ViewsLetter(SM) on Provisioning

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ViewsLetter on Provisioning         5 Sept 2005           #48

Provisioning automation--from chips to the business layer.


By William Flanagan, Editor

Continuity of operations (COOP) is what the Federal Government calls it--how to stay in business while you can't get to your normal offices or when your main computers fail--or both. Every Federal organization is supposed to have a COOP Plan spelling out who should go where and what they should expect to find when they get there. That's a good idea for any business that relies on communications or computers.

In working on such a plan, as we occasionally do, we find the customer usually wants to pre-install fixed facilities to meet current requirements for data bandwidth to sub-offices and server sites, telephone service to the PSTN, and Internet access. COOP also can include disaster recovery for servers and mainframe computers, to the COOP location, another owned data center, or a third-party service site.

The catch is that the needs during an emergency may differ from "current requirements," either more or less than planned and pre-deployed. There's a cautious balance between paying for more standby capacity than needed, and not having enough when the crunch comes (read last week's newspapers for prime examples). Except for a very few organizations, cost is important and immediate; whether capacity is sufficient is known only in the future. The natural tendency is to pay less now and worry about adding more later.


What if the backup site were populated with structured cabling, LAN hardware, and power sources as well as desk space--more or less as done today. What if, instead of provisioning the WAN connection with specific bandwidth, and ordering specific telephone services in advance, the uplink was simply a fiber from a fast router to a carrier that offered bandwidth on demand?

Now the space could work for a variety of situations, even a variety of organizations. Bandwidth could be opened only as needed. The self-provisioning of phone service has started, for individuals and small businesses--why not for larger organization? With an on-line reservations system you could book yourself into the COOP Hotel and get exactly the accommodations you need, want, or can pay for--exactly when you need it.

This situation sounds like the case described in the very first issue of the ViewsLetter, three years ago. Not that we're running out of ideas, it seems rather that the idea looks more attractive in light of current events. With all the good will in the world, such a backup location won't be available, for example, to evacuees from New Orleans. Will there be such sites after the next disaster? Or the one after that?

We know that "stuff happens." In the present global political climate, we can expect more stuff to happen before long.


What are you doing to prepare for continuity of your business? Let us know, if you will, in general terms (no addresses of backup sites, please), what your plan is like. Don't have a plan? Better start thinking about questions like these:

Enterprises: what kind of operations are you planning to keep running?
How many people, as a percentage of total staff? Which services? What data/servers?

Governments: Have a COOP Plan?
Think it will work acceptably after a hurricane?

Carriers: what kinds of services on demand do you offer?
Is the recurring cost of unused facilities at backup sites within reach of most businesses? Can bandwidth and services be provisioned quickly, by the customer, to any practical scale?

Have a wish list? Share it with your fellow readers. Together, perhaps we can get somebody interested before, rather than after, we "flew the COOP."

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