Disaster Recovery Protects Vital Enterprise Assets and Smooths Way to Data-Center Flexibility and Migration
Disaster Recovery Protects Vital Enterprise Assets andSmooths Way to Data-Center Flexibility and MigrationTranscript of a sponsored podcast discussion on how a fine-tuned disaster recoveryprogram can produce benefits across the IT landscape.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hi. This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions,and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how biotechnology services provider Acorda Therapeutics has implemented a strategic disaster recovery (DR) capability to protect its highly virtualized IT operations and data. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]We will see how Acorda Therapeutics’ use of advanced backup and DR best practicesand products has helped it to manage rapid growth, cut energy costs, and gain themeans to recover and manage applications and data faster. We will also see how theseadvanced DR benefits have led to other data center flexibly and even migration benefits.Here to share more detail on how modernizing DR has helped improve many aspects ofAcorda Therapeutics’ responsiveness is Josh Bauer. He is the Senior Manager ofNetwork Operations at Acorda Therapeutics in Hawthorne, New York. Welcome toBriefingsDirect, Josh.Josh Bauer: Thank you.Gardner: From a high level, looking at the landscape of how things are changing sorapidly, what do you perceive as being different today about DR than just a few yearsago? Is this really a fast moving area?Bauer: Absolutely. One of the most prominent changes is recovery time, especially withthis technology such as virtualization using VMware. You no longer need to restore fromphysical tape and see recovery times of upwards of 24 hours, something that we hadn’tseen until recently. We implemented Site Recovery Manager (SRM) from VMware andwe can now do that same recovery in about four hours.Gardner: So one of the chief benefits is just moving from tape into a more virtualizedenvironment, where you can get fast turnaround. How about completeness? Is there anelement of completeness that has improved as well?
Bauer: Absolutely. Were constantly replicating using RecoverPoint and we can get data up to the minute, versus tape, where you are at the whim of whether the backup completed on time -- did everything go to tape, and when was it done? It could have been two days ago, versus now, when its data that’s 100 percent synced up to a minute ago. Gardner: I am also wondering, because you are in the healthcare and biotechnology field, are there aspects of this that appeal to you from a compliance or regulatory perspective as well?Bauer: Definitely. Four times per year we have to prove that we can recover all of oursoftware and data by doing a DR test. Until we had SRM, we had to do it all from tape,from a cold facility, and it would take us a day, sometimes a day-and-a-half. That’s justnot the best way to do things. But now, with SRM, we can always do these tests on thefly, even from our office, from home, or from wherever.Gardner: Tell me a little bit more about Acorda Therapeutics. You were founded in1995. Tell us what you do, so our audience can understand the type of company you areand type of products and services you provide.Recent growthBauer: We create treatments for people with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or other neurological disorders. We have two marketed drugs in the market right now, the most recent of which, Ampyra, helps people with multiple sclerosis walk better, and it has been a huge success. And thats the main reason weve been growing so much lately.Gardner: Tell me about this issue of growth. When you started to look at your facilities,your data center, and your infrastructure, you obviously made the move to virtualizationin a big way. How did it make sense in your mind to go to a DR improvement and howdid that come to bear on this issue of being able to ramp up and deal with a fast growingorganization?Bauer: That was just the next logical step. Prior to virtualization, we were spending alot of time managing our infrastructure, with all those physical servers. Once wevirtualized everything, we spent way less time managing the infrastructure and couldspend more time helping the business.In fact, the IT department itself has become less like a computer repair shop and morelike a strategy center. Im constantly being brought into projects to help the businessmake the right decisions when it comes to any type of technology.
The next logical step would be to have my team spend less time doing these four-times-a-year DR drills the way I described before. With SRM it’s a few clicks. Were saving somuch time and we are able to do other things.Gardner: Just so we have a sense of the growth, you went from 80 employees a fewyears ago to how many now?Bauer: Now, its about 350.Gardner: That’s pretty impressive. Obviously, too, in this type of field youre dealingwith large amounts of data, data that is structured and unstructured. Give us a sense ofthe storage and/or data requirements that youre facing?Bauer: When we had about 80 employees, we probably barely had a terabyte, and nowwe easily have over 14 terabytes.Gardner: At a high level, tell me about how you approach this, and if you use partners,how you sought some help in terms of figuring out your journey. What was it that youwent to in terms of beginning the journey and how it unfolded and got you to the pointtoday, where you can deal with something like 14 terabytes and moment-by-momentbackup capability?Bauer: Specific to DR or the data recovery?Gardner: The whole journey. How you approached this problem, got some help, andthen got to the level you are now.Strategic partnerBauer: It all really started at VMworld. That’s been a fantastic way for me to learnwhats out there, whats coming up, and just staying in the know. That’s actually where Imet International Computerware, Inc. (ICI), who is one of our strategic partners forstorage and virtualization.I had approached them with the growth issue. We had already started doingvirtualization on our own. I had used it at a previous company, but I wasn’t familiar withSRM, and it looked like it might be a nice fit for improving our DR. So ICI came in andthey sort of held our hands and helped us with that project.Specific to storage, they have also helped us make sure that we do better management ofgrowth, anticipate our growth, and show that we have more than what were going toneed, before the growth happens, and theyve done some analysis on like what we have.We brought them in before things got too bad.
