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Backup to cloud

Tips for planning your backup to the cloud strategy

Backup to the cloud is a rapidly emerging data protection strategy and can remove management overheads, whilst also improving performance and efficiency. It is a big shift for many organisations however and there are a number of considerations that it is wise to address beforehand.

Firstly, it is crucial that you clearly understand your data retention requirements, whether they are required by regulation, for compliance purposes, or set by the business. It is a recommendation that you retain data backups onsite long enough to cover around 85% of the typical file restore requests that come in.

On the topic of compliance, it is also wise to look at regulatory requirements as a whole to make sure that your new backup strategy adequately addresses those. This could mean making sure that your data will be kept in a geographical location that is accepted, and not moved to a cloud location in a country that doesn’t comply with your local regulations. It could also mean that you need to look at the protection your data has whilst in transit, not just while it is at rest in storage. You should look at encryption to protect the data while it moves from location to location and in between.

Before starting your backup to cloud planning, it’s useful to update your DR plans, as this can help you identify any areas that your current backup strategy isn’t addressing, where your backup to cloud strategy could help. At the same time, run a gap analysis on your current backup strategy to see where improvements can be made with the new solution. For sustainability and budget purposes, it is a worthwhile exercise to identify any reusable elements of your current backup solution, that will work in your new backup infrastructure.

The next step is to consult with the key stakeholders within the business. They can help you understand what the business requirements of your backup strategy need to be and could include performance requirements, scalability and security. The IT Department might think that some performance degradation is acceptable, or even unnoticeable, or that it a recovery window of 24 hours would work for the business, while another business function, such as finance or sales, might believe that performance cannot be undermined at any cost, and that data must be instantly recoverable for a set period. It is only through consultation with each head of department, that you will understand the expectations and requirements and be able to build these into the solution’s scope (or not, if you deem it unattainable or unnecessary).

Whilst reviewing the expectations of the business, review your formal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to make sure they are still appropriate and to ensure that your new backup strategy can meet the most up to date SLAs.

The stakeholder consultation may also uncover different requirements for different data sets, or applications, which is not uncommon. Finance data is likely to be governed by more regulations and could have longer retention periods than marketing or sales data for example. Most current backup strategies treat all data the same but a backup to cloud strategy could incorporate granular policies for different data sets, applications or departments.

The benefits of a disk-to-disk-to-cloud strategy are clear; rapid restores, almost instantaneous offsite vaulting, lower cost backup storage options and greater levels of security, but as with any major project, planning is essential if you are going to realise all the benefits and meet the needs and expectations of the business.

Server Consoliodation

Server Consolidation Best Practice

The benefits of server consolidation have been understood for years, with Gartner reporting growing adoption levels as far back as 1998 and virtualisation driving even more consolidation projects in recent years. In a consolidated environment the improved utilisation of servers means that server resources are used more efficiently, performance improves, and hardware requirements are lower, which in turn means lower license costs. It’s a win, win situation.

By consolidating large numbers of smaller servers onto fewer large symmetric multiprocessing (MSP) servers the workload demands on compute power are evened out improving overall utilisation. Large SMP servers simplify the deployment of applications, and less servers to manage means less management overhead, meaning further savings.

One of the main barriers to consolidation was flexibility, with different applications needing different levels of compute, storage and I/O resources, but new SMP servers can be partitioned to an incredibly granular level to dynamically provide processor, memory and I/O resources to applications.

Oracle approaches server consolidation using three main levels of partitioning technology in its SPARC servers; firstly, to use PDoms, or physical domains, which are electrical hardware partitions. A PDom can be powered up or down and changes can be made to it without affecting others. Hardware or software errors are isolated and domains are administered separately, so the effect of an error or security breach on applications is minimal.

At the next level, PDoms can be split down further using Oracle VM Server (OVM) partitioning, creating full virtual machines that run independent instances of the operating system. Each operating system instance contains dedicated CPU, memory, storage and console devices and can run different versions of Oracle Solaris if they need to.

Finally, the most granular level of virtualisation is Oracle Solaris Zones technology, which allows you to create flexible, lightweight zones within a single OS instance, that can be allocated to multiple different applications and managed centrally.

Oracle SPARC customers can layer OVMs on top of PDoms to create another layer of virtualisation which makes it even easier to run large numbers of different workloads on a small number of servers.

In addition to the flexibility offered by the three main technologies, Oracle Enterprise Manager Ops Centre makes management of the consolidated servers simple and straightforward, bringing them all into a single management console.

