Tech Success: EMC helps Pentagon keep running
- By Brad Grimes
- Feb 05, 2004
Diverse customers require flexible business continuity system
Steve Alfieris, vice president of EMC Federal, said business continuity software ensures availability of critical applications while managing costs.
Henrik G. de Gyor
Business continuity, the process of ensuring that computer systems run in the event of an emergency, is receiving fresh attention in the government market, and not only because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In an increasingly networked world, business continuity has come to mean something new.
"It used to be about disaster recovery," said Christopher Baum, vice president of public-sector research for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research. "Now we live in a 24-by-7 world, and the point is not to get your operation running again. It's to keep it from shutting down in the first place."
That's the challenge facing the Defense Department's Pentagon Renovation Program as it modernizes the agency's information technology infrastructure. Under the Continuity of Operation Integrated Network program, the Penren office awarded last fall a pair of contracts to address the Pentagon's business continuity needs.
The first was a $40 million contract to EMC Corp. of Hopkinton, Mass., for networked storage and software. The second was a $4.3 million deal to Legato Software Inc., an EMC division inn Mountain View, Calif., for automated availability software.
"Within the government, continuity of operations is a big umbrella," said Chris Chappell, Legato's vice president of federal operations. "Various agencies and DoD implement it to some degree, but this is probably one of the most widespread and comprehensive."
For security reasons, the Penren office is reluctant to talk about its choice of business continuity solution and won't specifically describe the deployment. It has acknowledged some of the unique requirements that led it to EMC and Legato.
Since 1991, Penren has been overhauling the Defense Department's 61-year-old headquarters. Part of that overhaul includes the systems required to provide around-the-clock operations for the Pentagon's many tenants, including the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military.
This is not a simple task. Penren Program Manager Michael Sullivan said the Pentagon's IT infrastructure is growing more complex, with hundreds of servers running multiple operating systems, and data storage growing 200 percent in certain operations.
"Our storage environment is becoming increasingly stratified with tiers of requirements for different service-level agreements, data availability and scalability," Sullivan said in a statement.
According to EMC, that environment includes more than a pentabyte of EMC networked storage. With the EMC-Legato solution, which supports a variety of platforms, the Pentagon can manage business continuity across tiered systems through EMC's open management software.
"You don't need to run all information on the highest performing technology at all times," said Steve Alfieris, vice president of EMC Federal.
In the realm of business continuity, that means prioritizing which systems cannot go down and which can be brought back online more gradually.
In a business continuity environment such as the Pentagon's, EMC Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) software automatically replicates data and applications between the Pentagon's main data center and one or more remote disaster recovery sites.
On top of this replication the system runs Legato's Automated Availability Manager for SRDF. The Legato software monitors the state of applications and supporting data. It automates clustering and functions so that systems continue to run in the event of an outage. When an application fails, Legato AAM software can restart it automatically from a remote site.
EMC Global Services breaks down applications by recovery-time objectives and recovery-point objectives. Recovery time refers to how quickly a system needs to be back online; recovery point refers to the state of operation at which the system needs to restart.
For instance, a non-mission-critical database that isn't constantly updated may not need to be restarted within 12 hours. When it is restarted, it doesn't have to be in the exact state it was in when it failed, because an older version of the database may be good enough to continue working on until the main data center is operating again.
Alfieris said this kind of tiered business continuity management is important to agencies such as the Defense Department, because it ensures availability of critical applications while managing costs. Highly critical data is accessible over the fastest possible EMC fiber channel storage and switches. Less critical data can be stored and replicated using more cost-effective technology.
This approach makes sense for agencies with tight budgets. Alfieris said EMC is working with a variety of integrators to install business continuity solutions in government agencies, although not on the Pentagon project.
"We see a groundswell of interest from the systems integration, and aerospace and defense community at large around the issue of business continuity," Alfieris said.
If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Brad Grimes at firstname.lastname@example.org.