Thinking of choosing virtualized high availability software over a continuous availability solution? So were 50% of Stratus customers until they learned this…
In a recent survey of over 500 Stratus customers, 50% responded that they were also considering virtualized high availability software during their buying process. “Aren’t HA (high availability) solutions good enough?”, “Can’t we just have a good DR system in place?”, and “Do we really need continuous availability?” are just a few questions that come to mind when exploring availability options.
Does this sound familiar? Here is what our customers learned as they compared options during their decision process:
Reaction is not prevention
Downtime prevention methods include a full range of options, from disaster recovery (backup and restoration), to data replication, to application failover and restart. Despite their differences, the one thing they hold in common is that they are reactive solutions – they cannot stop an outage from occurring – resulting in the very real risk of lost data and halted processing.
Choosing the right availability solution requires understanding your cost of downtime
A common way of distinguishing between availability solutions is by their percentage of availability. Traditional high availability solutions (such as clustering) can have an availability percentage of 99.95%, or 4.38 hours of downtime per year, where a continuous availability solution guarantees an availability percentage of 99.999+%, or between two and a half and five and a quarter minutes of unplanned downtime per year. These percentages may not seem like substantial differences, but they could mean the difference between hours – and big dollars. According to the Aberdeen Group, the cost of downtime went up $260,000 per hour on average between 2014 and 2016.
The Stratus approach
While HA solutions can be sufficient in some instances, Stratus’ continuous availability solutions are vital for applications and systems that are business critical, especially when they reside outside of the datacenter. When it comes to industries where system failure, or even an hour of downtime could mean destroyed reputations, damaged environments, the loss of thousands of dollars – or even worse – lives, anything less than continuous availability is simply not an option.
That is why our customers rely on Stratus to prevent the failure from occurring in the first place – and guess how operationally simple it made their lives.
Here are just a few examples of what those same Stratus customers have been experiencing:
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Across the spectrum of industries, one thing all companies agree on is that the cost of unplanned downtime is quite substantial. The vexing question is how much?
Surprisingly, a survey of operations people found that 71% of respondents admitted their company is not tracking downtime cost with any quantifiable metrics. That means most companies won’t know what an outage costs until it occurs and by then it’s too late to prevent such an incident.
In stark contrast, Stratus customers are keenly aware of how unplanned downtime could impact their businesses. In fact, a recent TechValidate survey of 533 Stratus users identified the five biggest cost factors from unplanned downtime:
Loss of Productivity – Think about a critical production line sitting idle for hours or days. Or dozens of employees forced to revert to manual processes during an outage of operations systems. One of our manufacturing customers calculated their cost of unplanned production downtime at $33,000 per hour.
Loss of Revenue – If you can’t process and fulfill customer orders due to failed systems, revenue is inevitably reduced. For one Stratus customer-a national stock exchange handling more than one billion trade messages daily-even a few microseconds of downtime can mean revenue losses of tens of thousands of dollars.
Damage to Brand and Reputation – It’s a simple fact: When customers lose confidence in your business, they may go to a competitor. This also makes it difficult to attract new customers. In some cases, it could take years to rebuild your brand image and restore lost revenue.
Loss of Data – When critical systems fail, you could lose valuable transactional and historic data, such as intellectual property, customer records, and financial accounts. Without proper data protection, the cost to your business could be in the millions of dollars.
Non-Compliance – For highly regulated industries, such as public utilities, unplanned downtime can mean stiff fines. Regulators often require demonstrable proof of continuous data availability. The cost of non-compliance can quickly add up, and in some instances result in suspension of your operating license.
With these considerations in mind, and the fact that every day we help customers size these variables based on their inputs, we developed an online Stratus Cost-of-Downtime Calculator. This tool helps professionals like you figure out the full financial impact of downtime on your organization. Check it out, it will help you easily determine how quickly downtime can affordably be prevented.
And assuming your business could benefit from a solution that prevents downtime, we recommend a three-step approach that is extremely reliable and cost efficient:
- First, virtualize your critical systems to drastically reduce the number of physical systems in your environment—and the number of potential points of failure.
- Next, run your virtualized systems on Stratus always-on servers. With integrated redundancy, Stratus servers ensure continuous availability of your virtualized applications, without a single point of failure or risk of data loss.
- Finally, for maximum protection, mirror the always-on Stratus solution to a geographically remote site. That way, even if you lose your production site, your business keeps running.
The Stratus philosophy is simple—the best way to avoid the major costs of unplanned downtime is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Continuous improvement has been a theme in the industrial space since the second part of the last century. It’s not just a sound management philosophy – quite naturally, additional efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility go a long way to adding value in processes that are repeatable and continuously running – it’s a way of life for many an industrial manager.
