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Disaster Recovery x 3

TPC-R v3.3 offers three-site support for DS8000, which permits synchronous data copy functionality between two sites in conjunction with an asynchronous copy link to a distant third site.

Illustration by Michael Klein

The potential threat of IT infrastructure downtime, whether by catastrophic human error or natural disaster, has been a driving force of innovation for decades. With harsh reminders of the real nature of that threat punctuating the timeline, such as an electrical blackout on the East Coast or Hurricane Katrina, it’s not surprising that disaster-recovery (D/R) solutions have evolved to take such instances into account.

From the days of maintaining a secondary emergency IT staging area, D/R has moved into a realm where some companies—particularly larger enterprises—are looking at a tertiary line of preparedness. While that can mean establishing three fully functional IT hubs continually conducting data backups and updates, that’s not the only way to look at a three-site D/R implementation.

With the IBM* TotalStorage* Productivity Center for Replication (TPC-R) v3.3, released last year, it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of a three-site D/R solution without necessarily requiring three fully equipped sites.

What is TPC-R?

TPC-R is designed to provide for the management of IBM FlashCopy*, Metro Mirror, Global Mirror and Metro/Global Mirror (MGM) capabilities for the IBM Enterprise Storage Server* (ESS) Model 800, DS6000* and DS8000*, while also architected to manage FlashCopy and Metro Mirror for the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC).

A TPC-R implementation can help customers to simplify the management of advanced copy services by automating administration and configuration of the services through a combination of wizard-based user sessions and copy set definitions. Additionally, TPC-R is designed to provide basic and simple operational control of copy services tasks, such as starting, suspending and resuming operations, while offering the necessary tools for monitoring and managing copy sessions.

Taking Backups to a New Level

TPC-R v3.3 provides several new administrative enhancements—such as role-based authorization—as well as many operational enhancements, including improved site awareness and volume protection.

Perhaps most interesting to customers, however, is the three-site MGM support for the IBM System Storage* DS8000, which permits synchronous data copy functionality between two sites in conjunction with an asynchronous copy link to a distant third site. This provides powerful management via some of IBM’s highest availability business-continuity solutions.

“You can think of a TPC-R three-site solution as one where there’s a Metro Mirror relationship between the first two sites, and between the second and third site there’s a Global Mirror relationship,” says Greg McBride, a replication and copy services architecture software architect for IBM. “So, now we have a three-site, continuous-copy solution, which provides customers with a couple of options when it comes to improving business continuity and backup and recovery operations.”

When used specifically as a business-continuity solution, the intermediate site—or B site—wouldn’t necessarily house any servers. Instead it would act as a storage medium with the capability to switch between using the storage volumes on the primary site—or A site—and the B site volumes. A company could still run a traditional server-based IT system at the A site, but address the storage volumes at the B site, which in turn updates a tertiary site—or C site. The B site could reside within the company walls itself in a very secure area, or it could be housed miles away, depending on where a customer wants to establish the intermediate B site.

There’s no reason a company couldn’t opt to host servers at the B site should a customer choose to have a true three-site D/R system that allows production to be entirely moved to and hosted by the B site, in addition to the A site and the C site. Obviously, such a true three-site D/R solution would incur considerable extra hardware and management costs. The appeal of the TPC-R business-continuity solution is the peace of mind in knowing little or no data will be lost if the A site experiences a disaster or other form of downtime. Rather, the data is safe and secure at the B site and can seamlessly switch operations to the updated and prepared C site.

“As far as what I’ve been hearing, many of the companies opting for a TPC-R three-site solution are choosing to have the B site act as a ‘dark site,’ or a site that doesn’t have any servers added,” says McBride. “One of the advantages of a Metro/Global Mirror or three-site solution is that—given the B site is what we call a bunker site that can’t, by definition, participate in the disaster at the A site—customers could realize a near-zero data loss. Since the A site and B site are always equal, and since data gets drained over to the C site as an asynchronous copy, you could have a disaster at the primary A site and switch over to the C site almost without missing a beat.”

"I think customers can expect to see even more from TPC-R in 2008, and they're going to appreciate what IBM has to offer in this space." -Greg McBride, replication and copy services architecture software architect, IBM

Ryan Rhodes is a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine.

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