Too many platforms, too many technologies and too many vendors to manage—this is a familiar complaint from many IT managers these days. While trying to keep up with the exponential data growth and demand for performance and innovation, most enterprises find themselves in this situation. To make matters more convoluted, the entrance of niche applications and technology trends like social computing and analytics, cloud computing, and even big data have created more silos of information. The resulting complex and rigid infrastructure leads not only to high hardware and management-related costs but also to a reduced ability to quickly develop new solutions for business users and customers.
The smartest IT organizations are rethinking how they set up their enterprise systems, and they are planning consolidation and modernization efforts to apply a standardized, unified set of hardware and software resources that support multiple applications. Unfortunately, this is not a quick and easy step. Although it is instrumental in achieving efficiency in IT operations, system consolidation projects can bring significant risks and major business interruption. This challenge is compounded by the stakes involved, as any mistakes can lead to lost revenue, reduced employee productivity or damage to a company’s reputation.
To minimize disruption to end users and the business, IT teams typically schedule these projects over a weekend. This approach is not feasible for many critical systems that need close to 24/7 availability, however. For example, imagine your favorite online shopping site or travel site being shut down for hours on a weekend. Wouldn’t you just take your business to its competitors? Also, for companies with global operations, off-business hours are very limited and typically do not leave enough time to complete major consolidation projects. This is where real-time data integration comes into play. It eliminates downtime and risk associated with consolidating or moving business-critical systems, and it enables organizations to achieve the full benefits of such critical efforts. Let’s first take a look at how you can achieve this goal using real-time data integration before we look at the financial benefits of this approach.
Achieving Business Continuity
The main purpose of using real-time data integration during a consolidation project is to keep the old and new systems in synch, enabling switchover to the next system without downtime. This is fundamentally different from the traditional migration methods that require you to stop the production database to keep the target environment in synch after the initial copy.
The key technical capabilities to look for in a technology solution are the ability to capture new transactions from the legacy production systems and to update the new system with near-zero latency, as well as with transactional integrity and reliability. Obviously, the solution must be able to operate between heterogeneous systems and different database schemas to move data from legacy systems to a new, consolidated system.
When you can capture new transactions at high speed, you can continue to run your legacy systems during the whole data migration process, thus eliminating database downtime. Even while you are instantiating the new system, the incremental data should be captured to synchronize the new system as soon as it is ready, without losing any transactions. Real-time, “transaction-aware” data movement allows the new (target) system to be immediately available for end-users once testing is complete. If the target system is open and ready to process transactions, the new environment does not have to go through any database starting/mounting process, which adds to the switchover period.
Because the data migration effort isn’t interrupting transactions processing in the legacy systems, and because the target system is live and open, IT teams have a greater flexibility to test the new system using production data for as long as it takes. From end users’ perspective, it is business as usual. When the two systems are completely in synch and the new system is ready for transactions, you can switch your applications to the new, consolidated system immediately without any interruption to database availability. The total downtime will be only the time it takes to switch over the applications, since the target system is live, up to date and ready to start operations instantly.
When the real-time data integration solution offers bidirectional data movement capabilities, you can even eliminate the switchover-related downtime. Bidirectional data synchronization allows you to run the legacy databases and the new database simultaneously, supporting transaction processing in parallel. Application users can be switched over in phases without any downtime and with full confidence in the new environment. Compared with a Big Bang migration strategy, this phased migration configuration is more suitable for mission-critical systems that cannot tolerate any downtime or risk.
Moving Ahead with Confidence and Minimized Risks
Even if you choose to use a Big Bang migration with a real-time data integration solution, the bidirectional data movement gives you a “failback” option in case the new system has any problems. When the old legacy systems are in synch with the new production system, you have the option to switch back to them without losing any data. For critical systems that can affect customer service, revenue and employee productivity, this failback option brings great peace of mind. IT teams can move forward with confidence, knowing that they will have time to test the system and revert back to the legacy systems quickly if any problems arise.
