Hot-Swappable Equipment Helps Networks Stay ResilientRita Mailheau
For years now, network installers have been pushing for more and more hot-swappable devices.
There are still some breakthroughs to be made, and not all types of network devices are able to be plugged in while a network continues to hum along. But there’s been a lot of progress.
For the purposes of today’s discussion, instead of focusing on specific hot-swappable devices, we’ll discuss it as an overarching concept. When integrated into the fabric of any enterprise network, there are some clear and powerful benefits.
If glitches occur, plug-and-play devices make it far easier to keep the network running while IT troubleshoots, and they can also accumulate some hefty cost savings.
First, some context. Take a look at these downtime statistics courtesy Cloudtweaks:
- Downtime costs an average of $686K per hour in lost revenue
- The average downtime event lasts 4.87 hours
- Only 31 percent of organizations have a recovery point objective per application
- Only 50 percent of organizations actually test their disaster recovery capabilities regularly
We saved the worst for last: 93 percent of companies that suffered a network disaster lasting longer than 10 days filed for bankruptcy within a year of the event.
To better understand why hot-swappable devices can help in these scenarios, it’s useful to examine why these network disasters occur in the first place.
Poor Equipment Resiliency
In our most recent article, we looked at Delta’s crash earlier this year. Their entire network failed to reboot after a power surge and it cost them dearly.
One thing that may have added to the degree of difficulty for getting networks back online was the organization’s aging infrastructure. Often, lower resiliency capacity can occur due to new networks and equipment being layered over older networks and equipment.
When it comes to electronic devices that have had heavy usage over a long period of time, slower “reboot” times after a power outage or other failure can be more likely. This could be attributed to any number of reasons. Some of the most common are:
- Operating systems, drivers, and software programs that are no longer supported by the manufacturer
- Worn or loosening connectors and other hardware breakdowns
- Incompatibilities or unsupported new features that stress older systems
While having multiple backup solutions in place is becoming an essential part of good network design, there’s one aspect of using your primary system that must be emphasized. After an outage, how fast can your network reconverge and get back online?
Answer that question well and you are already miles up the road toward every business’s goal… 100 percent uptime.
There are two main ways installers and admins can go about this. Each approach is aimed at minimizing downtime and making disaster recovery faster than ever.
Outsourcing Network Silos
Never before have such a high percentage of business operations relied on IT network. As a result, many businesses are actively looking for more affordable and simpler management options.
One potential solution that practically jumps off the page, is for business owners to turn to external platforms for their network needs.
They may keep the servers themselves in-house, but they’ll farm out silos of data to external providers.
Paying someone else to take on the headaches of a particular set of servers and software can be expensive in terms of capital. But consider the associated costs required to buy equipment, software updates, manpower and redundancy solutions. The in-house option can be quite expensive itself, making outsourcing a compelling choice for many.
As-a-service companies are booming. Weaving them into the fabric of your organization could prove to be a very wise investment, depending. A few popular examples are:
- Infrastructure, ie “the cloud”
- Sales and accounting, ie CRM systems like Salesforce
Redundancy, is easily one of the biggest benefits of choosing an external provider.
When one of these operations in a city hit by a disaster “goes down,” they have at least two more operations in other regions, even other continents, that will most likely be up and running. Operations will automatically switch over to those locations.
We have to admit, it’s pretty appealing to let an external organization handle redundancy and downtime.
But some information is too sensitive to allow outside of the proverbial “gates”. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some solutions to help you cover your bases.
Modern Equipment with Built-In Resiliency
For internal solutions, start by creating a proactive plan to cycle in new equipment before old equipment fails.
In their latest global infrastructure survey, Dimension Data showed that many organizations are doing just that. They showed that networks are getting younger. For the first time in 5 years, the percentage of obsolete devices dropped–from 53% to 42%.
That’s 11 percentage points in the right direction if improved uptime and shorter recovery windows are in your purview.
Core to this approach, is carefully selecting the new equipment you’re cycling in.
Hot-swappable equipment like the following can make a big difference if your network does indeed go down.
- Digital Subscriber Line Area Management (DSLAM) devices
- High-end servers and mainframes
- Power supplies can also be hot swappable
- PCIe and SATA drives
- Properly configured and linked Ethernet switches
Using backup equipment that can be hot-swapped almost immediately (especially for DSLAM deployments) means you won’t lose service for an entire network. An ISP’s worst nightmare is a catastrophic hardware failure of a 48 port DSLAM and all 48 subscribers calling in for support.
Keeping the same network up and running is important since DSL subscribers cannot be rerouted to another DSLAM. They must be physically disconnected from the original DSLAM before moving to a new one.
In the case of an Ethernet network, additional switches may linked together (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol). This allows for backup link configurations to be set and implemented in case there is an issue with one link in the chain. In other words, you’ll have a backup LAN that stays up even if the one it’s linked to experiences a failure of some kind.
This creates the benefit of a redundant network with at least one backup path from each workstation to each destination.
Which Solution is Right For You?
At the end of the day, no matter how hard we all work to prevent disaster, bad things are going to happen from time to time.
Devices will fail. Whether it’s due to prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, power surges, or just the passage of time, you’ll eventually face these issues.
The key to long-term success and safety, is to be prepared to work through those inevitable complications and maintain uptime.
Outsourcing key network functions is one way, and it comes with it’s pros and cons. But if you decide to keep things in house, hot-swappable equipment can be a huge life-saver during disaster recovery.
Your network equipment provider should be able to recommend hot-swappable hardware where possible for new installations, retrofits, upgrades or even single device replacements.
When you help your client prevent (and recover from) outages, you’ve done a good job!
As always, our expert support team would be happy advise you on the best equipment purchases to satisfy your client’s unique situations.