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and Cyquator: How do they store and retrieve data?
as an enabling tool is one of the taken-for-granted setups
within most large and medium enterprises in India. Even
the smaller companies have smartened up to the need for
a strong IT setup. Now, the newest topic of discussion among
CIOs is storage; strategy, technology, et al.
Power India Ltd.
With the realization that data and not the computer is the
most important asset of an enterprise, companies are scampering
for a strong storage setup. One such company is Alstom Power
India Ltd., erstwhile ABB Alstom. Headquartered in New Delhi,
Alstom Power specializes in turnkey engineering projects
for the power industry. Its activities include designing
and installing power plants, transmission and distribution
systems etc. The company's power installations cover almost
every state in the country.
as Alstom Power in May 2000, the company in its various
forms has been present in the country for over 70 years.
Now all the erstwhile power generation units in the country
of erstwhile ASEA, English Electric, GEC, BBC (HBB), ALSTOM,
Combustion Engineering, EVT, Stein, Flakt, ABL, GEC ALSTOM,
ABB, ABB ALSTOM Power are under this single operational
umbrella of ALSTOM Power India.
in 14 locations within the country, the company has manufacturing
facilities including boilers in Durgapur and Shahbad, T
& D equipment in Naini, Calcutta and Chennai, transport
in Coimbatore and steam turbines in Vadodara. Most central
government utilities such as NTPC, NHPC and Power Grid,
State Electricity Boards, Indian Railways and Independent
Power Producers form the chunk of Alstom Power's customers
in the country.
widespread operation and large customer base naturally requires
Alstom Power India to have a strong IT infrastructure. As
the company is mostly involved in designing and developing
projects for the power sector, it generates huge amounts
of data in the form of engineering drawings and procurement
and production data.
C R Narayanan, company IT manager, Alstom Power India Ltd.,
"Most of our projects take about three to four years.
These projects are commissioned to us for a minimum of 25
years. This means not only execution of the project but
also maintenance. In fact, we generate phenomenal amount
of data every year and per project, which we need to refer
to for at least 25 years after it is generated." In
this scenario a strong storage strategy becomes imperative.
fact, Alstom Power is one of the companies that realized
the importance of a strong storage setup for business benefits.
Moreover, the nature of the engineering industry also required
the company to create a data storage and archiving system.
Informs Narayanan, "Data storage and archiving is very
important for us. Even if it is stored offline, we need
to restore data very often during and after project execution.
In fact, we have a policy of keeping 18 months' data available
online at any given point of time. We at the IT department
generally keep the data alive for 24 months; a grace period
of six months to ensure a smoother running of the project."
maintaining a data log on the network and while archiving,
Narayanan follows the FIFO (first in first out) method.
As newer data enters the network, older data is taken out
and indexed and archived.
Alstom Power network is quite extensive and spread out.
All the 14 locations have LANs with a minimum of 30 nodes
connected to the headquarters at Delhi that has a 280 node
LAN via a combination of PAMA and SCPC VSATs. The Alstom
Power network has a spread of 60 servers across locations
and 23 servers in the head office.
network has a multi-application environment. Applications
include Oracle, SAP, Lotus Notes and other Open File System.
network runs on different variants of Unix such as AIX,
HPUX, Sun Solaris and IRIX. Says Narayanan, "For heavy
AutoCAD files, we require a strong platform such as Unix."
While SAP and Lotus Notes applications have been centralized,
Oracle and other open file systems run on a decentralized
mode being housed at servers at each location. Most of Alstom's
legacy applications today are running on Oracle platform.
kind of network has been built to handle the heavy load
of data that flows through it. Narayanan and his team have
designed a two-tier storage infrastructure to ensure a systematic
data storage. At the headquarters, the IT team has put in
IBM's Magstar tape solution including Magstar tape subsystem
and Magstar Data server. At the site office and branch office
level, the team has put in DLT tapes from HP for storing
the data. They are also using DATs from HP to store less
mission critical data both at the head quarters and location
Narayanan, "We set about creating a separate storage
infrastructure about three years ago. At that time not many
technologies were available. So we decided to deploy a tape
storage system. For all centralized activities we are using
Magstar from IBM while for decentralized it is DLT. The
engineers generally store the various versions of one drawing
in the DLTs and they send over the 'As Built" drawing
via the WAN to be stored in the Magstar system. We are also
running a drawing management system over this network, and
that helps the engineers reduce revision and rework time.
