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Author's profile photo Limor Wainstein

Managing Mission Critical Applications in the Modern Data Center

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What are Mission-Critical Applications?

Mission-critical applications are software that must function at all times. For these applications, even a brief downtime period can cause productivity, financial, and reputational damage to a business or business segment.

Mission-critical IT services may differ from one ecosystem to another. What they have in common is that they are essential to operations and should be continuously online for as long as an end-user may be likely to utilize them. 

Stability and availability are a primary goal of architects, developers, testers, IT staff, and support teams associated with these applications. Among the components that help maintain stability, you should pay special attention to:

  • Redundant application copies
  • Datacenter and IT system infrastructures
  • Hot backups
  • Duplicate staging and production environments for testing

Common Mission-Critical Applications

In the enterprise, here are some of the prime examples of mission critical applications:

  • Backup and disaster recovery—for the sake of business continuity, backups are essential. Just as critical are procedures to recover data quickly to ensure a short recovery time objective (RTO) and minimize the recovery point objective (RPO). These are the two most important metrics when examining a mission-critical environment.
  • Data management and analytics—with the abundance of mission-critical data sources—cloud to edge—data has become the lifeblood of any business, and analytics has become critical to day to day operations.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)—ERP systems, commonly based on SAP technology and running on SAP HANA, are a central function in almost every large enterprise. Although their main function is accounting, ERPs manage almost every aspect of production or distribution-based businesses, whether it’s human resources, supply chain management, manufacturing, and financials.
  • High-Performance Computing (HPC)—life sciences, energy, financial services, energy, and even manufacturing rely on HPC applications. These are often the most intensive workloads managed as part of an enterprise IT portfolio. 5G semiconductor design, autonomous vehicles, innovative aerospace designs, and many other cutting edge advancements are driven by HPC technology.
  • VIrtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)—VDI delivers an operating system’s desktop image to an endpoint device over a network. Examples of VDI providers are VDI on VMware and Citrix VDI. Thanks to VDI, employees have mobility and remote access to corporate applications on smartphones, regular PCs, and other thin client devices. VDI is itself a mission critical application because it supports employee productivity at a large scale.

Moving Mission-Critical Applications to the Cloud

When dealing with mission-critical applications, cloud migration holds many benefits. This transformation introduces a high level of scalability and flexibility, enabling organizations to leverage more resources for potentially less costs. However, cloud migration is not necessarily a quick process, especially when migrating a mission-critical application.

Research indicates that many organizations want to move their applications to the cloud, but are hesitant to expose their applications to migration risks. Security and compliance issues are ranked among the most pressing challenges that should be addressed before migrating. Migration overhead is also a main consideration.

While security, compliance, and costs can turn a migration process into a challenge, there are solutions and techniques that can help organizations successfully migrate. Investing time and resources in the pre-migration planning stage, for example, can help organizations address the major challenges and customize the migration process to their needs.

4 Steps to Securing your Mission-Critical Applications

Mission critical applications, by definition, are vulnerable and valuable assets. When moving these applications to the cloud, security is a key consideration. Here are a few steps to securing your mission critical applications as you migrate them to the cloud:

  • Selecting applications—which applications are truly mission-critical and to what extent? Plan your security, response, backup, and recovery only after assessing which missions are higher and lower priority.
  • Planning security measures—decide what mission-critical applications you can migrate to the cloud and which ones to keep on-premises. For applications being migrated, clearly outline usage policies, including backup and recovery. Ensure that your cloud setup makes it possible to failover to another location and consistently recover to the primary location.
  • Implementing secure access—when implementing access security, remember that you should not provide admin credentials unnecessarily and that these should be regularly rotated and changed. Isolate sessions to prevent credential theft, and generate detailed audit trails for privileged activities within mission-critical applications.
  • Minimize risks—create several lines to minimize risk. Denying admin privileges to remote workstations, install anti-malware and anti-phishing tools, and provide security training for staff members and collaborators who will be accessing your mission-critical apps. They should be able to identify, report and prevent attacks that can escalate into serious breaches.

Conclusion

In this article I covered several aspects of managing mission critical applications in today’s data center. I focused on two aspects that are of prime importance to modern IT organizations:

  • Moving mission critical applications to the cloud—this enables efficiencies and cost savings, and also presents the possibility of improving resilience. However, it raises significant challenges including migration risks and security concerns.
  • Securing mission critical applications—this requires a multi-layered approach combining security measures, secure access, and taking steps to minimize risks.

I hope this will help you more effectively manage your organization’s mission critical applications in an evolving technology environment.

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