Oracle offers customers a very flexible way of approaching server consolidation, with its T8, T7, M8 and M7 SPARC servers, and can meet most consolidation requirements simply by using a greater or lesser level of isolation with PDoms and LDoms. This flexibility can make it difficult to know which configuration to use, but by looking at the workloads that are to be deployed and understanding their service levels, resource utilisation characteristics and security requirements, the technology choice becomes clearer. Test and development environments will require a different configuration to production environments.

Customers should aim for as simple and flexible a configuration as necessary whilst taking into account their own need for isolation. The more PDoms and LDoms there are, the more complex an environment is to manage, but the greater the security and availability. The less PDoms and LDoms, the simpler to manage and more efficiently a server will run, but the risks of a single domain failure could be catastrophic and could lead to a greater risk of downtime.

For advice on a specific server consolidation project it is always best to consult an expert who can help map out the goals and objectives before selecting the right technology for the job.

Useful Links

White Paper – Oracle VM Server for SPARC Best Practices

White Paper – Oracle’s SPARC T8, T7, M8, and M7 Servers: Domaining Best Practices

Making the right choice with Oracle SPARC

Five reasons you should choose Oracle SPARC over IBM Power

Oracle customers, over 430,000 of them globally according to 2018 figures, are traditionally loyal to the Oracle brand, but when it comes to choosing infrastructure and particularly new server technology, why should customers choose Oracle SPARC over its rival IBM Power? What makes Oracle SPARC the better solution?

Firstly, and importantly the focus and commitment to server technology improvements that IBM has shown in recent years has been waning. Whilst IBM has concentrated its efforts elsewhere Oracle has been continuously developing its server technology to ensure it can offer customers the best servers.

For all those loyal Oracle database and application users, Oracle SPARC servers are the obvious choice. Oracle SPARC is optimised for Oracle databases and applications and will deliver the best performance and security at a low cost. Reporting and analytics are faster, advanced encryption and virtualisation features, secure data and improve application performance. In short, Oracle databases, middleware and applications have been optimised to take full advantage of all the features of SPARC architecture and vice versa.

With cybersecurity being of the utmost importance, Oracle has built in advanced encryption for data at rest, in transit and in storage, with no degradation of performance. Oracle’s Silicon Secured Memory provides 24/7 intrusion protection.

Because Oracle SPARC servers perform more business transactions at a faster rate, customers need less of them, which keeps costs and software license complexities down.

Migration to SPARC servers is easy and we will help with migration using Oracle Migration Factory methodology and tools. Our engineers will plan, architect and implement customers’ migration to SPARC according to the specific environment and expectations, but will use standardised automation tools and scripts to migrate sources to the target destination, monitoring and reporting throughout and in real time.

Last year Gartner predicted that “In 2019, hybrid IT will be the standard. Technical professionals focused on cloud must continue to advance cloud-first strategies, embrace multicloud and maintain on-premises environments, with a focus on integration and brokering”.

By taking a cloud-first approach to technology infrastructure development, Oracle has built its cloud solutions using the same SPARC technology that it uses in its servers allowing customers a clear path to the cloud. Unlike IBM Power customers moving to IBM Cloud services, customers using SPARC on premises can easily move to cloud services without migration costs, and without the need to change applications. The same advanced encryption features and same fast performance are present in Oracle cloud solutions, meaning customers can simply extend their SPARC/Solaris environments into the cloud using familiar SPARC/Solaris tools and without buying additional hardware.

For businesses using Oracle databases, applications or middleware and requiring enhanced security and performance at a good price point, SPARC should be a clear contender.

Useful Links

Gartner Research: Planning Guide

Oracle Migration Factory

Oracle Corporate Fact Sheet

Modernise your data centre with Oracle SPARC

Five reasons to modernise your data centre with Oracle SPARC

It’s clear that technology is advancing at a rapid rate, expectations are growing and business processes are changing. CIOs need to modernise their infrastructure if they are going to keep up with the demands of a modern business. Modern apps and workloads need fast, agile, secure and scalable infrastructure if they are to run at an optimal rate.

But a modernisation project involves consideration and planning, for today, but also with a long-term path towards the cloud. Only by moving towards cloud services can businesses keep pace.

Oracle SPARC and Solaris infrastructure is secure, efficient and highly performing, both on premises and in the cloud. By implementing Oracle SPARC customers can meet the demands of their business today and into the future, when they inevitably move towards the cloud.

