Duplicates are often the exact opposite of what we want. The discovery of one’s evil clone, for instance, would be far from an ideal scenario, in most people’s minds. In all seriousness, though, one hardly need look to science fiction for examples of how the proliferation of duplicates is a common nuisance of our modern lives. Multiple envelopes in your mail containing the exact same bill, for example, or multiple copies of the exact same file cluttering up your hard drive, are common and annoying problems—even in our digital age. Indeed, in the world of computer programming there are entire disciplines dedicated to optimizing applications or data structures through the elimination of unnecessary duplicates.
On the other hand, sometimes duplication is exactly what you want, particularly when you’re in a bind. We’ve all been there, whether it’s accidently deleting an unsaved document or losing many hours of work to an unexpected power outage. In these situations, some sort of duplicate would have been more than welcome. In business, the same principle applies to organization-wide IT systems—except to an exponentially higher degree. If (or more realistically, when) an event causes the primary system to go down, the presence of a duplicate server can not only salvage productivity, but it can also mean the difference between staying afloat and going out of business.
Defining data replication
Data replication is often confused for backing up data, and though in a loose sense, it does play an important role in a certain kind of “backup,” data replication should be thought of as a distinct process. Typically, data replication is associated with the practice of copying mission-critical data from an organization’s primary server to one or more other servers such that those servers represent as close to a duplicate as possible of the primary server. Whereas data backups are usually used for archiving old data, data replication updates occur much more frequently, often in real-time (as the data is generated) or close to real-time. Additionally, one of the requirements for data replication is that the data must be easy to access and ready to instantly turn around into production.
Just because you have a system for performing backups in place, doesn’t mean you have a data replication system. Nor is the converse true: Compared to other forms of storage with lesser requirements, data replication is relatively expensive and requires significantly more administration, and should therefore be reserved for only the data that is needed to ensure business continuity. The goal, then, of data replication, is to create a duplicate system or server that can be switched on at a moment’s notice, should the primary system be unable to handle the workload asked of it.
Data replication is the foundation of a disaster recovery strategy
Typically, when individuals neglect to save backups of their work, the damage is relatively minor (though it might not feel that way in the moment). But when it comes to mission-critical IT infrastructure—such as MultiValue transactional systems—we’re not just talking about a few lost hours of productivity. In the private sector, we’re talking about the potential failure of that business. In the public sector, failure of mission-critical IT could mean a potentially catastrophic lapse in emergency services. Yet despite the seemingly widespread awareness of the importance of an emergency recovery plan, studies suggest that at least 40% of all businesses will not withstand a major disaster.
The need for a contingency plan is clear, then. And as the role of IT in business only continues to increase in importance, safeguarding the functioning of these systems has become an essential part of a comprehensive business continuity plan. For many businesses, that means designing and implementing mechanisms that limit the effects of a localized natural disaster. And for organizations that manage their own MultiValue-based data centers, data replication, with its focus on real-time or near real-time updating and ease of activation in the event of an emergency, has become the industry-standard solution.
To illustrate the business advantage of employing data replication for disaster recovery, consider how the loss of a production server might affect a given retail organization, many of whom rely on MultiValue systems to power their transactional applications. Should disaster strike, even an organization that performs backups relatively frequently, such as once a day, could lose up to an entire day’s worth of mission-critical data. And without a disaster recovery solution in place, the recovery time could last anywhere from several days to weeks or even months, depending on the organization. During a big sales day or week, such as Black Friday or the holiday seasons, such damage could mean the difference between a profitable year and a net loss for the business. Had that business invested in a data replication solution, on the other hand, the organization could be up and running again in a matter of minutes.
Of course, data replication is just one piece of the disaster recovery puzzle, and organizations must be sure to focus on other aspects as well, such as training personnel on how to respond to events and establishing best practices that mitigate the impact on the business. But without a data replication solution in place, many businesses would be effectively paralyzed for days, if not weeks or months, without mission-critical IT. Needless to say, this creates a source of considerable risk that any forward-thinking business ought to avoid.
Addressing high availability requirements with data replication
Though disaster recovery is arguably the most important use case, it’s far from the only business requirement that benefits from a robust data replication solution. Data replication can, for instance, help businesses meet the high availability standards required in many industries today. With the same data available on multiple servers, organizations can take down the production server for maintenance or to perform updates without causing interruption in service—a competitive advantage considering today’s increasing high demands on IT.
One way this is often implemented is through what’s called a publisher-subscriber model. By this model, the organization manages two or more distinct servers, often in two geographically disperse locations (if the goal is also disaster recovery), though within the same data center will certainly work as well. One server gets designated the “publisher” server and functions as the primary, production server with which customers and employees will ultimately interact. To establish a high availability system, the publisher server will capture and transmit any new or changed records to the one or more “subscribing” servers, which then update themselves accordingly to stay in-sync with the main server. Keeping these subscribing servers in-sync and ready for production allows these servers to function as “failover” servers, meaning that if the main server should go down (whether planned or unplanned) service can be seamlessly maintained.
But the abilities to maintain service in case of outages and to perform maintenance without interrupting business are just two of the many potential use cases for the publisher-subscriber data replication model. For example, the subscribing (failover) server can be used to perform backups, lessening the burden on the production server and removing another potential source of downtime. Businesses can also use failover servers to build and test data suites (for purposes of system integration testing, for instance) without opening up their production server to application developers. This serves the important function of restricting access to production data, reducing the risk of user error or malicious intent wreaking havoc on your business, while also helping your organization demonstrate compliance with government data security regulations by design.
Data replication and business intelligence
One further business function that data replication is playing in today’s digital businesses is the offloading of reporting and data analytics functions. As demand from business areas for real-time data analytics, business intelligence, and dashboarding functions continues to increase, IT departments are the ones tasked with providing the infrastructure without affecting the performance or uptime of the production server. Here, once again, data replication offers a powerful solution. Establishing a publisher-subscriber data replication mechanism allows organizations to provide real-time data to many services with minimal impacts on performance. Compared to the impact of placing data integration and extraction functions on the production server’s workload, data replication’s effects on performance are negligible. This ability is a natural consequence of the data load-balancing made possible by data replication.
Data replication: A key player in digital transformation
Many organizations, particularly those that require reliable and efficient transactional processing, already use MultiValue systems to power mission-critical IT. But the digital transformation of today’s business world is placing unprecedented demands on IT infrastructure. The drive for real-time data, 24/7 uptime, and effective disaster recovery/business continuity plans requires creative solutions from CIOs. For current MultiValue customers, the high availability, disaster recovery, and data integration abilities enabled by data replication mean that these organizations don’t have to go searching for expensive new solutions to compete in today’s modern business world. And for businesses or application developers looking for a fast time-to-market application platform, but are also looking for field-tested reliability and options for high availability and disaster recovery, data replication helps make MultiValue an attractive candidate in many situations. With dubious claims abounding from some cloud providers alleging the superiority of their enterprise solutions, MultiValue data replication is unique in that it helps businesses deliver a low-risk, competitive solution that creates renewed business value from their current IT investments.