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Quantifying Availability Targets

To quantify the amount of availability achieved, we must perform some calculations:

  • Committed hours of availability (A). Usually measured in terms of number of hours per month, or any other period suitable to your organization.

    Example: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week = 24 hours per day x 7 days x 4.33 weeks per month (average) = approximately 720 hours per month

  • Outage hours (B). Number of hours of outage during the committed hours of availability. If high availability level is desired, consider only the unplanned outages. For continuous operations, consider only the scheduled outages. But for continuous availability, consider all outages.

    Example: 9 hours of outage due to hard disk crash, 15 hours of outage for preventive maintenance

Then calculate the amount of availability achieved as follows:

Achieved availability = ((A-B)/A)*100%)

For the statistics in the examples above, here's each calculation:

  • High availability = ((720-9)/720)*100% = 98.75% availability

  • Continuous operations = ((720-15)/720)*100% = 97.92% availability

  • Continuous availability = ((720-24)/720)*100% = 96.67% availability

When negotiating an availability target with users, make them aware of the target's implications. Here is a table of availability targets versus hours of outage allowed for a continuous availability level requirement.

Continuous Availability Target

Hours of Outage Allowed Per Month

99.99%

0.07 hours

99.9%

0.7 hours

99.5%

3.6 hours

99.0%

7.2 hours

98.6%

10.0 hours

98.0%

14.4 hours


Recognize that numbers like these are difficult to achieve, since time is needed to recover from outages. The length of recovery time correlates with the following factors:

  • Complexity of the system. The more complicated the system, the longer it takes to restart it. Hence, outages that require system shutdown and restart can dramatically affect your ability to meet a challenging availability target. For example, applications running on a large server can take up to an hour just to restart when the system was shut down normally—longer still if the system was terminated abnormally and data files must be recovered.

  • Severity of the problem. Usually, the greater the severity of the problem, the more time is needed to fully resolve the problem, including restoring lost data or work done.

  • Availability of support personnel. Let's say that the outage occurs after office hours. A support person called in after hours could easily take an hour or two simply to arrive to diagnose the problem. You must allow for this possibility.

  • Other factors. Many other factors can prevent the immediate resolution of an outage. Sometimes an application may have an extended outage simply because the system can't be put offline while applications are running. Other cases may involve the lack of replacement hardware by the system supplier, or even lack of support staff. We have seen many availability targets missed simply because a system supplier could not give due attention to the problem, and no backup system supplier existed.

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