Protecting the Edge is Crucial in a Cloud Environment

As companies continue to adopt more cloud and virtualisation technologies, they would do well to pay special attention to the devices that are now essentially the lifeline to their IT resources:

In previous posts other bloggers have discussed some of the changes that virtualisation and cloud technologies bring to the data centre, such as how it drives the need for a  fresh look at power and cooling, especially given how virtualisation tends to create hot spots. These posts raise excellent points that companies certainly need to address.

But just as critical is the network edge. Whether we’re talking about a single small office or a branch office of a large company, the setup tends to be much the same. You’ve got a closet with some networking gear in it, or maybe in a campus environment, you’re sharing networking gear with several other tenants.

As virtualisation and cloud technologies continue to take hold, in more and more cases these sites have little to no actual computing hardware on site. Rather, they are dependent on far away servers for computing power – whether at company headquarters or at a third-party application provider site, such as Salesforce.com.

Think about what the effect would be on those sites should their network connection be lost. What productivity are you losing when you lose connectivity to the cloud, and what is the cost?   You probably still have to pay employees when they’re not connected, but can they do any meaningful work? Will your phones go down, so you can’t take calls?   What is the potential cost of that in terms of lost revenue or productivity?

I’ve talked to lots of partners and customers who say employees can just go to the nearest coffee shop to get a connection in the event of a network failure. That may work for an office with just 2 or 3 employees (although even then it’s not what I would consider a viable backup strategy), but it’s just not feasible for an office of 10 or more.

Consider a retail environment, where there are lots of devices on premise involved in processing point of sale transactions. If your POS devices go down and you can’t process sales, how much will that cost you per hour?

Clearly, all this equipment needs to be protected against outages, whether it’s POS devices and desktops or the routers and switches that provide network connectivity.   So the next question is, how will you provide backup power in the event of an outage and how much runtime do you need?

Perhaps there’s a generator on site, so all you need is a UPS that can provide enough runtime to power things till the generator is fired up. But does the generator have enough power to run all of your critical equipment, or is it just for emergency lighting?

With respect to the UPSs, can you manage them remotely?   There's a couple of reasons why this is important. One, remote management capabilities give the central IT staff the ability to identify when the UPSs need maintenance, such as a new battery. Additionally, with managed UPSs the central IT group can selectively shut down non-critical devices, thus enabling the UPS to provide power to the really important equipment for a longer period of time.

All APC by Schneider Electric Smart-UPS and Symmetra UPS models of 5 kVA and above ship with an integrated Network Management Card for remote management, and it’s optional on models below 5 kVA. All the remote operator needs is a web browser, and the systems also integrate with any network management system that supports SNMP, the Simple Network Management Protocol.

In the cloud and virtual world, protecting the edge is critical but with the right backup power plan, you can dramatically reduce your risk – and keep employees productive.