Monday 12 July 2010

Thin client lunch! A lesson in robust infrastructure

I met a friend for lunch today at a Thai restaurant in Isabella Street near Southwark Tube station.  The chicken satay was delicious and so was the green curry, but as I relished the flavour I noticed an unfamiliar spicy smell.  It became quite strong and eventually a waiter asked us to evacuate the restaurant since the building next door was on fire.

We took our plates with us and enjoyed the remainder of our meals in the street outside while the fire brigade took control of the situation and a crowd gathered to spectate.  As we forked down coconut and chili infused chicken and rice standing on a street corner, a distressed man rushed up and asked if we worked for BT - begging some big questions about BT's public image...

Once we'd finished our meals we tried to return the plates to the restaurant and settle the bill.  The staff waiting outside the building accepted the plates but wouldn't allow us to pay - they were unable to get into the building to process the payment.  We left them smoking disconsolately.

The friend I was meeting is responsible for some of the critical systems of RBS, ensuring that traders have reliable access to information and analytical tools under all circumstances including fire, terrorist attack and flooding.  As we walked along the south bank of the Thames past Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge we discussed the effects that cloud computing are having in reducing the risk of single-site failure, reducing cost and increasing processing power.

It's not yet clear that cloud computing will help us determine genetic therapies to cure cancer and other illnesses (though there are reasons for optimism) - but if your infrastructure is vulnerable to single points of failure then you're accepting a huge risk which you can almost certainly eliminate - and save money.

Here are some simple questions about infrastructure which every business should consider - unless it wants to provide competitors, customers or criminals a free lunch:
  • Is there any single server cabinet, room or building the loss of which would put us out of business?
  • If workmen dig up our main internet connection are we unable to recover?
The answer to these questions does not need to be "yes" - even small and medium sized businesses can now enjoy the security and robust infrastructure traditionally associated with major banks like RBS.

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