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The digest of current topics on Continuous Processing Architectures. More than Business Continuity Planning.

BCP tells you how to recover from the effects of downtime.

CPA tells you how to avoid the effects of downtime.

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In this issue:

 

   Never Again

      National Australia Bank Down for Days

   Availability Topics

     Leveraging Availability for Virtualization

   Recommended Reading

      Business Continuity from A to Z

   Product Reviews

      Attunity Integration Suite

 

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Will We Ever Learn?

 

We talk about Business Continuity Planning and the need to have a recovery strategy for any eventuality that might disrupt our corporate services. We talk about having processes in place to minimize the chances that we will have a disruption. We talk about the extra steps that we must take to ensure that we can recover from any disruptive event. We talk and talk. But do we ever “do”?

 

A tragic example of “not doing” is described in this issue’s Never Again story. It seems that an erroneous batch-control file corrupted the transaction files that a major Australian bank sends nightly to most major banks in the country. The result – customer accounts were frozen; and online services were unavailable, some for almost two weeks!

 

Where were the processes to ensure that such an error could not be made? Where were the backups that would have allowed recovery? Where were the plans to continue services should the computers go down? Why had the bank rejected a recommendation to improve its backup procedures two years prior?

 

Perhaps by talking about such disasters, we will be more motivated to “do.”

 

Dr. Bill Highleyman, Managing Editor

 

 


 

  Never Again 

 

National Australia Bank Customers Down for Days

 

In late November of 2010, a “corrupted” file brought down the bulk of services provided by the National Australia Bank. The processing error affected the nightly batch run that recorded interbank transfers. As a result, most of the banks in Australia were affected. Customer accounts were frozen, cash was not available, credit cards were useless, and scheduled payments were not made.

 

Two weeks later, the bank was still working to recover some customer accounts. Though the bank has declined to describe what went wrong, there is ample evidence that it was, in part, a human error.

 

One nagging question, not addressed by the bank, is where were the backup files? Why could the erroneous batch run not be backed out, the problem corrected, and the batch process run again? True, the batch window would probably have been violated. But this would have been much better than experiencing a multiday outage.

 

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Availability Topics

 

Leveraging Virtualization for Availability

 

Virtualized environments are becoming commonplace in today’s data centers. Since many virtual servers can be hosted on a single physical server, the server count in the data center along with the associated savings in floor space, energy, and administration can reduce the server component cost in a data center by 80% or more.

 

In the early days of virtualization, availability was a serious concern because of the “all your eggs in one basket” syndrome. Should a server fail, not one but many applications were taken down. Availability was a critical issue in the early virtualized environments.

 

However, as the technology has matured, several facilities have been developed by the virtualization vendors to provide a wide range of high-availability options. We review them and use VMware’s availability options as examples.

 

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Recommended Reading

 

Business Continuity from A to Z

 

Business Continuity from A to Z is a five-part series of white papers (more accurately, a five-chapter, 100-page book) that discusses best practices for Business Continuity Planning (BCP). Written by Greg Livingston, ABCP, CDRP, Managing Director of Centurion Compliance Partners, LLC, his book follows the standard approach to BCP and explores the responsibilities of all of the stakeholders in the plan.

 

Implementing a comprehensive business continuity (BC) plan involves a significant ongoing investment in staff time, technology, tools, and training. These white papers provide a roadmap for navigating through the various steps required to build and maintain an effective BC plan.

 

Some sort of business interruption is bound to affect every company, ranging from simple server failures to a data-site disaster. Without proper planning, even simple failures can cause serious disruptions to a company’s operations. A properly developed and tested business continuity plan can go a long way toward mitigating the impact of a disruptive event. It can even save the company from the ultimate disaster - its demise.

 

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Product Reviews

 

Attunity Integration Suite

 

Though not focused primarily on high availability in the uptime sense, the Attunity Integration Suite provides extensive functionality necessary to ensure the availability of disparate data sources and application functions to the enterprise as a whole.

 

In today’s corporate environments, many of the critical applications and much of the corporate data is still contained in legacy systems. These systems process a large proportion of the transactions that are the lifeblood of the company. However, as today’s competitive situation becomes more intensive and more complex, it is mandatory that these silo data sources and applications be able to interoperate with each other.

 

The three components of the Attunity Integration Suite – Connect, Federate, and Streams – provide the facilities necessary to integrate disparate applications and data stores in order to implement important enterprise-wide functions.

 

Attunity Connect and Attunity Federate make all enterprise data accessible to all enterprise applications either for individual data stores or as a unified virtual view of many data stores. Attunity Streams provides real-time or scheduled propagation of database changes for synchronizing databases, for feeding other utilities such as BI, ETL, and EAI facilities, and for providing timely updates to data warehouses and operational data stores.

 

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Managing Editor - Dr. Bill Highleyman editor@availabilitydigest.com.

© 2010 Sombers Associates, Inc., and W. H. Highleyman