The technology available today is allowing for a degree of automation and process control that was not imaginable even just a few years ago, applicable in ways that impact not just a process but entire infrastructures. The primary payoff is, of course, increased productivity and more efficient processes. In addition, modern automation systems and OT also provide operators with data that can be used to further fine-tune operations.
Whether they are driving incremental improvements or looking for those breakthrough changes, industrial managers have utilized operational technology (OT) advances to get complete control and maximum value out of their processes. And as OT is aging in many plants, industrial managers are looking for ways to modernize while ensuring returns on any such initiatives. Across industrial plants, there have been several sure-fire approaches to ensure such immediate returns:
- Avoiding additional complexity
- Ensuring visibility and control
- Looking for the big wins
- Preventing major risks and unplanned costs
Avoiding Additional Complexity
The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is already happening. Interconnected sensors are able to monitor every step of every process, and the shared data allows for instantaneous adjustments to industrial operations. Advancements in miniaturization mean these sensors can literally be placed anywhere, which gives operators an unprecedented view inside their plants. A combination of systems, software, networks and computing power are necessary to make it all happen. At the same time, such advancements are driving increased reliance on technology. They may require technological skills that may not be available within every plant. Furthermore, some advanced technologies may create a level of complexity that adds costs, implementation headaches and has uncertain payoffs. Not only that, but in many a case, the additional data generated remains unused or misunderstood. So industrial managers need to make sure their new solutions are simple to implement and operate in order to avoid the extra costs and assure immediate returns.
Ensuring visibility and control
Modernized industrial technologies are promising higher visibility into processes, additional data points as well as control mechanisms to be able to constantly optimize. Ongoing monitoring allows for real-time, or almost real-time, adjustments. For instance, Naveen Kumar – a senior industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan who focuses on industrial automation – points out how “with
sensorization of industrial assets, failing parts in an asset can be spotted very early to avoid undesirable downtime consequences.” However, with multiple systems and new sources of data, it sometimes takes additional time for the data to be assembled, consolidated and analyzed before corrective action can be taken. Which, of course, means that processes have been running at sub-optimal levels for a while before that insight was uncovered. So, industrial plants need tools and technologies to ensure that all systems are monitored, “a single pane of glass”, so that operators can make decisions in real time. Furthermore, they need tools to ensure that all systems and monitoring software are continuously running – any outages or downtime in such systems would lead to the dreaded situation of “flying blind”, i.e. resulting in unmonitored and sub-optimal operations. In addition to the lost optimization opportunities, such downtime incidents create significant risks from an operational, safety and environmental perspective.
Looking for the big wins
Continuous improvement and efficient operations is often about the incremental changes. While those are still valuable, the operational and financial gains that can be generated with certain modernization initiatives can also result in major leaps in either improving yield, flow-through and output, or significantly decreasing costs. It is those “big wins” that are most assured to generate immediate returns and the kinds of modernization projects industrial managers should be considering.
Preventing major risks and unplanned costs
It is easy to picture such “break-through” improvements in the form of extra output or decreased consumption of raw materials, energy or resources. What industrial managers don’t always appreciate are the hidden risks, which, when avoided result in massive savings. There are a couple of reasons why such risks may be overlooked. One would be an underestimation of the likelihood of the bad event happening. The other: lack of information or inaccurate assessment of the extra costs incidents result in. And quite so often such costs are hidden or unpredictable. Knowing the size of such unplanned costs and having accurate historical information on the frequency of such incidents in the past are the main tools to assess the immediate returns of technologies they can use to prevent them.
Consider the case of unplanned downtime: on average, an industrial plant experiences 3.6 unplanned downtime incidents per year. In money alone, each incident is a potential disaster; the estimated hourly cost of unplanned downtime ranges from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour, especially in discrete and process industries. Multiplying the two results in an estimated annual cost of unplanned downtime that few plants can afford to ignore. And while unplanned downtime is primarily measured in money, it can also impact relations with customers, lead to environmental and safety risks, and ultimately impact a company’s reputation.
With modernized operational technologies plant operators can generate gains in efficiency, prevent unplanned costs and monitor operations better. Addressing the big opportunities and avoiding the big risks by simple to install and run solutions are the most proven approaches to achieving immediate returns on such modernization.
