Designing a system to support high-availability applications has evolved from art to science; and barring total geographic blackouts, any required level of availability can be designed and implemented, gated only by the time and the cost to develop and maintain it. Highly available systems require constant attention to the system hardware and network, the application itself and its ongoing management. Senior executives funding a new or extended application should expect initial and periodic justification for its availability requirements and demand ROI reports on its achievements.

As enterprises became dependent on the computer systems, an entire management practice emerged that was focused on improving IT availability and its impact on business productivity. Surprisingly, or not -- given the cost of computer equipment -- the original yardstick was pointed at the central processor itself and the peripherals surrounding it. The CIOs - a title that wouldn't exist for another 25 years - commonly reported system uptime in excess of 90%, although online users were not experiencing service close to that.

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