

IBM Testing Disaster Intervention Cloud Solution

IBM and Marist College have announced a joint project – now in the testing stage – that could change the way data centres prepare for impending natural disasters.  The solution involves using a cloud-computing environment to re-provision data centres in minutes, using only a mobile device and a wireless connection.

When a natural disaster is imminent, data centre operators immediately set about the process of re-provisioning.  Simply put, re-provisioning moves data and online applications to another server not in harm's way.  Unfortunately, the process can take days to complete using technology currently available.  Often, data centres do not have that much advance warning.

Superstorm Sandy a Good Example


Last year's super storm Sandy is just one example of what could happen when there isn't enough time to re-provision.  As the storm bore down on the north-eastern United States, it destroyed communications networks and put a number of data centres literally underwater.  A year later, some of those data centres still haven't recovered.  In the days and weeks after the storm, there were still millions of businesses and individual consumers in the North-east without access to network data communications.

IBM's new system could be a significant game-changer should the test at Marist College prove successful.  The system takes advantage of what is known as software-defined networking (SDN) in a cloud-computing environment.  The software allows for more efficient management of data in both physical and virtual networks, while also allowing immediate changes to network resources, even from remote locations.

Disaster Intervention


The system, in theory, changes the game from disaster prevention to disaster intervention.  As soon as data centre operators know a potentially damaging storm is imminent, they could begin re-provisioning right away.  Just bring up the software on any mobile device and they are off and running.  Systems engineers don't even need to be present to get the job done.  What's more, there is no interruption in service for the millions of customers who might be using a series of data centres in the storm's path.

In a world becoming increasingly more dependent on virtualisation and cloud computing, the system cannot be ready soon enough.  IBM is working to make the software commercially available sometime next year.  It is likely to become an instant success should it deliver what IBM is promising.

For the record, the SDN lab at Marist College is sponsored by IBM, also providing testing facilities for a number of other important technologies.  The lab is heavily involved in helping IBM develop cloud-computing technologies by providing an environment for testing using real-time scenarios.  IBM has used the lab to develop an open-source SDN controller, develop a software device that can predict and prevent Internet traffic congestion and better control video streaming within the cloud.


The success of the lab suggests that the test of IBM's new disaster intervention system will go well.  We are looking forward to the commercial release of the software next year.  Once it becomes main stream, it could hopefully mean the end of service interruptions as a result of natural disasters and other unforeseen events...

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