As your managed file transfer solution becomes more and more critical to your business, it’s important to consider MFT resiliency, including MFT HA options (high availability). High availability refers to a system that is continuously operational, with availability measured against “100% operational” or “never failing”.
There are different ways of achieving MFT HA, depending on your chosen solution but before you think about adding resiliency there are a few things you will need to consider.
MFT resiliency options: MFT HA or DR?
Highly available (HA) managed file transfer systems typically rely on two or more nodes, which can each handle requests at the same time. When a single node fails, the other nodes carry on and can pick up the extra load from the failed node. In many cases MFT systems tend to use either a native clustering technology such as Windows Server Clustering or will have proprietary heartbeats which keep nodes aware of each other. When one node fails, only connections and transfers that are actively passing through that node are lost, while other transfers passing through other nodes are unaffected and keep being processed. The goal for a HA system is nearly zero downtime in the event of a failure.
Disaster Recovery (DR) systems are designed to provide resilience in the event of a more significant failure of the Managed File Transfer system. DR systems are typically based in a different location to the standard system and only accept connections and transfers when the main system is unavailable. Network routing, storage and database replication and other infrastructure changes may be needed to be completed before the DR system can be activated and this can lead to a period of service downtime while this takes place.
Active:Active or Active:Passive
When it comes to designing a HA system, most MFT solutions offer either an Active:Active or an Active:Passive configuration.
In an Active:Active configuration, two or more nodes are running and sharing resources such as storage and database links.
With Active:Passive HA configurations, all the load is passed through a single node and, when that fails, another node in the system will detect it and start all the services required to run the system. This will mean that all connections are lost in the event of failure but typically, service is resumed very quickly in the event of failure.
Some solutions are now able to offer a different MFT HA set-up. This is a hybrid HA/DR type configuration, where nodes can be sited in different data centres and able to accept connections independently of each other. They will typically write to storage which is either replicated in near real-time or will deal with synchronising data between nodes independently of any infrastructure. This is becoming more popular as it reduces the footprint of the overall solution while providing the MFT resiliency of HA and DR architectures. The downside to this is that not every MFT solution can support this architecture and that the network infrastructure required is more complicated.
Before deciding on a resilient architecture you need to consider some or all of the following factors:
HA and DR solutions need more architecture and are significantly more complicated to configure and manage. Additional servers, management interfaces and network resources all need to be factored in and available.