Maximizing ROI with Real-Time Data Integration
We know that reducing complexity and consolidating into standardized, more-efficient systems will significantly reduce hardware and management costs. Using real-time data integration for consolidation/migration projects brings additional tangible benefits and maximizes the potential return.
The key benefits and cost savings of a heterogeneous, bidirectional real-time data integration solution are summarized below:
- Business continuity during consolidation: This is the most crucial benefit when it comes to mission-critical systems that need near 24/7 availability. If revenue-generating systems are down, such as an e-commerce company’s portal or an order management/fulfillment system, that company will lose revenue. For some large companies, this loss can be millions of dollars per minute. In a health-care organization, you can’t even put a dollar value on the life/death consequences of downtime in a critical application. Another consequence can be missing availability related to service level agreements (SLAs) with customers or partners, potentially leading to terminated contracts or lost future business. For systems that may not directly affect revenue, extended downtime still interrupts internal operations and reduces productivity for end users. When employees are struggling to do their work without access to key systems, it is highly likely that customer service will be affected as well. Less tangible, but still a highly critical result of downtime, is decrease in brand equity. Extended or frequent outages, even planned, can harm customer experience. Through word of mouth, social media or mainstream media, these service interruptions can damage a company’s reputation.
- Mitigating risks with failback option: In the case of unforeseen issues with the migration, having the ability to go back to old systems quickly and without data loss prevents significant business interruption–related costs. These costs are similar to those mentioned above: damage to customer relationships, as well as loss in revenue and/or employee productivity. Another benefit that may not be immediately visible is the ability to start high-risk projects sooner rather than later, as the real-time data integration solution removes the majority of the project risks. The earlier you start the project, the earlier and longer you can reap the benefits of a standardized, streamlined infrastructure.
- Testing and migration without time pressure: This is another way to minimize risks and increase success rates, because thorough testing helps reduce errors, in addition to using limited IT staff resources more effectively and efficiently. Eliminating time limitations as to when the cutover must happen creates a completely different working environment. Your team will be less stressed and have more control of every step of the project. By enabling a smooth project, you can better plan the resources you need and then stick to your plan.
- Flexibility that comes with heterogeneity: Real-time, heterogeneous and “transaction-aware” data integration supports the use of a wide variety of databases, operating systems and hardware platforms. This flexibility is very significant to being able to create the optimized environment you need for your business operations without limiting your options in any layer of the infrastructure. Using the same data integration solution for multiple systems facilitates standardization for the middleware layer and enables operational efficiency and staff productivity.
- Decreasing network costs and source overhead: By moving only the committed transactions, you move less data throughout the day. When compared with using a bulk data movement solution or storage-based replication tool for data migration, this approach enables more-effective use of your existing communication bandwidth. If your real-time data integration solution uses a log-based capture mechanism, it also minimizes the overhead and the performance impact on your production systems, helping you better use your existing CPU resources.
Today’s IT leaders are eager to take their data centers to the next level of innovation and efficiency, but they also face a risky path to getting there. Real-time data integration removes key hurdles in these critical projects. It eliminates downtime and its related costs, minimizes risks involved, and gives the IT staff flexibility to manage these critical projects effectively. Depending on the solution you choose, it can also deliver significant cost-of-ownership benefits over the traditional data migration approaches. In today’s complex IT landscape, it offers an efficient and flexible mechanism for smooth transition to a streamlined infrastructure, as well as a much-needed support to maximize the return on your strategic consolidation efforts.
About the Author
Irem Radzik is Director of Product Marketing for Oracle Data Integration products. Irem has more than 14 years of product management and marketing experience in software, financial services and consulting industries—with a focus on data and application integration, CRM and performance management technologies. She joined Oracle in 2009 with the acquisition of GoldenGate Software. While at GoldenGate Software, Radzik lead product marketing, where she was responsible for product messaging/positioning and marketing strategy. Before GoldenGate Software, she held product management and marketing positions at Siebel Systems (now part of Oracle), TIBCO Software Inc and Enkata Technologies.
Image courtesy of Michael Mandiberg