Thus helping in keeping to the deadline of the project."
decided on Magstar tape solution as he felt that it provided
the best combination of data rate and access time among
all the midrange and network tape storage solutions that
he had seen. "The combination of fast load and fast
access can extend the use of tape drive to near on-line
applications. This function definitely extended the use
of Magstar tape solution beyond the regular save/restore
operations. Most storage devices work on a sequential basis
but in Magstar maximum data read/write integrity is accomplished
with third generation magneto-resistive heads and servo
mechanisms for precision tracking thus it reduced the time
taken to store and access data," he adds. For storage
management he used Tivoli SM solution as that provided him
a reliable combination.
the decentralized storage requirement, Narayanan used DLTs
as they provided a backup of as much as 80 Gb of server
disk space in less than four hours. He feels that HP's DLT
integrates well with Alstom's centralized storage system
and provides excellent performance, reliability and compatibility
while being easy to connect with advanced management and
data integrity features. Says, Avijit Basu, business manager,
Information Storage Group, HP India, New Delhi, "Today
most Indian enterprises are using tapes for their storage
requirement. In fact our DLT Tape solutions have seen a
good growth in the market. Companies such as Alstom with
heavy data can definitely fulfill their storage requirement
with our high-end DLT Tapes."
with Basu of HP, Narayanan says that their major storage
space is taken by the 'As Built' drawings that are generated
after each project. A single AutoCAD drawing can take up
to 3.5 Mb. Alstom Power engineers mostly store their paper
pencil drawings as scanned pictures. That tends to take
up more space than AutoCAD files. According to Narayanan,
a single project can eat up approximately 20Gb of storage
have already used up about 200Gb storage and the need is
constantly growing. In this scenario indexing has become
an important part of our storage strategy. We have also
installed a DataScan application that helps in fast data
indexing, locating and retrieval activities," he points
out. Another area where storage system plays a major role
within the organization is customer service. Narayanan describes
that in customer service, the company does not only need
to store information about the part of the project it executed
but the complete history of the project including data from
other project executors. This naturally gives rise to huge
amount of data for storage.
accessing this data can be a big problem, but a good storage
setup and policy helps us in retrofitting and improving
customer sites very easily." Currently he is working
out on ways to collate the data in a more compressed manner.
All the storage tapes that are generated from Alstom Powers'
various projects are housed at a fire proof room in a different
location from the headquarter premises in New Delhi. Narayanan
is quite proud of the fact that their solid storage system
has helped the company resume regular operation within 48
hours after a major fire that had gutted the entire Alstom
the IT manager and his team are ready to look at newer storage
technologies to improve the operations within the organization.
Currently, the 1800 staff strong Alstom Power is in the
process of standardizing its IT infrastructure. It is looking
at migrating to Windows NT across locations to create a
that is finalized, Narayanan plans to check out technologies
such as storage area networks for the organization's storage
requirements. "SAN is OS independent and it can work
parallel to the existing network, the LAN or WAN becomes
faster and provides more bandwidth for larger applications,"
he adds. As organizations such as Alstom Power, already
with a strong storage strategy, realize the importance of
storage, we will see more and more high-end technologies
like SAN and NAS gaining ground in the country thus leading
to more storage innovations.
The most important aspect of any business today is the huge
quantity of information that is generated as a result of
its day to day operations. Managing this information explosion
has become one of the most challenging tasks in the e-economy.
Thus most enterprises, irrespective of their size, are moving
towards deploying technology for storing, safeguarding and
retrieving vital information in the quickest and easiest
manner possible. While some enterprises are investing in
the necessary storage infrastructure, others are opting
to outsource their storage requirements to data centers,
which are mushrooming all over the country to offer web-hosting
recently founded Cyquator Technologies Limited has set up
Internet Data Centers (IDCs) across the country to offers
services to those companies desiring to establish their
presence on the web. Cyquator was established in May 2000
and launched its services in January 2001. Headquartered
in Mumbai, with regional offices in Bangalore and New Delhi,
there are about 55 people working for Cyquator. The company
has about 20 trained engineers, of whom three are dedicated
resources working on storage related activities.
has set up one data center in Mumbai and planning to build
two more in the course of this year. Each data center will
be connected to an Internet gateway using multiple redundant
E1 lines and will also be connected with leading NSPs such
as UUNET, PSINET, AT&T, using an IPLC. The data centers
will utilize backup satellite bandwidth from international
private satellite gateways at each location. In addition,
the data centers will be mesh connected with other data
network infrastructure at Cyquator is three-tiered--core,
border and access. At the border layer there are high-end
routers which communicate with other networks and perform
packet routing. This is a fully redundant layer offering
connectivity to a number of carriers. The core layer is
the workhorse for the IDC, as it performs the bulk of switching,
access control, optimized traffic delivery to elements within
the data center. This layer is a fully redundant and secured
layer. The third layer is the access layer to which servers
are connected. This comprises the layer two and three switches
to connect to the customers as well as to the back office
infrastructure of Cyquator.
the various services it offers, is storage and back up facilities
of unlimited critical data for small-to-medium-sized workgroups
in a shared environment. Besides, Cyquator also offers web-hosting
services as dedicated, shared or co-located configurations.
