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Safeguarding the Virtual Infrastructure from a Single Point of Failure

By CIOReview | Monday, September 18, 2017

A Single Point of Failure (SPOF) relates, to the fault in part of a system or a flaw in the configuration of a system that leads to the subsequent failure of operations in an organization. In the days of physical data centres, SPOF impacted a single workload, but, with the dawn of virtualization, the virtual infrastructure, hosted on a physical infrastructure runs multiple workloads, which means a failure at the virtual end has the potential to result in a major outage for the organization. IT plays an integral part in the everyday operations and ignoring the possible SPOF(s) that the IT can harbor can be traumatizing for a business.

Talking about cloud computing or virtual infrastructure, SPOF(s) can occur at any possible time, from a faulty switch to an ISP provider, affecting the reliability and availability of the systems. The failure can be witnessed in both hardware and software of virtual infrastructure, having the capabilities of pulling down the entire organization network to a halt. The SPOF(s) can occur due to shortcomings in its architecture, design, or implementation creating bottle-necks for multi-line servers. For instance, in a data center where multiple applications function depending on a single application server, the failure of the same will make the applications inaccessible to its users. Therefore, it is essential to avoid the bottle-neck issues that arise within the virtual infrastructure in a timely manner. Outage as that of a cloud server results not only in the unavailability of its services, but also draws significant financial loss to organizations.

SPOF(s) are often witnessed amongst businesses with limited IT budget, obscure to dysfunctional situation it can possibly cause to the entire system. Irrespective of organizations being medium or large sized, regular introspection of virtual infrastructure has become pertinent to identify the SPOF(s) at its earliest. SPOF(s) can be categorized as–virtual hardware failure, software failure, database corruption, and failure in mass storage device. Other potential SPOF(s) can include Internet gateway failure, operator error, DNS failure, DHCP failure, and backup server failure. Identifying the common spots for SPOF(s) can deliver a long-way in the seamless working of the virtual infrastructure in an organization; these are:

• Hardware failure- Being the most regular source of physical SPOF(s), organizations needs to ensure backup of redundant power supply, routers, and switches to a server or storage device.

• Operator failure- The ISP can be source of SPOF(s) if accurate redundancy measures are not built in to account for failures at the providers end. If the event(s) of an emergency outage at the operators end, its impact on the operations might result in certain financial losses to the organization. Therefore, investing in a backup ISP service will always prove to be beneficial for the organization.

• Logical failure- Software flaws or logical flaws can render outages to software architecture within the virtual infrastructure. Deploying high-availability of application clusters eliminates SPOF(s) in cloud architecture.

• Documentation- Along these lines documenting the IT infrastructure as a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) can support in times of emergency. It might appear to be a tedious task to begin with, but will leverage to improve the odds. Working out a detailed network layout of your organization will help in identifying the various SPOF(s) that exist within the system.

A virtual infrastructure is expected to deliver maximum availability of resources for the users of an organization. Eliminating the SPOF(s) in cloud architecture brings quality as well as consistent data access for the cloud-service users. As Mark Twain said, “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch the basket,” defines the clear implementation of redundant techniques to the virtual infrastructure, where the virtual infrastructure is a basket, which must contain the ability to boost the capacity of multiple hardware or software systems, to function as a single logical unit, with no signs of SPOF(s).