GIS-Preventing Cloud Outage

By CIOReview | Monday, August 1, 2016
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With the changing business dynamics, and increasing pressure to stay ahead in the competition, organizations are plunging into the cloud, to bring in flexibility and enhance their business strategy. However, with cloud recasting the IT services sector, the emerging risk factor of cloud outage continues to act as a black eye in the path of embracing the cloud. For instance, Google recently was jolted to the spotlight after its cloud services went down for 18 minutes, taking almost all of its customer sites down. This cloud outage surely didn't aid in chasing away any fear around cloud security and downtime; in fact, it raised questions regarding the reliability of the cloud.

Google’s cloud outage wasn't the first, and it certainly won't be the last. In the past year, other major cloud services have also witnessed the same exigency, including Yahoo Mail, Amazon, Microsoft BPOS, and VMware.

Let’s just assume that outages are meant to happen. Be it in the case of a public cloud, a hosting provider, or a company’s data center, infrastructure downtime is inevitable. Equipment breaks or does not function as expected, software bugs slip by, natural disasters occur, and unforeseen situations lead to unexpected consequences. Sometimes services are degraded, and sometimes complete data centers go dark. In such a scenario, the natural question that comes up is that what could be done to prevent the outage from occurring? Enter geographic information system technology—aiding providers to minimize or avoid service disruptions.

For example, if an earthquake strikes in and jeopardize the connectivity of a data center, it might be impossible for customers to access critical resources in another area. Moreover, the management systems will be inept to make intelligent predictions, ultimately failing to inform the provider or the consumer about what's going on. Here, data might be unavailable for an extended period. In such a scenario, the geographic information system can aid in identifying potential natural disaster and other developing threats, which can inflict on cloud services, and use that information to make plans to avoid outages, and minimize service disruption.

Dubbed as GIS, this robust technology can be integrated with a policy-based management system that defines in advance what action should take place if there is an impending catastrophe. This can provide a framework when certain criteria or conditions are met, and an already-developed plan can be kick-started into action.

Utilizing GIS to Build Up a Resilient Cloud

Used to map and create a spatially accurate digital representation, GIS enables cloud providers to detect and evaluate external threats. A study conducted by TM Forum named Catalyst proposed utilizing GIS technology to help understand developing threats, such as natural disasters. In this use case, it was an ice storm that posed the menace, similar to a weather system that affected parts of the U.S. during the winter of 2011. The project showed how GIS technology could supplement existing network monitoring and management systems by bestowing triggers that deliver notifications in advance of a developing threat and predict its potential impact. The ideal outcome is to give customers enough warning to identify any critical applications and services and relocate them to areas that are not facing a crisis.

If GIS technology is linked to a policy-based management system, a cloud provider could define, in advance, what action should take place if certain criteria or conditions are met. These systems could, of course, be tailored to the individual customer's needs. Then, if a predefined condition or conditions are met, the cloud provider's policy-based management system ensures that the appropriate backup plan will kick in.

Bulletproofing Cloud

Further, GIS is also now used to augment the capacity of Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the understanding of data. GIS and analytics can reveal correlations, patterns, trends, opportunities and risks that may not be so apparent with the same data presented in databases, spreadsheets, and files. As such, the technology can enhance customer experience and help management teams within service provider organizations make swifter, better-informed business decisions.