Virtualizing from an Island?

I was recently on an island and it got me thinking of how would I move my company to the island. The company services people around the world, but would also service local to the island. Does virtualization really help me here? Why do I ask this, because an island is often prone to the vagaries of mother nature: Lava, Flooding, Typhoon, Hurricane, Earthquakes, humidity, desert, power fluctuations, etc. The list is pretty endless. So how would you move a business to or from an Island? Is this where the Cloud becomes a mature component? If so how much cloud do you need?

The first thing to consider is the value of your data, and where is should live. For a large business that may be easier than for an SMB. A tightly controlled SMB may desire to have the data stay where ever the business is located, but one natural disaster could wipe out your data, so you need to at least consider other options, such as:

  • Where are my clients located? On the mainland, this island, or another
  • What is the Disaster Recovery plan?
  • What is the Business Continuity plan?
  • What is the value of my data in monetary units?
  • How big a network pipe goes to the island in question?

With this information you can decide how to proceed with new questions:

  • Is my company require a 24/7 production network presence?
  • Does this presence need to be seen from around the world?
  • Are my employees mostly on the island? or on the nearest mainland?

All these questions lead to just a few decisions to be made:

  • Do I place my production servers on the mainland within a hosting/cloud facility?
  • Do I place my development servers on the mainland within a hosting/cloud facility?
  • Does the hosting/cloud facility have a remotely auditable/transparent security configuration?
  • Do I maintain a second set of systems on the island as a precaution against the hosting/cloud facility failure?
  • If a facility does fail, how long would it take to get my data? Would I have to go the mainland to do so?

Which also leads to a few technical decisions:

  • Which VPN do I use to access my systems on the mainland within a hosting/cloud facility?
  • Do I need a VDI solution for my employees of some type?
  • What other security precautions are necessary within the hosting/cloud facility?
  • How do I maintain local copies of what is within the hosting/cloud facility in case of facility failure?
  • What security precautions are necessary for local systems?

So given all these questions what would I do for my small business on an island?

I would place my production and some of my development systems within an IaaS hosting/cloud provider which is firewalls and load balanced as appropriate. Furthermore, I would use a separate VPN for accessing any remote access devices (DRAC, ILO, etc.) as well as another VPN for accessing virtual machines/VDI to be used by my employees as well as administration of the IaaS. Security, would be auditable at all levels with hardware monitoring provided by the hosting/cloud provider as well as my own tools, that email me when things go south. Lastly, I would create, local to the island, a group of servers that would consistently replicate important data to and from the cloud. This way I can work locally if the link between the island and the mainland is broken, or if the hosting/cloud provider is unavailable for some reason. This would also ensure that my most critical data is in two locations in a secure fashion. Furthermore, I would most likely dump the data to a blu-ray device whose disks would be placed within a water and air tight fire-safe, while requiring the hosting provider to do something similar.

While this approach may be somewhat daunting, it provides answers to all the above questions and several forms of disaster recovery and business continuity. I will grant that the bi-directional replication could be daunting, but remember we are replicating the data not entire VMs. Which will be quite a bit easier to maintain with some judicious scripting.

I would start to ask these questions if you were on an Island or within an area that is prone to natural disasters, such as volcanos, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, floods, etc. You may already be on an Island.

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