To learn more on how advances in modern operational technology are reshaping plant operations for maximum efficiency and uninterrupted operations, download the Stratus Best Practices Kit for Modernizing Automation. To learn more how Stratus can enable your continuous ICS availability, visit www.stratus.com
Accelerating Performance Improvements in the Industrial Sector through Modernized Operational Technology (OT)
The pursuit of efficiency and the avoidance of unplanned downtime have always been primary operational goals in industrial plants. There are a number of pressing market demands prompting plant operators to seek upgrades to their operational foundation. First and foremost, such upgrades are geared to deliver increased productivity. Modernizing IA also assures reliability of operations and better monitoring of processes. The flexibility and scalability that come with modern technologies are necessary to address changing customer needs and demands. Last but not least, multiple new technologies are entering the plant – from sensors to the industrial internet of things (IoT), from machine-to-matching communications to smart factories, from virtualization to even cloud adoption – and OT needs to move with the times in order to be interoperable with those technologies and future-ready. Plants now more than ever need to ensure uninterrupted, scalable and safe operations – or face business disruptions, revenue losses and reduced public and stakeholder trust.
The need for speed – to deliver faster, cheaper and better, is not some distant rumble applicable only to the fast-paced consumer space – according to LNS Research, ensuring consistent quality of products and responsiveness to customer order demands are among the top business objectives for manufacturing organizations and the industrial sector as a whole. As industrial organizations place further reliance on their operational technologies ensuring their continued operation becomes a must. To meet the mounting requirements for uninterrupted operations and prepare themselves for the connected future, industrial organizations now have new solutions to empower them to run faster, leaner and smarter – today and tomorrow.
Operation Technology is Getting Old and Is in Dire Need of an Overhaul
Many organizations now rely on automation systems that are reaching the end of their useful lives. The total global installed base of those systems adds up to $65 billion, according to ARC Advisory Group. Furthermore, the total installed base of automation systems that are more than 20 years old comes to $53 billion, according to ARC. As Craig Resnick, vice president at ARC, shared in a recent blog post, traditional systems are no longer sufficient for handling downtime and addressing the new operational realities.
The New Industrial World Order
From manufacturing plants to oil and gas companies to utilities, industrial organizations are implementing sensors and connected technologies allowing to operate better, faster, safer and cheaper. The Dusseldorf Water Authority needed an IT solution that would allow it to control its water infrastructure via a network of measuring devices with around 40,000 data points. One major requirement for the new IT infrastructure was to keep the SCADA control system up and running so that data could be securely collected and stored for legal, health and safety reasons. Additionally, the Water Authority required a solution that would improve Return on Assets (RoA), provide an extremely high level of availability across the entire IT environment and do so in an easy-to- manage, easy-to- administer manner. After careful evaluation, Dusseldorf’s management chose Stratus.
Now consider this: John Miri, chief administrative officer at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), who spoke at the Cloud and DevOps World conference in London this year, expanded on how modern technology, and more specifically IIoT, is transforming industrial operations. “In the old days, we would have people with logbooks living near areas prone to flooding and they would come to us and say when they saw something out of the ordinary, but people don’t move as fast as the water does. What we found with IoT, and working on the premise that the speed of light is faster than the speed of water, we can use a larger number of dispersed IoT sensors to detect where flood waters are and keep people safer.”
Enter Modern Continuous Availability Solutions for Industrial Control Systems – with Simple Elegance
We have heard it before – the claim that since it works for the IT department, it should work on the OT side. Anyone with serious industrial chops will probably give such claim a good chuckle. For critical industrial control systems to provide the level of performance, reliability and scalability needed today, they require more than general-purpose IT solutions. Industrial availability solutions need to be robust, resilient and scalable – and they need to be simple to deploy and maintain. So consider the following key factors when choosing your continuous availability solutions – and trust in their simple elegance:
- Your availability solutions need to be software-driven so you can simply and easily control how your hardware operates.
- They need to be virtual in nature – gone are the days when your SCADA, HMI or Historian run on a separate server or even on a PC. Today you can make the server work for you – through the power of virtualization. Yes, you will need less resources to run these solutions, and fewer servers to buy – this is what industrial efficiency is all about.
- Your modern industrial solutions need to provide a single view of operations. If you had to toggle between screens to figure out what resources are available to address alerts and spikes in your SCADA, you won’t go far. You need a single point of control and “a single pane of glass” to give you the visibility into both physical and virtual servers. Not only would this empower you to run your operations more efficiently, it is critical in minimizing downtime. You can address problems before they occur and win the employee of the month badge.
To learn more on how advances in modern operational technology are reshaping plant operations for maximum efficiency and uninterrupted delivery, download the latest Stratus trend report: Accelerating Performance Improvements with Modernized Operational Technology in the Industrial Sector. To learn more how Stratus can enable your continuous ICS availability, visit www.stratus.com to select your industrial vertical.
