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Goodbye Dolly

by Administrator on August 5, 2008

Many months ago, I wrote a piece on ESJ.com about the University of Texas at Brownsville’s use of CA XOsoft as a hedge against disaster.  They were failing over applications from a physical Windows cluster connected to a local FC SAN to a remote virtual rack system at an Austin TX ISP with iSCSI storage.  The recent visit to the area by Hurricane Dolly gave them a real test that I will cover in a follow up article shortly.  Here are some of the details.

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC) IT staff proved that a well thought out DR strategy can be both cost effective and work. They had their DR plan tested when Hurricane Dolly made landfall in their area. Despite power outages and being forced to close down the campus and its data center, they successfully failed-over to a hot-site in Austin and kept continuous communications with students and faculty throughout the storm.

Near misses with Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina prompted the IT staff to address the threat posed by their location and the inability to respond quickly to emergencies if the campus were to be shut-down. They did this by deploying replication and virtualization technology to cost-effectively ensure continuous communications with the entire university community across 24,000 Exchange mailboxes.

High availability of email is a priority since it is the University’s primary tool of communication to conduct its business activities, including handling admissions and critical communications with students, faculty and staff. The solution they implemented meets this need while fitting a tight budget.

The DR plan that proved successful:

1) Leverages a turn-key solution that was easy to implement and simple to manage to ensure continuous email availability

2) Saves time and money by enabling cost-effective data replication on a virtual server infrastructure, allowing IT to automatically replicate emails in real-time to a virtual server on existing hardware at their Austin facility – this was important as budget constraints made a duplicate of their expensive SAN environment too costly to implement at their “hot site”.

3) Enables IT to quickly failover to Austin and restore communications

4) Helps minimize disruption to courses and exams

5) Ensures the continuity of key administrative services

6) Helps UIT build their reputation for delivering accessible education and attract high caliber students

The IT staff at UTB will be adding details about what they did during Hurricane Dolly when I chat with them on Friday, and will also talk to how they formulated their DR strategy, the selection process and the implementation. After investigating a number of options, they chose CA’s Recovery Management software, deployed on VMware’s virtual server infrastructure.

More later.

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