Gardner: So how about beyond the technology and the products? People and processalso play a big role in this. Did this require a big shift in culture or skills when you wentfrom cold tape to this more modern and software-based approach?Bauer: Not much of a cultural shift, luckily, because of projects like virtualization andhow successful weve been. The company trusts us to take on new technologies and theykind of leave it to us.But within IT, the shift was a good one. It was a reduced workload on them, and its amuch better process. As a result, it got more people in my IT department involved invirtualization as well.Gardner: Im intrigued about this relationship between server virtualization and atrack record of strong skills and process to moving into DR. Tell me a little bit aboutyour IT environment and your level of virtualization and why that led to a sort of no-brainer, when it came to moving to SRM ,and a higher degree of efficiency, when itcomes to DR?Bauer: Since using VMware, weve noticed uptime upwards of three nines monthly.Before that, when we were mostly a physical environment, it was nowhere near thatmuch. We had physical servers going down all the time.VMware immediately gained our trust, seeing that they came out with this product forDR. It was a name that we trusted. Then, we played with it for a while, and it worked outfantastically.Its all about trusting VMware and then, again, ICI, working with them. They just knowtheir stuff. We have a lot of different partners we work with, but we prefer to use ICI,because they really focus on doing things properly. Its more about working withsomeone that really knows what they are doing. They understand that we have someskills, as well. Theyre not trying to sell us something we don’t need.Gardner: I believe that ICI was named VMware Business Continuity Partner of theYear in 2011. So clearly there is a strong relationship between them and VMware. Butgetting back to the products, do you recall what degree of virtualization you have amongyour servers?95 percent virtualizedBauer: We are 95 percent virtualized here. The only thing that’s not virtual is our faxserver, which requires a physical fax board and that’s about it. Everything else is virtual.Gardner: So this is across all tiered apps, tier one, three, four?
Bauer: That’s correct, our SQL apps, our Exchange, everything you can think of isvirtualized.Gardner: I understand youre using vSphere 5. Youre on vCenter SRM 5. That onlycame out towards the end of last year. So you just jumped right on that.Bauer: Oh, I didn’t waste any time. We were very excited about it, especially this newoption of using a failback, which wasn’t really part of SRM Version 4.Gardner: Tell us a little bit more about why that’s important to you.Bauer: If you ever have the very unlikely event of a a disaster, when you do a recovery,youre now operating off of the disaster equipment or recovery equipment. While that’shappening, people are still saving files and generating new data. If you were to justsimply turn on the original equipment again, all that data would be lost. So you need tofail back to re-sync everything.With SRM Version 4, you had to configure two one-way recovery systems. So it wouldtake a lot more time. But now with failback, its a lot more smooth, kind of built-in.Gardner: How about doing test? If you wanted to try out and see how things wereworking, perhaps preparing for some of those compliance and regulatory requirements,does that happen a bit easier as well now with the newer version?Bauer: Weve seen a higher success rate on the new version versus the old one. Theyvecertainly fixed some of the bugs, and the interface is much better. The whole testingprocess seems to be a lot more smooth.Gardner: Lets move on to how you know youre doing this correctly. Do you have anymetrics? Do you track this? Is there anecdotal evidence from your business users, eventhose who are involved with the compliance issues? Of course, the number one metric isthat you don’t suffer downtime and you don’t lose data, but are there other ways thatyou look at this and say, "Wow, were saving money, reducing workload, and reducinglabor?" Anything along those lines?Bauer: When we do these four-times-a-year test, we create this lab bubble and we alsohave a few Windows XP and Windows 7 virtual workstations on there. We invite a fewpeople from the business to log in and test their applications.They would be protectedSo right there, were getting people outside of IT involved to let them see how cool thisis. It also gives them the comfort in knowing that, if there ever were a disaster, theywould be protected. They can see it for themselves by actually dialing into the computer
