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Unstoppable Linux: Don’t Underestimate High Availability

May 31, 2012

Summary

Enterprises are finding that Linux provides a set of sustainable benefits, including cost-savings, a broad feature set, and flexibility. Now they need to be able to add high availability to the set.
While Linux continues to establish itself as a mainstream server operating system, more recently it has begun attracting attention for its ability to support business-critical applications.
A recent survey by The Linux Foundation found that 84% of enterprises using Linux have expanded its usage over the past year, and they increasingly rely on it for mission-critical workloads.¹
In fact, nearly 70% of the respondents said they will be using Linux for more business-critical workloads in the year ahead
As the survey observes, part of this growth is due to Linux’s role in two of today’s biggest IT trends: supporting increasing levels of “Big Data” and achieving productivity gains with virtualization and cloud computing.
“Enterprise Linux users show steady progress on all of these fronts and a clear preference for Linux as the foundation for these trends.”²
But while Linux continues to make steady inroads into the data center, it still doesn’t offer the same comprehensive facilities as commercial operating systems when it comes to more advanced features such as High Availability and Disaster Recovery.

The increasingly complex world of business-critical applications

End users and customers expect their applications to be available 24x7, which is a must for businesses wanting to succeed in today’s competitive market. Long gone are the days when organizations could survive and achieve their uptime goals just by clustering their back-end database servers and perhaps a handful of other application servers.
Think about it: Not only are a larger share of today’s applications considered mission-critical, but service level agreement expectations are much higher, and IT organizations are under pressure to virtualize more applications to realize greater cost savings in the data center.
To further complicate things, applications have grown more complex and have more moving parts, with various components hosted on different tiers. For anyone connected with HA and DR, this presents some serious challenges, says Eric Hennessey, part of the technical product management team for Symantec’s Storage and Availability Management Group.
“Consider, for example, an online retail application,” Hennessey wrote in a recent blog post. “That ‘application’ is really a business service consisting of several applications forming a multi-tier application stack. The stack will typically include a Web tier, an application tier, and a database tier. Now, put that database tier on a big iron Solaris server, the application tier on Linux servers, and the Web tier on virtualized Windows servers, and you can see the problem with traditional clustering products.”
And that’s not all, as the Enterprise Strategy Group explains:
“Recovery orchestration gets more complicated with a service-oriented architecture (SOA)...An unplanned downtime event for the service that necessitates a recovery requires coordination between administrators responsible for the application, database, storage, and servers. Without a streamlined, concerted effort, valuable time can be lost—potentially causing irreparable damage to a company’s reputation or financial assets.”³

Top priority: Recovering the business service automatically

Given this increasingly complex environment, it’s essential that enterprise IT organizations have visibility across their entire business services and are able to orchestrate the recovery of their business services automatically.
This requires proven technology that works across all major software and hardware, ensuring cross-platform support and ensuring a strong degree of familiarity (which shouldn’t be under-estimated, given the need to minimize the potential for configuration errors).
Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability from Symantec, which includes a framework called Virtual Business Service, enables the automatic recovery of specific business services based on priorities. With Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability, complex application dependencies can be defined and built into restart behavior in case of a major failure.
As the Enterprise Strategy Group has observed, “[this] high availability architecture with automated business service recovery is key to minimize planned and unplanned downtime. A high availability configuration is designed to eliminate single points of failure with no or minimal downtime. If an unplanned interruption of service does occur, recovery happens automatically—without coordination between functional teams or performing manual tasks.”

Conclusion

As a number of recent studies have observed, once enterprises deploy Linux, they tend to stick with it. Increasingly, enterprises find the platform provides a set of sustainable benefits, including cost-savings, security, a broad feature set, and flexibility. To stay competitive, enterprises now need to add High Availability and Disaster Recovery features to that set.
Ensuring end-to-end availability of business-critical applications is a significant challenge. IT organizations have had to deal with this by using multiple tools, manual intervention, and coordination between different teams in the event of a downtime, whether planned or unplanned.
With Symantec Storage Foundation High Availability, enterprises can coordinate across operating systems and virtualization technologies and provide a single solution and a central management point that enables application availability across the different platforms in the data center.
To learn how a Linux solution for your data center can help your business stay resilient even in the face of unplanned downtime, view this Symantec/Red Hat webcast.
For more information on how Symantec helps keep Linux data centers up and running, visit the Unstoppable Linux page.
  • ¹“Linux Adoption Trends 2012: A Survey of Enterprise End Users,” The Linux Foundation, January 2012
  • ² ibid.
  • ³ “Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0: An Enterprise Strategy Group Product Brief, Lauren Whitehouse, Enterprise Strategy Group, November 2011

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