Lakeview Crusades Against HA Complexity
October 4, 2005 Dan Burger
Most people won’t give you an argument when it comes to reducing IT complexity. Making use of technology to increase productivity, decrease risks, and lower costs is everyone’s goal, but in many instances, complexity is produced as a byproduct. A good example of reduced complexity can be found in the high availability (HA) software business. Vendors there have been focused on the C-word, and that’s why one of them, Lakeview Technology, is crowing about product enhancements it plans to make available in November.
Lakeview’s high availability product lineup is called MIMIX and it comes in two flavors: MIMIX ha1 and MIMIX ha Lite. The two versions share many commonalities, however, more features related to customized deployments are included in ha1, and the Lite product is primarily designed (and priced) as an option for small to mid size organizations. Both will receive the next round of enhancements that are aimed at ease of use and minimizing operator intervention.
5250 or GUI
For those already familiar with MIMIX, whether you use the 5250 green screen or the graphical user interface, there’s a noticeable difference in the visual representation of the replication environment. When using the 5250 interface, there are color-coded status bars summarizing replication status, audits/notifications, and service conditions. Not only is this visually easier to read and understand, but it also adds the convenience of allowing users to work from a single screen. This is an obvious improvement from the previous layout that required users to navigate multiple screens when drilling down to the next level of detail or getting fast access to commonly used operations.
If a graphical user interface suits you better, the browser-style view can deliver an enterprise view of all MIMIX ha1 and MIMIX ha Lite installations. Lakeview likes the term “at-a-glance status” to describe the ease with which users can be made aware of their HA installation status. As the software monitors the HA processes and the synchronization of data and applications that is required for switchover to a backup system, a green plus (+) icon indicates to the person in charge that everything is ready to go. It’s both simple and easy to monitor.
Both interfaces show a time and date record of the previous switch and audit occurrence. It is color-coded to make it noticeable when the next switch and audit is due, based upon user preferences or default best practices. Lakeview engineered these best practice reminders to “take the guesswork out of when to run audits and perform switch tests.” Running regularly scheduled tests improves the quality of high availability environments. Lakeview, and other HA vendors, agree that avoiding regularly scheduled switchovers is a bad policy, but one that takes place in far too many instances.
People, Not Automatons
Unfortunately, autonomic functionality is a term that easily rolls off the tongue of sales and marketing professionals. It tends to be overused and, at least by some people, overrated. The problem with casually using autonomic lingo that includes terms such as self-managing and self-healing is that it’s easy to cross over the line to thinking the system–high availability or any other technology–is capable of running without human intervention. There’s another term that’s used to describe the human side of this circumstance. It’s called lazy and it often leads to a set-it-and-forget-it situation.
That said, the enhancements to MIMIX do include a useful automatic feature that identifies and repairs certain replication issues that occur within complex database environments. In addition, attribute-level correction of only unsynchronized attributes is automatically performed without having to synchronize the data. Lakeview chose this method over file-level correction because of its more efficient use of processing and bandwidth resources. These automated monitoring and correction capabilities are in place to keep the HA environment up-to-date and switch-ready, and minimizes (but does not eliminate) the need for operator intervention. As Lakeview points out, it builds users’ confidence in their ability to make the switchover, and it lessens their overall workload, which allows them more time to manage other important business functions.
Lakeview also promises these soon-to-be-available enhancements will deliver other timesaving features as well as improved performance and more efficient use of resources. New policy-based audit notifications will enable users to determine which notifications, based on the level of severity, are most readily seen. There is also an available notification for automatic cleanup, providing users with the opportunity to program specifically chosen deletions. The performance gains could be realized by scheduling policy-based audits during low periods of activity.
Paula Stewart, Lakeview’s product strategy director, describes the latest round of autonomic enhancements as providing more than just “at-a-glance” indicators that replication is working. Putting a wider scope on the benefits brought to the table, Stewart says users can now be assured their entire HA environment is error free, and their business is protected.”
The new features will be free to existing MIMIX customers that have a current MIMIX HA maintenance agreement.
Lakeview made the announcement regarding the MIMIX enhancements at the Fall 2005 COMMON conference, which was held September 18 through 22 in Orlando, Florida. At the same time, Lakeview also announced a partnership with ERP vendor SSA Global, which will integrate MIMIX into its product line to reduce or eliminate planned and unplanned downtime.