Ensuring quick and efficient disaster recovery for data at state and local levels is imperative not just for the governments that rely on that information, but also for agency IT teams that could be held accountable for the loss and the accompanying work of recovery and rebuilding.
For state and local government agencies looking to get a leg up on disaster recovery efforts, the move to a hyperconverged infrastructure could greatly improve these operations. While HCIs have long been touted as a way to help to cut costs and streamline IT for local agencies, which often have shoestring tech staffs and limited time to devote to data center management, many agencies are now finding that HCI enables government IT teams to react quickly and efficiently to protect citizen data in times of crisis.
As the Internet of Things begins to permeate local government IT for everything from public safety to road maintenance, municipalities will begin to capture even more data than ever before — and that data will become more critical to government operations.
“HCI can come in to make sure the system doesn’t go down in the first place,” says Mike Beevor, technical marketing director for Pivot3, a company that offers HCI appliances. But if a system does go down in a time of crisis, such as a natural disaster, HCI can truly improve both the backup and the recovery processes.
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Can Improve Backup
So how does it work?
“HCI infrastructure simplifies the entire IT plant so that management is easier, you have more uptime and the opportunity for failure is reduced,” explains Rob Enderle, a technology analyst and president of the Enderle Group. “In other words, with regard to backup, you need it less and there is a lower probability that the backup process will fail.”
In disaster scenarios, minutes matter, and a simplified infrastructure offers IT teams a faster way to fail over data in times of crisis, as one county in Texas recently learned.
After a move to Dell EMC hyperconverged appliances in the main data center, which replicated virtual machines and data to a duplicate set of HCI appliances at a backup data center in a colocation facility, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was able to protect key systems and data during Hurricane Harvey.
When water from the hurricane began flooding downtown Houston, running 6 feet deep at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, IT staff for the district attorney’s office quickly moved operations to the secondary data center. While HCI appliances were protected because they were on the building’s sixth floor, the chillers started to go offline. With hyperconverged systems, the county's IT team was able to migrate data more quickly to backup systems, StateTech recently reported.
“We failed over everything from the production site to the disaster recovery site, which was far easier to do with hyperconvergence than with traditional infrastructure,” Rurik Wilmot, a senior network and systems administrator for the county, told StateTech. “It’s literally a handful of clicks.”
How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Can Simplify Disaster Recovery
When it comes to disaster recovery, HCI can also help to simplify the process for agency IT teams who need to get critical infrastructure back online as soon as possible.
“What HCI systems have is the ability to prioritize certain workloads over others,” says Beevor. “If you’re recovering from a full-scale disaster, then there are certain systems you’ll want to get back online faster than others, and that prioritization … is what allows you to really enhance that recovery and make it so you can bring up the right workload at the right time to get everything back online.”
How Agencies Can Implement Hyperconverged Infrastructure
While beneficial on multiple fronts, the move to HCI isn’t a simple one. It requires a “forklift” upgrade, Enderle notes, which requires that agencies replace the entire plant with an integrated system.
“It is neither trivial nor cheap, but once done, the benefits in terms of reduced maintenance, uptime, efficiency and performance are almost unbelievably good,” Enderle says.
For agencies or IT directors looking to begin the move to HCI infrastructure, Enderle suggests first talking to other agencies that have undertaken and achieved successful conversions.
“Those that have done this successfully often talk about the result in almost religious awe. A common result is [that IT teams] are dumbfounded as to how much better a hyperconverged system is,” says Enderle, noting that hyperconverged systems often produce powerful advocates. “When done correctly, the result is as if you’ve stepped into a new age of computing, one with far fewer problems and far more flexibility than most believe are possible before going through one themselves.”