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SunGard Consolidates Disaster-Recovery Centers

From the outside, SunGard Availability Services' New York metro area disaster-recovery center is unassuming, except for its multiple-football-field size. Just two stories high, the facility's windows make it seem more like a factory or warehouse. But the one-way mirror behind the security desk is the first hint that this is no ordinary building. The security command center resides behind that glass, with enough monitors to view what's going on both inside and out.
Once inside, every door seems to require identity access. Even Len Guddemi, SunGard's VP of northeast operations, couldn't get through some. Customers are king here, and if they're in one of the customer-command rooms, nobody else gets in.

Many of those rooms were taken on a recent uneventful October Tuesday, a sure sign that SunGard and its megacenter have become more than a disaster-recovery facility. The vendor isn't giving up its disaster-recovery business, but it has a new focus as well: information availability.

Jim Simmons, SunGard Availability Services CEO, considers information availability much broader than just disaster recovery. "Information availability is a business process, a way of thinking, as compared to disaster recovery, which is a reaction," he says. These days, Simmons meets with C-level executives who want their companies to remain up and running, disaster or not. "It's about living healthy, versus rushing to the emergency room after a heart attack," Simmons says.

Nick Voutsakis, chief technology officer at Glenmede Trust, an investment-management firm and SunGard customer for nine years, recalls how SunGard changed its strategy from cold sites, where equipment remains offline until it's needed, to hot sites, where a broad mix of SunGard's infrastructure is live with mission-critical applications that multiple companies can access. "Availability isn't just in case of a natural disaster, but in case of disasters that happen throughout the year, like a server going down," says Voutsakis, who hopes to leverage a SunGard hot site for dual data-center activity for trading systems, performance management, and trust accounting. "Day to day, multiple things could go down," Voutsakis says. "Another benefit [of information availability] is not having to shell out money for a disaster that never happens."

Customer demand, as well as brute reality, is behind the move from disaster recovery to information availability, David Tapper, an IDC analyst says. Even with wildfires and blackouts, disaster recovery isn't exactly a hot market, he says. "On-demand computing is the next big market, and disaster recovery should be a subset of that," Tapper says. SunGard owns about $800 million of the $2.5 billion disaster-recovery market, with IBM taking in about $450 million, according to IDC.

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