IBM Invention Uses SDN For Business Continuity

Big Blue teams with Marist College to develop software that speeds relocation of voice and data services in the event of a natural disaster.

Tony Kontzer

November 25, 2013

3 Min Read
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With images of the typhoon-ravaged Philippines fresh in most people's minds and last year's Superstorm Sandy a lingering memory, it's reasonable to assume that disaster recovery and business continuity weighs heavily on the minds of IT folks these days.

It's with that backdrop that IBM and Marist College recently revealed that they've figured out how to leverage software-defined networking technology to significantly shorten the amount of time required to move voice and data services to a secure location.

Described in a press release as an "SDN advancement," the software invention is designed to enable IT professionals to use a tablet or smart phone, backed by an open source network controller developed at Marist, to remotely access and make changes to network resources.

"A year ago, Sandy left millions of individuals and businesses in the Northeast without electronic communications for days, weeks and even months -- in some cases, data centers were literally under water," Casimer DeCusatis, an IBM distinguished engineer, said in a statement. "With our invention, a data center operator could quickly and simply move data and applications to another data center outside the danger zone in minutes."

The IBM-Marist invention could prove to be an important one, Peter Christy, research director at 451 Research, said via email. While it's not going to help save lives or rebuild storm-ravaged communities, Christy said it could help minimize the impact natural disasters have on business activity, especially given workers' growing dependence on mobile devices to access applications and services.

"Before, you had to have a replica computing system ready to use; with virtualization, you can move an image of your system somewhere else," Christy said. "It's much easier to deal with disasters now in a cost-effective and convenient way."

[Another IBM creation is designed to prevent cloud performance problems by dynamically managing network bandwidth in cloud computing environments. Read the details in "IBM Invention Aims to Fix Cloud Bottlenecks."]

While having such capabilities from a PC-bound management console would be helpful enough, enabling them from mobile devices takes it to another level.

"If you’re an IT administrator and you hear of an impeding issue you need to act on, mobile devices allow you to reply from where you are -- at home, at a bar, on vacation -- rather than having to go into the office," Christy said. "This advantage is especially important in the case of weather and other physical disasters, where the last thing you want to do is travel."

The work on the invention has unfolded in Marist's SDN Innovation Lab, an IBM-sponsored facility that's used to evaluate new SDN-related inventions and use cases in a heterogeneous computing environment.

Christy said it's logical to work on open technologies such as SDN in such facilities because it allows researchers to test the interoperability of their inventions much more simply than if they had to set up such environments in their own labs.

The new technology is currently being demoed to IBM customers and is expected to be available sometime next year.

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