and testing things themselves. So theres a huge benefit to that. It deepens the trustbetween IT and the business.Gardner: Do you actually have separate data centers that you are backing up to?Whats the topology or architecture that youre using?Bauer: We have two separate data centers, recovery and production.Gardner: And do you have them far apart in different geographies or do you have themhosted.Bauer: At the moment theyre only a few towns apart, but we are shopping around for adata center much further away. We hope to do that in the next six months or so.Gardner: And this is all in Hawthorne, New York. Is that correct?Bauer: Right.Gardner: Looking to the future, one other area I wanted to hit on, which is importantto a lot of folks, especially in some overseas markets, is this issue about energy. Did youhave any impact on energy and/or storage costs associated with the total life cycle of thedata?Bauer: We reduced the footprint by easily 75 percent by not needing so many physicalservers. That’s a pretty huge shout-out to VMware there. Also, were not using that muchpower. We don’t need as big a data center. Not as much cooling is needed. Theres awhole assortment of things, when you take out all the physical servers.Gardner: Now, looking to the future, other areas that people have described as a seguefrom going to high virtualization, exploiting the latest technologies in DR, is to startthinking about desktop virtualization infrastructure (VDI) and desktop-as-a-service.Theyre even looking at cloud and hybrid-cloud models for hosting apps, then backingthem up and recovering them in different data centers, which youve alluded to. Do youhave any thoughts about where this could possibly lead?Bauer: In fact, if you were going to ask me what my next initiative was going to be, andyou didn’t mention desktops, that’s the first thing that would have come to mind. Werestarting to explore replacing our laptops with virtual desktops. Im hoping this issomething that we could implement next year.Right way to goThis seems like the right way to go, because our helpdesk team spends too much timeswapping out laptops or replacing laptops that are dropped on the ground. Yourelooking at a small thin client, which is the fraction of the cost of a laptop. Plus, the data
is no longer kept in a laptop. There are no security or compliance issues. You can l justgive them a thin client, and they are back in business.Gardner: So you rest easily of course with good DR, but you rest easy, as well, whenyour intellectual property is all well protected across the entire spectrum of itsdeployment and use in local storage.Bauer: Exactly. It makes everybody in this company, especially at the top-level,nervous to know that some sensitive data still does make it out to the laptops. We tellpeople to save everything to their network drives, but without using thin clients andvirtual desktops, theres no other way to force that.Gardner: How about advice for those folks that might be moving towards a moremodern DR journey, as you described it? What would you advise to them as they begin,and what lessons might you have learned that you could share?Bauer: First off, do it. Youre going to be glad that you did. The good thing about this isthat you can do it in parallel with your current DR plans. You don’t have to change yourexisting recovery plans. You can take as much time as you want to set it up right. Andthe key is to set up a demonstration for the key business owners and players that aregoing to make the decision on the change.Set it up right with a handful of important apps, important VMs, and then just show it topeople. Once they see how great it works, youre definitely going to want to change.Gardner: And that disruption, or the lack of disruption I suppose I should say, whenyoure implementing this seems to be important too. Any thoughts about what youmight be able to inform people about, when it comes to level or lack of level ofdisruption when youre putting this together?Bauer: As I said, you can do this in parallel. As youre setting up this new environment,it doesn’t affect your existing environment whatsoever.Gardner: A matter of flipping the switch.Bauer: Exactly.Gardner: Anything else you would like to offer in terms of your thoughts on strategicand tactical benefits around DR and your journey?Bauer: Its always helpful to have some outside help. No matter how skilled you are, itsalways good to have a second pair of eyes look at the work that you did, if for nothingmore than to confirm that youve done everything you could and your plans are solid.Its helpful to have a partner like ICI.
Gardner: Great. Weve been talking about how biotechnology services provider AcordaTherapeutics has implemented a strategic DR capability to augment its highlyvirtualized IT operations. And we have seen quite a few tactical and strategic benefits forthat for their IT group, as well as for the larger organization and its requirements as ahealthcare provider, for compliance, regulation, and protection of their assets.Thanks so much to our guest. Weve been here with Josh Bauer. He is the SeniorManager of Network Operations for Acorda Therapeutics. Thanks so much, Josh.Bauer: Thank you.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanksagain for joining, and come back next time.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a sponsored podcast discussion on how a fine-tuned disaster recoveryprogram can produce benefits across the IT landscape. Copyright InterarborSolutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global • Virtualization Simplifies Disaster Recovery for Insurance Broker Myron Steves While Delivering Efficiency and Agility Gains Too • SAP Runs VMware to Provision Virtual Machines to Support Complex Training Courses • Case Study: How SEGA Europe Uses VMware to Standardize Cloud Environment for Globally Distributed Game Development • Germanys Largest Travel Agency Starts a Virtual Journey to Get Branch Office IT Under Control • Virtualized Desktops Spur Use of Bring You Own Device in Schools, Allowing Always-On Access to Education Resources