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Critical transitions

Have you ever wondered why mission critical servers and proprietary Unix operating systems have left the data centers?

Since I started in this industry many years ago, I have seen changes to what companies classify as mission critical. My first experience was with a mainframe infrastructure with a custom application; it was not an option to be down. We ensured uptime by building in redundancies; in this case it was another identical system. My next experience was with clustered systems running a proprietary UNIX – they ran custom applications and some of the popular databases.


If you look around the data centers today you will find less mainframes and proprietary UNIX systems, but the requirements have not changed. The primary driver of this change is financial in nature, however, the manufacturers of the x86 processors have made significant investments to bring many of the RAS (reliability, availability and scalability) features into this class of processor. These RAS features normally reserved for EPIC and RISC systems are turning a commodity processor into a viable option in the data center.

Take a look at the primary operating systems running in your enterprise and you will notice that Hypervisors, Windows and open source operating systems have taken over. From clustering Windows and Linux to Hypervisors, your applications continue to be available when you need them. This is not an accident; it all starts with a good design.

The architecture of a highly available system always starts with a process of collecting requirements and risk tolerances for the application. After you have these variables you can make decisions about what infrastructure needs to be built.

If you are looking to transition your application from one of the above-mentioned environments to an x86 world – don’t go it alone. We have performed many of these transitions and can guide you down the process asking the probing questions needed to position you for success in the time of failure.

Is the application available on the desired target platforms? Is there custom code that needs porting? Are executables in the mix that do not have source code available for porting? Do you want to migrate the data from existing platforms to new? What is the business impact of the IT services you are looking to migrate? To what level does the business impact justify HA and BC?

The bottom line is with mission critical workloads running on x86 architecture you must design the solution to be highly available to the business value of the IT services. This includes the hardware platform, operating system or Hypervisor and the vendor services ensure if you do have a failure you can recover.


Joe Sharer
Solution Manager, TS&PS
TOLA and Chicago Region