Stratus Go-to-Market Campaign for Partners accelerates opportunity development in booming Industrial Automation market
Stratus has served the Industrial Automation (IA) space for 35 years, and we continue to see greater uptake for our solutions combined with those of our global partners. Rising demand in this market is due to aging operational technology (OT) infrastructures and industrial companies seeking to modernize and consolidate automation environments, with 3 main objectives:
- Increasing plant efficiencies
- Delivering better return on assets
- Eliminating unplanned downtime of critical applications like SCADA/HMI, Historian and MES
Think about this: Already, the total global installed base of OT systems reaching end-of-life adds up to $65 billion in potential sales, and the total installed base of automation systems 20-plus years old comes to $53 billion 1. By 2020, the total IA market is expected to reach USD $202 billion,2 driven largely by the move to smart manufacturing strategies using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and big data.
By working with Stratus, partners are well positioned to tap into this booming market. To help our partners succeed, we’re launching an integrated digital marketing and awareness campaign across the globe. Within our campaign, each activity provides ways for partners to combine the power of the Stratus brand with their own industry expertise and messaging. Campaign activities include industry specific content, infographics and blogs, email campaigns, pitches to top industry publications, social media promotion, and webinars. The campaign also offers paid media leveraging various content types distributed through social platforms and leading country specific and industry centric publications.
Plus, we’ll equip our partners with our Best Practices Kit for Modernizing Automation —a key tool to educate, empower, and engage buyers to take action—including contributions from Craig Resnick, Vice President, Consulting, ARC Advisory Group, Jason Buffington, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group and LNS Research.
In addition to the huge market growth opportunity for IA, the timing is right for partners to align with Stratus because smart manufacturing relies on 24/7 operations, demanding continuous availability of critical plant applications. Plus, the annual cost of downtime has increased by 60% to $260,0003 since 2014. IA also requires a risk-free virtualization strategy to enable the required application consolidation,
along with a way to future-proof OT modernization investments that will provide the required return on assets.
Stratus delivers on all counts in the IA market. Stratus fault-tolerant servers have a proven track record of preventing downtime, mitigating the risks of virtualization, and providing 6+ years average server life span. More importantly, Stratus provides peace of mind to IA customers by providing services with total assurance, meaning customers can rely on Stratus equipment and people without having to add or allocate ongoing internal resources to manage and service systems.
Fundamentally, Stratus understands that partners are critical to helping customers understand the issues, choose the right Stratus solutions to replace aging control systems, and prepare for the advent of the IIoT. That’s why we’re launching this global, partner-centric go-to-market campaign to jointly pursue IA modernization opportunities in a big way.
We have a long history of selling through partners and supporting partner marketing and sales efforts. Today the opportunities for joint success in the IA space are greater than ever. So don’t wait to grow your business faster and deliver better results for your customer base. Talk to Stratus about how—together—we can bring customers the most comprehensive and advanced solutions for modernizing automation.
1 ARC Advisory Group
3 Aberdeen Group
PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) dedicated to handling calls to police, fire stations and ambulance services deal with life threatening emergencies every day. It’s an environment in which any amount of unplanned system downtime can have catastrophic consequences, so I’m pleased to see that they are steadily upgrading their technology to better perform under stress according to recent research we conducted.
In our recently published 4th Annual PSAP Survey we asked 573 public safety professionals across North America about their viewpoints on topics such as call volumes, Next-Generation 9-1-1 migration, staffing, virtualization technologies, system outages and more. The results reveal trends consistent with our previous surveys and some new insights. Here are some compelling takeaways:
- Adoption of NG9-1-1 is increasing steadily—In our 2012 survey, just 47% of respondents had NG9-1-1 underway or on the radar. Just four years later, that number has rocketed to 76%, with greatest adoption among PSAPs serving large populations. Overall, 49% of PSAPs forecast implementation in the next 12 months.
- Payoff of cloud and virtualization is unclear—Although enterprises have largely adopted these technologies, neither is universally trusted in the high-stakes PSAP environment. Our survey reports that 67% of respondents have no cloud plans at all; among those who do, only about a quarter (24%) trust the cloud for critical applications. Virtualization is gradually gaining traction, yet 40% of PSAPs have no plans to virtualize. Those implementing virtualization often enable it for critical applications, but 62% still experience downtime events exceeding 15 minutes.