This involves the hosting of a client's web site on the
servers maintained at Cyquator. "Data storage is our
business and hence we planned for storage infrastructure
at the initial stages and incorporated it into the IDC design
itself," points out Jitendra Israni, CTO, Cyquator
why enterprises are willing to outsource their storage needs,
Israni says, "There are a number of reasons why storage
has to be external to an enterprise as growing with-in a
computer has serious limitations. The cost of storage has
come down but when deployed as a disaster recovery solution,
the availability and reliability have become crucial. That
is one reason why organizations are willingly to outsource
the storage requirement to service providers under strict
SLA regime. And this was our motivation to offer storage
as service" points out Israni.
Cyquator, as is with any enterprise, the debate was primarily
between choosing NAS or SAN. Since NAS and SAN are two different
technologies and deployed for different application, Cyquator
finally choose to begin with deploying NAS products and
later on complementing it with SAN.
offers these services via the NetApp F760 box from Network
Appliances, with a raw storage capacity of 3TB within a
single or multiple networks. The net filer has the capability
of taking 20 snapshots of the file system and storing only
the changes to the file system. The entire storage infrastructure
was implemented by Bangalore-based Apara Design Automation.
the VERITAS Net Back up solution along with the P1000 series
based DLT tape library from ATL has been deployed for backup
media handling. In addition, HP Open View tools, which integrate
with the native MIBS of Netfiler and back up server have
been deployed for in-house management of the infrastructure.
The SNMP messages (traps) are collected by monitoring tools
and the service navigator tools constantly monitor the storage
infrastructure for continuous availability and performance
efficiency. The initial investment on the complete storage
infrastructure was close to Rs. one crore.
explains that there were several technical and business
imperatives that triggered the need for dedicated storage
infrastructure. "Simultaneous data sharing among different
environments such as windows, Unix, Linux and so on and
the ease of manageability and technical support in addition
to the scalability and reliability of storage infrastructure
drove us to opt for storage infrastructure," points
business factors were the cost of the product and the total
cost of ownership, he adds.
service level agreement (SLA) offered by Cyquator involves
a network uptime of 99.9 per cent with 24x7x365 basic support.
Thus uptime and availability of data is of critical importance
for its business. Israni explains, "The Filer 760 is
quite an ideal box for service providers who are just beginning
their businesses. It has built-in RAID that protects against
data loss from disk failure or reduced downtime, giving
users continuous access to data.
fail-over and redundant components increase reliability,
while hot spares deliver maximum data availability. Disk
scrubbing ensures data integrity and the battery-backed
NVRAM provides additional data protection. In addition,
the SLA from our systems integrator gives us 99.9 per cent
is currently running its message store, and managed storage
for shared hosting from the storage. It plans to deploy
dedicated memory (storage) for enterprises, which will host
their servers with Cyquator. Cyquator will also offer disaster
recovery services to companies that will run their mission
critical applications from the servers hosted in Cyquator.
of clients' data is a decisive factor for the success and
survival of business at Cyquator. "Enterprises store
mission critical data on our servers. Thus we have given
great importance to ensure that data is secure and isolated,"
notes Israni. With this in mind, Cyquator's storage infrastructure
sits behind managed firewalls, thus offering total protection
from any unauthorized access or intrusions. Within the box,
there are features that provide total isolation between
different customers who are using this infrastructure. In
addition, Cyquator also has an on-line intrusion detection
system in place, for monitoring and preventing any undesired
as technology is changing rapidly and enterprises are growing
and expanding their presence to cater to a wider user base,
scalability is one factor enterprises have to keep in mind
while choosing any technology.
you have a small number of users or an enterprise of thousands,
the storage system scales from 50GB to multiple terabytes
to cater to your growing capacity requirements. Thus we
have achieved virtually unlimited data storage capacity,"
explains Israni. With additional PCI slots, expanding storage
and network connectivity is quick and easy. "In addition
to scalability within the box, we can grow horizontally
by adding more boxes and making it a full cluster for added
reliability," adds Israni.
Cyquator, storage explosion has just begun. "We will
constantly evaluate newer technologies and invest in those
that will meet our requirements, from both the technical
and business perspectives. In a couple of years we will
invest in Storage Area Networks (SAN), in addition to expanding
our Network Attached Storage (NAS) infrastructure,"
points out Israni.
- Priyanka Bhattachary and Shubha Murthy