For Oracle database and application customers, Oracle SPARC infrastructure is absolutely optimised to get the best out of the software. Databases and applications run at maximum efficiency and performance levels, with enhanced security features that are not found with other infrastructure vendors.

All businesses have legacy systems somewhere in their organisation and most cannot afford to scrap these to buy new. By implementing a modern infrastructure platform in increments with Oracle SPARC servers you can support legacy applications and new applications at the same time, upgrading as and when budgets and timescales allow.

When Oracle SPARC servers and Oracle Solaris run together, they enable multiple layers of advanced security features to improve security levels across the whole infrastructure stack. Encryption for data at rest, in transit and in storage, application protection, access controls, automatic patching and compliance auditing are inherent in an integrated Oracle infrastructure stack. A recent research report by Thales Security and IDC: The Changing Face of Data Security 2019 Thales Data Threat Report, which surveyed 1,200 executives globally, with responsibility for IT and data security found that only 30% of its survey respondents are using encryption technology in their transformation projects. Oracle SPARC and Solaris builds that into its technology, making it ideal for businesses embarking on transformation projects.

Performance is a key driver in most business modernisation and transformation projects, and this is where an Oracle SPARC infrastructure comes into its own. Core and processor performance is high, but also specific features like Software in Silicon ensure faster enterprise apps too.

We talked about ensuring a clear path to the cloud, and Oracle SPARC does just that. The same infrastructure that can be deployed on premises now in SPARC servers is used in the Oracle Cloud, meaning any investment made now will not need to be made again when moving to the cloud. Moving a legacy infrastructure to the Oracle cloud is easy, by upgrading first to SPARC then seamlessly to the cloud, with no need to change applications again, no database downtime, no gaps in security, and no new management skills to learn.

Don’t let a fear of modernisation hold you back. Oracle SPARC can ease the transition from legacy to transformational and beyond, without huge investments and without compromising on performance or security.

Useful Links

The Changing Face of Data Security 2019 Thales Data Threat Report

5 Five Reasons to Modernise your Data Centre with Oracle SPARC

Best Practice for your Next-Generation Virtualisation Platform

You’ve decided that you need a virtualised, next-generation data centre, so whether you’re starting afresh or you’re updating what you already have in place, what are the key preparatory steps you need to take?

First you need to prepare your physical servers. These will become the hosts for your hypervisor in a virtualised environment, so ensure that firmware and BIOS are updated, enable any hardware assisted virtualisation features that are available and make sure that you have installed all the recommended drivers for the hypervisor.

The next step is to install the hypervisor. Follow the vendor’s guidance documentation and record key information such as host names, IP addresses etc. Launch your admin platform, adjust any security permissions, such as firewalls, and ensure your storage arrays are discoverable and accessible. This is important because I/O throughput can be adversely affected by the storage configuration. If the storage solution isn’t configured correctly for the workload and the throughput and IOPS aren’t matched, performance at the front end will be affected.

The next step is to ensure your network is configured appropriately for a next-generation virtualisation platform. If a virtualised server can’t communicate properly over the network, the benefits will be lost. Install the appropriate network interface cards, network adaptors and network cards are installed and test end to end connectivity once hypervisors are connected to the network.

Cybersecurity is just as important in a virtualised, next-generation environment as it is in a physical data centre, so the apps and OS need to be secured and protected by isolating the management information from the virtual machine traffic. A Single sign on solution can ensure that only those with the correct permissions can access management information.

A virtualised environment is flexible enough to improve the performance of applications that are latency sensitive, but some tweaks may be necessary to power management settings and network adaptors to ensure they aren’t slowing things down.

Following the migration of your servers to your new virtualised environment, there are many advanced management tools you can utilise for high availability, load balancing and networking. Enable monitoring and capacity planning tools which can enable machine learning and smart-management of the environment. Granular reporting on uptime, performance, capacity and efficiency can really help prove the value of your investment in the next-generation infrastructure.

Set out the settings that your virtual machines will all need and document that as a template so that they are all optimised from the outset. To make sure your VMs are all running at peak performance schedule backups and virus scans at off-peak hours so they don’t impact performance.

When the virtualised data centre is up and running, you can look at the high-availability, replication, or fault tolerance tools that are fundamental to the performance of the business.

In short, by leveraging a next-gen virtualisation platform properly you should be able to deliver a higher quality service, with less risk, at a lower cost. What’s not to like about that?

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