- Downtime persists—Computer and application outages are a major concern in PSAPs of all sizes, with nearly half reporting two or more incidents in the last 12 months. The survey lists some popular mitigation techniques that perform poorly in the real world. On the bright side, 70% of those using high availability software or clusters kept downtime incidents to one or even zero per year. And 37% of PSAPs depending on fault-tolerant servers survived the year without any downtime at all.
- Everyone’s on top of disaster preparedness— 82% of responding PSAPs have a formal disaster recovery and contingency plan for a catastrophic outage, generally involving standby or backup PSAP locations. As you’d expect, sites serving the largest populations have the most rigorous recovery plans.
For PSAPs contemplating next steps toward improving service availability, my recommendation would be that they consider these two observations in light of the survey results.
- In a changing call center landscape, most PSAPs have their eyes on the ball—As the public abandons landlines in favor of technologies from mobiles phone to VOIP, the large majority of PSAPs have NG9-1-1 migration clearly in view. An even larger fraction is deploying various disaster recovery techniques to stay ahead of threats—whether natural or malicious. Those PSAPs that are overlooking such issues will fall behind community expectations.
- We can reduce outages—Even with such a confusing variety of approaches, some PSAPs manage to slash their downtime. Among the best results come from fault-tolerant servers and high availability software, areas Stratus knows well. Other methods often land squarely in the pile of “not good enough”.
With our commitment to learn what works best for the public safety sphere, this survey points to areas where PSAPs are doing exceptionally well and others where there’s room for improvement. Take a look at the complete survey yourself. As a leader in public safety infrastructure, we’d like to share our best practices and expertise and help you address your organization’s challenges.
This week Stratus participated at the Wonderware Live 2016 conference in Orlando, Florida. While the conference was eventually impacted by the hurricane Matthew, it started off on a high note with a quick succession of keynote presentations featuring a dizzying set of new announcements and improvements to Wonderware’s rich software portfolio.
Wonderware’s strategic narrative was centered around three areas:
- Industry solutions – the introduction of a more templated and integrated approach to reduce time to value
- IIoT – the expansion of capabilities by leveraging its market, ecosystem and customer presence to cover new ‘connected points’
- New consumption models – the provision of both subscription and/or cloud based delivery models
For all areas, there was ample emphasis on the value derived by its partner ecosystem – including the likes of Stratus. If you allow me to digress – Stratus increasingly teams with Wonderware distributors on large multi-site implementations including systems integration partners so we know this strategy works well for Wonderware.
With regards to IIoT, Wonderware and its competitors are seeing a slow yet steady uptake of IIoT projects. Both Wonderware and distributors mentioned an increasing trickle of albeit small budgets being set aside to implement basic IIoT initiatives but that the more sophisticated deployments would take time to come to fruition. However, they are starting small to align with business value which supports Wonderware’s viewpoint: neither connectivity nor hype will drive IIoT uptake but common business sense and a willingness to embrace disruption in support of innovation will. Meanwhile, Wonderware continues to build out IIoT integration features (e.g. MQTT, OPC UA and SNMP enablement) into its software set, allowing customers to ‘ease in’ and become incrementally IIoT ready.
On the topic of Cloud (and its Microsoft partnership), EVP Ravi Gopinath stated that 150 customers per month are registering for Wonderware online, while also mentioning that IA customer momentum was moving towards a gradual adoption of private and hybrid architectures (referred to as “Cloud also”). In addition, Wonderware executives discussed the increasing demand for flexible consumption models, such as pay by the drip (i.e. metered cloud). Most of the cloud based architecture presentations were couched with the statement “Cloud – for when you are ready”; suggesting that with only a few IA customers expected be fully cloud-based in the foreseeable future, IA cloud adoption is still progressing slower versus other industries.
The most significant announcement was reserved for Wonderware’s multi-site MOMs customer segment with Prometheus, a horizontal and vertical automation collaboration tool across (virtually) any PLC and (virtually) any HMI. While ambitious to say the least, it’s a laudable objective given the wide-spread IA system heterogeneity in any large multi-site environment. The second announcement was the evolution of what was the Wonderware System Platform, now named InTouch Omni. Targeted at the most demanding and distributed HMI/SCADA customers with large applications, this software platform converges the IT/OT function and provides access to all the information across a company and supply chain by simply clicking on a device on the map and drilling down into its details.
Overall the presentations were geared towards illustrating Wonderware’s vision, its key product portfolios and related offer updates. Perhaps in the future we can come to expect customer and partner proof points giving the audience more insights into deployment successes and lessons learned.
Stratus’ success with Wonderware customers has increased considerably over the past years, so stay tuned for more exciting wins, as well as reference architecture content and best practices, on the soon to be launched Stratus Wonderware customer and partner page.