High availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) solutions aren't just insurance against natural disasters anymore. Demand for integrated HA and DR systems—beyond traditional tape backups—continues to grow as organizations of all sizes recognize the cost of outages and unplanned downtime.
That said, Maximum Availability, a leading provider of the *noMAX suite of HA and DR products for the System i, with over 250 installations in 40 countries, estimates that nearly nine in 10 enterprises on the System i server still rely on tape backup for data protection. In those statistics, the company sees an opportunity that it hopes to exploit with the release this month of *noMAX Version 5: Release 1 (vnR1M0).
Maximum Availability Vice President of Marketing Andrew Mansfield believes today's business environment is rapidly rendering such manual, standalone methods of protection obsolete. "We see a lot of companies that are increasingly faced with complex data replication needs as compliance issues come into play and as downtime becomes more of a focus in the operation of the business," he says. "The need for customizable, secure, and easy-to-manage solutions to offset the cost of downtime is becoming critical."
Indeed, the primary driver behind the development of new features and modules for *noMAX vnR1M0—the most significant set of enhancements to the product since its initial launch in 2002—is the desire to empower users' ability to configure and manage the solution exactly as their System i environments dictate. Carrying that message, Maximum Availability hopes to widen its reach within the largely untapped user base.
The *noMAX evolution has been a rapid one. Within two years of its introduction, Maximum Availability has enhanced *noMAX from a single solution into a fully integrated suite comprising three distinct products: *noMAX Sentry, a one-way data replication product designed as a low-cost entry-level product; *noMAX Defender, which performs the data replication task, as well as dynamic file and object creation in multiple environments; and *noMAX Garrison, which augments the data replication, object creation, and dynamic file capabilities of *noMAX Defender with the Integrated File System (IFS).
With the enhanced features now available in *noMAX vnR1M0, customers will be better able to customize and manage the product's features to meet their unique business environments. "These enhancements are the result of a significant focus on our customers," says Product Development Manager Mark Crosby. "In addition to more object types, such as user spaces, user indexes, and save files, our customers wanted expanded ability to control and manage the product themselves."
The basic building block of *noMAX vnR1M0 is the *noMAX Property File feature, which allows each customer to set user-defined rules under which new and existing *noMAX processes will function in that customer's environment. Through its property settings, a customer will control, customize, and store its overall replication process, including object and failure definitions. "The property file is going to become more customized for each customer," says Crosby. "Prior to now, the *noMAX product's functionality was defined to do a certain thing in a certain way—the same way across all our customers' platforms. With the property files, we're now allowing customers to define their *noMAX processes individually, for their environments, rather than being controlled globally."
For organizations with limited operational resources, or for any facility where the lights go out overnight, the *noMAX product can now self-correct any replication issues via its new Autonomics module. Previous versions of *noMAX acted as a data, object, and IFS replication tool, performing replication on the target side. Now, when a replication error occurs, *noMAX vnR1M0—with its Autonomics functionality—allows for dynamic fixes, automatically requesting re-syncs of objects or failures as defined by the customer and stored in the Property File. "We had always worked on the principle that if faced with a replication problem it is better to get to the cause rather than masking a fix over the top of it," says Crosby. "And while a lot of our customers told us finding the cause was important, they really didn't like doing a manual synchronization after the event. So now the customer can define how Autonomics fixes objects."
The new patrolMAX module allows *noMAX to patrol for the re-syncs. "Customers have always been able to use the work scheduler to schedule jobs and tasks within the operating system," says Crosby. "Now, with patrolMAX functionality, we've allowed it to schedule and run timed events. Customers can define certain tasks and activities within the Property File that they wish patrolMAX to run for them, so they don't need to rely on the operating system feature."
Similarly, newly enhanced *noMAX journal management tools—now accessible within the GUI display—streamline replication management by shifting the management process from the OS to *noMAX. For "dumb screen" and emulator environments, *noMAX is now also accessible via a green-screen menu. This allows customers to use either the GUI or Text User Interface (TUI) and run through a menu rather than a command-specific function.
Among other important new features, *noMAX vnR1M0 enables new object types, such as spool files, and allows users to replicate these objects to the target system. This helps ensure that the two systems maintain identical sets of information, which provides greater utilization of the user's application and enhances the overall functionality of the backup system.
Users will see most of the enhancements being made on *noMAX Defender and *noMAX Garrison. "We focused this new release primarily on the mid to upper end of our solution set, because that's really where our customers are focused and where they tell us they want to see more of the evolution taking place. Their needs are getting more complex, and the new functionality we're offering meets the types of environmental needs and challenges our customers are experiencing on a daily basis," says Crosby.
"This release, which is available at no charge to existing customers with maintenance agreements, signals an important development for us in the evolution of our product roadmap," says Mansfield. "It represents the foundation of the next generation of HA and DR solutions to be developed over the next several years. In this regard I think it's fair to say 'watch this space' for more in 2007.'''
Michael Stuhlreyer is a business writer, a graphic designer, and president of Stuhlreyer Business Instruments, LLC, a Nashville-based firm specializing in the creation of marketing and sales support materials, articles, case studies, and product profiles for technology companies.
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