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The Non-Critical App That Just Went Down? Turns Out It Was Critical

By Anon Anon posted 03-17-2015 08:00 AM


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If you ask someone in a given field of endeavor “What is critical to success?” they’ll most likely focus on one or two key elements. For instance, in Hollywood, someone might point to the director and the stars as critical. A football fan might mention the head coach and the quarterback. In the IT world, a discussion of enterprise applications will likely turn to critical systems such as ERP and CRM.


True, these top level people and systems are fundamental to success. But it’s a bit shortsighted to believe that they are the only reasons for success. There are plenty of other areas that are also critical, even if they aren’t as obvious. After all, the greatest director in history and the world’s biggest stars can’t make up for a lousy movie script. And there are plenty of examples of sports teams that had a great coach and a superstar player but failed to succeed because they were lacking in other areas.


In enterprise technology, it’s easy to identify a list of essential applications that expands well beyond the usual suspects. If you don’t immediately think of email as critical, try spending several hours without it. And you can get by without the company website and document management system, except of course when you need that one piece of information vital to a big sale or a time-sensitive project.


While many may not think of so-called “tier 2” applications as critical, companies quickly find out just how significant those systems really are if they go down for any amount of time.


This misconception can create real problems. That’s because applications seen as tier 2 usually don’t receive the same level of attention when it comes to uptime, performance, and reliability. Tier 1 systems such as ERP run on high-end servers (with the most redundancy) and are attached to the fastest and most reliable storage networks and infrastructure. In contrast, tier 2 applications end up with basic storage, most likely run over the corporate network, and have only limited protection against downtime and poor performance.


For many companies, this is how things work—until they experience a major downtime event that wakes them up about how important these tier 2 applications really are. And then it’s a mad scramble to ensure that these applications are more reliable, have increased storage capabilities, and receive the faster connections that truly critical systems require.


But smart companies are already treating these tier 2 applications as the vital services they are. And they know a secret: It really isn’t that difficult to do. These companies have a deeper understanding of their key applications and don’t base their idea of “criticality” on traditional thinking. Instead, they break the status quo by ensuring that their entire IT infrastructure provides a reliable, high-performance base for all the applications they rely on.


For example, one key area where many companies can improve today without much upfront work is in their virtual environments. Aberdeen research has found that so-called tier 2 applications like email and departmental websites are much more likely to be running in virtual environments than tier 1 applications. As part of the movement to migrate enterprise virtual infrastructure to high-performance and reliable servers and storage, smart companies can simultaneously boost the performance and availability of their tier 2 applications—treating them more like critical applications.


The end result is that companies don’t have to treat their tier 2 applications like afterthoughts. Instead, they can build a flexible environment that doesn’t force them to compromise.


After all, you never know how important those tier 2 applications could turn out to be. In this year’s Super Bowl, while stars like Tom Brady had good games, the biggest play of the Super Bowl (the goal line interception to seal the win for the Patriots) was made by Malcolm Butler, an undrafted player from a small college who most people had never heard of (basically the NFL version of a tier 2 application). And in your organization, that small departmental website could turn out to the Malcolm Butler that makes your business successful.